Paris Tips: Shopping for Vintage Cookware at the Flea Market
By Theadora Brack
When the sky turns a hazy shade of winter in Paris, I start strumming through Julia Child’s classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”
I also hotfoot it to the Porte de Vanves flea market for vintage cookware. Why? For the love of mana, all the better to cook with, my dear!
Cooking with gas
Here you’ll find Julia Child’s favorite Le Creuset cookware but drastically discounted compared to what it costs elsewhere. I’ve been able to cast iron ovens, au gratin pans and chef skillets, along with enameled-iron sauce and sauté pan —all vintage and well loved. Embrace minor chips and scratches!
“Everything has a history,” as Julia would say.
Tip: Create a shopping wish list. Visualization will help you narrow your hunt while increasing your chances of finding the object of your cuisine dreams!
Old French kitchenware has always been souvenir-worthy. In fact, an antique mortar and pestle was one of Julia Child’s first flea market purchases after she moved to Paris.
“The mortar was made of dark-gray marble, and was about the size and weight of a baptismal font,” she wrote. “One look at it, and I knew there was no question: I just had to have that set.”
That very mortar and pestle is now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History!
One Dish, Two Dish
As you make your way through the flea market, you’ll also spot classic crème brûlée ramekins, café au lait bowls, soup tureens (with handles) and escargot tongs, along with the little dimpled metal pans you cook the snails in. Quiche and soufflé dishes also rise to the top here.
Copper equipment will also seduce you. Feeling all Proustian, I’ve also picked up madeleine pans with their telltale shell-shaped molds. Is there such a thing as too many? Not in my book, and not in Proust’s either, apparently.
Let’s not forget to mention flatware! Decked out in intricate Art Deco and Art Nouveau patterns, each one typically costs only one or two euros. Do they need to match? Not on my table!
Tip: Keep your eyes also open wide for other classic French table items like linens, breadbaskets cutting boards and cheese molds, not to mention pepper mills, candle stick holders, and wire baskets—the latter were once used for collecting (and rinsing) eggs or slinging salad lettuce dry. Soon you will be just a-swingin’!