Saint Jean de Sixt-style salesmen

<Photo of French potatoes sold door-to-door.>Pictured is what happens if you answer to a French friend “Yes, we do need some potatoes.” That’s 20 kilograms of potatoes right there in my house. Small children weigh less.

Once a year, a man knocks on the doors of houses in Saint Jean de Sixt selling fruit and vegies. He’s not carrying them around in a box or anything like that. No, he has a large truck packed with two varieties of potatoes and three types of apples. He’s serious about selling; so serious, in fact, that my French friend had to buy two sacks of potatoes because “most people buy a minimum of 50kg” and the salesman was being nice to him. Potatoes have always been one of the staples around the Aravis, with dishes such as tartiflette and raclette rating as tourist attractions in La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand. I’m pretty sure that the salesman was just being a salesman and if my French friend had said “No thanks – I only need one bag,” the man would have sold just the one. And at €1.80/kg, they’re not at any sort of discount.

But I’m not complaining. I think it’s charming that the only door-to-door salespeople I ever see here are either selling fruit and vegies in Autumn or furniture in Spring. It may even be the same man. They both have a white truck and look a bit rugged, and that’s the other thing I love about them: they’re not out to impress with appearances. They just want to sell their goods. Also, they don’t have any change. None.

One cheque for €36 later, I have two big sacks of potatoes and a whole stash of potato recipes to try out. The good news is the potatoes taste great (guess what I cooked for dinner last night). I can’t help feeling a bit like Bubba from Forest Gump, who can only converse about shrimp recipes. Replace shrimp with potatoes and I’m your girl.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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10 comments on “Saint Jean de Sixt-style salesmen
  1. Michelle says:

    I fell for the sales lines also earlier this year, never again! They do NOT keep as long as they promise they will (even in the dark) and I bought the minimum amount too! Can’t tell you how many I ended up throwing away and we’re a family of four who eat potatoes a couple times a week. We’d have needed to eat them everyday to get through them before they went off I reckon! They did keep longer than the apples and carrots I was also persuaded to buy though!!! I can’t deny the quality is good, but like you say it’s not cheaper!

  2. Wendy says:

    Yeah, I suspect I’ll be composting lots of spouting potatoes! The man tried to sell my friend apples as well, giving him one to sample and everything. It was like a moment out of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”!

  3. Sue says:

    €1.80 a kilo! Bloomin’ eck, no wonder we have so many French (and Swiss) shopping over the Italian side of the mountain.. We have a very similar red spud here too..

    PS Thanks for the ski offer which I saw too late. Not that I should be buying any new gear given the state of the Italian economy and they way they’re laying off English teachers…

  4. Wendy says:

    Sue, a friend took the Mont Blanc tunnel just last week for that very reason! I’m tempted to do the same (perhaps on the way through to some of those fantastic resorts nearby). And if they lay you off (fingers crossed they don’t of course), I see an Italian-grocery-delivery-to-France business starting up!

  5. Sue says:

    Ta! I’ve already been laid off, but have other (minimal) income. I believe the posh way to refer to this is “portfolio career”. Off to play footie tomorrow down in Piemonte, which is not paid.. I can’t help thinking naked women’s football would be…

    OK. We meet at quechua at Sallanches (I can justify a new jacket, the old zip says so)! Spuds, Fontina, olive oil perhaps, and general groceries? I haven’t had Raclette since brief holidays when I was a wage slave, and French white wine is better value than Italian IMHO…

    Joking aside, let me know when you’re passing through and fancy a decent pizza over here. Courmayeur, La Thuile, Pila, Crevacol, Cervinia, Valtournanche, Gressoney(s) and Alagna for the powder down into Lombardia make this a place worth visiting. Although I actually live in the middle valley I’m thinking of paying for an overnight stay at one of the later places when the powder is good and I can cancel my English lesssons. Avoid the motorway over her as much as possible is my general advice to you and your readers.. A la prochaine..

  6. Wendy says:

    I’ll take everything but the potatoes! Sorry to hear you’ve already been laid off, and I hope you get to build that portfolio (naked women’s football would be a good money earner in Italy I’m sure!).

    I did go skiing in Gressoney last year and I hope to go back again this year, so I’ll yell out if I do. More summertime day trips to Italy are on the books for me, as it really is an undiscovered area that I’d love to explore.

    As for the cheese, there *must* be a cheese similar to Raclette in Italy – there are so many to choose from!

  7. Sue says:

    Ah yes, cheese. Get behind me chlor.. satan..

    Fontina melts very nicely: try “polenta concia” [or vadostana] next time you’re up a mountain and it’s a cold day.

    Checked the other day: same spuds €1.28 at the local supermarket. They were also selling raclette cheese: it goes very well with gnocchi for a quick lunchtime dish.

    Having just read my last post and observed the spilling – typos dammit, I’m glad Boggart hasn’t passed this way… I suspect alcohol was involved.

  8. Wendy says:

    Ahhh, an unidentified Native! And that explains the booze consumption as well. 🙂

    I’m adding those cheeses to my list to buy in massive amounts next time I’m in Italy: they will add a nice variation to the endless potato dishes I’ve been concocting lately!

    Also, try raclette on toast – delicious!

  9. Sue says:

    Well, I was a “Native” but they seem to have deleted me a la Amazon.. (It’s embarassing, I often feel out of place there as I’m older than Sandgroper!) Any ideas about getting back in? The name I want to use (i.e. the one I had before) seems to be taken?!

    My basic skint idea is to get back on Natives to blag/swap some crash pads in Verbier and Zermatt, which are both on my season pass, bought yesterday out of my long term savings.. The idea is I can do an overnighter and have a couple of days skiing there without all the time and expense of going back and forth, and without paying Swiss prices.. A small bottle of the local VdA Genepy might be an additional bribe to all concerned..

  10. Wendy says:

    They shifted all the usernames and passwords across, so you should be able to access the site with your old name and password. Your idea is a good’un: I’ve met some great people via Natives and I’m sure you will too.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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