Madame Bovary: Before the country was cold

From early in the morning, one side of the square was taken with a row of cars – everything was pushed on the side, with their arms in the air, stretching in front of the house from the The hotel is a church. On the other side are textile stalls selling cotton goods, woolen blankets and belts, horse carriages, and rolls of blue ribbon with the ends fluttering in the wind. The most important tools were spread across the land among pyramids of fruit and salt baskets filled with dried grass; and near the harvesting machines, there are flat chicken boxes with beautiful chickens craning their necks among the leaves. The crowd always fills the same corner, not wanting to move: sometimes it seems to be on the verge of hitting the glass of the wooden window. – Episode from “Madame Bovary”

This description of the market at Yonville is not a passage in “Madame Bovary.” As most readers will remember, it was covered by the Market Report in the next chapter, a feature that became the most prestigious event and the most prestigious speeches of the managers in the evaluation field in as a reason for the temptation that is being done on the lonely court. office of the town. Flaubert in his little play Rodolphe pitches Emma, ​​the young doctor’s wife, a line as one of the judges announces the award “‘for the best manure.” Immediately after that, Emma, ​​a woman remarkable only for her beauty and her habit of dreaming, went down the path of prostitution that ended in financial ruin and death. When the novel was published in 1856, the French government tried the author for impurity.

In particular, the farmer’s market is notable because it is where Emma first sees Rodolphe, seeing his green and yellow coat as he leans out his window “looking out.” to a multitude of yokels.” In French, the final word rustres, the sound is better. I think Flaubert used it to show Emma’s frustration with where life has confined her: her circle, her dull neighbors, her husband’s religious burden. The Oxford English Dictionary calls ‘yokel’ “a term of contempt for a citizen (stupid or ignorant) or countryman,” and it must have been spoken in the late 1830s, when it was created At the events of the story, he is a countryman in France. Almost by definition ignorant, with little or no access to the lively – and often discredited – newspapers that informed the citizens of Paris. A market like the one in Yonville served a function that was more than economic. It is where the rural people, in addition to selling their goods and products, shop for information that they can only find in the city. It was at the market that the farmers of Yonville first learned about the blood control of the Paris Commission, and there they saw the latest varieties, or their provincial varieties: more the longer the dress, the more appropriate it may be. or woven from finer fabrics.

In many ways, the farmer’s market in Yonville is not very different from the markets I first visited in the Hudson Valley, 150 years after “Madame Bovary” was first published. Replace the cars with cars, change some of the products sold, and make sure that eggs and cheese are displayed on the shelves according to the instructions of the New York State Board of Health. But no one sees the demographic as “yokels.” Customers include writers, editors, filmmakers, marketers, therapists, university professors and auto mechanics. Another grocer is one of the founders of the Greenmarket movement; Another is a meat supplier who was once a mammal keeper at the Bronx Zoo. There are ex-junkie Orthodox Jews who bake the best bread, especially north of Orwasher’s; we enjoy trading insults, as if we were shopping on the bus on Essex Street and not in the city that boasts America’s oldest inn.

What has not changed is the role of the agricultural market as a site of informal capitalism – of direct exchanges.

Part of this is because my farmers market is about 100 miles away from the famous one in Union Square. Every time I stopped there during one of my trips to New York, I saw the same vendors, selling the same beets and lettuce and artisanal cheese at reasonable markups. to the city where your shadow will pay.

But apart from this, the “yokel” doesn’t have much meaning, except for one of those insults that make the user look worse than the ones used. The difference between town and country has decreased (except perhaps in politics, where it has been transformed into the difference between blue and red states). The city and the country have more than 500 TV channels and, increasingly, high-speed Internet connections, thanks to which I can monitor corn prices from my office in the city of Pittsburgh even though it is a grower in the North Dakota, her son is about to start. classes at the university where I teach, can reserve a room here through Airbnb. We can spend half of the day watching cute baby animal videos on YouTube, although the plant has less of it, because it is a valuable resource of our time and money. We are familiar with cute baby animals. I think he knows as much as I do about what went down in that elevator between Jay-Z and his brother-in-law.

What hasn’t changed is the role of the farmer as a site of independent economic activity – the direct exchange between people who produce goods – from beets to borage and from goat’s milk cheese to goat’s milk soap – and those who love them. There is no big Agra, no multi-million dollar marketing business, no food stylists or taste consultants or snippy middle managers hiding behind sales to ensure the demand rate. of operations per minute. Dawdling is recommended. Although farmers markets are regular markets, they are also social events. If Emma Bovary were alive today in the little town where I once made my home, she might be looking at the crowds on market day, but she wouldn’t think of them as “yokels.” He might have a thing for the guy who sells microgreens, the one with the gray tail and the permanent smile who does something in technology. No matter the city or the country, there are always people who want to please their friends and go somewhere else for love or not. And Emma’s neighbors will do what people at the farmer’s market always do: gossip. Better than the people who live in Yonville – and they can see something happening in front of their eyes – they can say bad things about it. Her poor husband was the last to see it.

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