|Sunday Morning at the French Market
Illustration from Frank Leslie's Newspaper, 1883
Text from The Picayune's Guide to New Orleans, 1903
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You know it by the busy rush, the noisy rumbling of carts and wheels, the ceaseless
clatter of foreign and native tongues, the outlandish garbs, the curious faces, the
strange cosmopolitan scene to be nowhere else witnessed on American soil. The
market is open daily from 5 a.m. to 12 midnight. The "meat market" was erected in
1813 at a cost of $30,000 and stands on the exact spot where the first market was
built in New Orleans in 1723.
The best time to visit is early in the morning, and Sunday morning of all others. It
is the most remarkable spot in New Orleans. Under its roof, every language is
spoken, and this will be noted through its four divisions, the fish, the meat, the
vegetable and the fruit market. The buyers and sellers are men and women of all
races. Here are the famous coffee stands, where one gets such delicious "cafe noir"
or "cafe au lait," with a "brioche" or "cala," as the taste may suggest.
There are the Gascon butchers, and the Italian and Spanish fruit vendors, and the
German and Italian vegetable women; there are Moors, with their strings of beads
and crosses, fresh from the Holy Land; peddlers and tinners and small notion
dealers; the "rabais men," with their little stores on wheels; Chinese and Hindu, Jew
and Teuton, French and Creole, Spanish and Malay, Irish and English, all uniting in a
ceaseless babel of tongues that is simply bewildering.
Squatted about the ground between the markets are women with little papooses
strapped to their backs or rolled up in shawls and blankets. You catch the odor of
wild herbs and woodland leaves, and get a glimpse of the dried sassafras leaves
from which the famous "gumbo file" is made. These patient women, with their
straight, flowing hair, are the last remnants of the once powerful tribe of Choctaw
Indians, who were once the very owners of the soil on which New Orleans stands.
They have come all the way from the old Indian settlement of Bayou Lacombe,
across Lake Pontchartrain, to the French Market, where they always find a ready
sale for their "gumbo file" and bunches of herbs from which the Creoles concoct
such fragrant "tisanes."
And in the French market, above all, there is the charm of local life and color,
especially of a Sunday morning, when the Creole belles and beaux saunter leisurely
through, buying roses and jasmines, after hearing a mass in the old Cathedral.
-- The Picayune's Guide to New Orleans, 1903