The early days…
Since growing up on a farm I’ve been privileged to know the importance, and joys, of eating fresh and local food. We grew such an abundance of fruit & vegetables, we had our very own farm stand, selling what even our large family couldn’t eat. So many lessons were learned from these experiences, and as hard as farm life was it where’s I got my love of cooking, my first job in customer service (at the farm stand!) and it truly made me what I am today!
When the field of raspberries was particularly abundant, they’d be taken to the farmer’s market in Kingston, ON, about a 30 minute drive from our farm, which was just north of Inverary, ON. While I don’t have any photos from those days I can show you some taken in recent past, when I’ve visited the Kingston Public Market.
Markets in Canada…
When living in Vancouver, BC some years ago, I couldn’t get enough of going to the Granville Island Public Market. A big city, food-lovers paradise, especially compared to what I’d known, I used to ride the 10-person ‘tugboat’ passenger ferry to get there from my west end apartment. That was a very cool thing – especially when I started working on Granville Island, and travelled to work using the same little ferry. Like most large markets, you could buy pretty much anything to cook with, as well as grab lunch to eat there, or take outside and enjoy by the water, minding the seagulls of course!
Having lived in Toronto for a few years now, the historic and well-known St. Lawrence Market is a major foodie destination in Toronto, and a place I get to visit as often as I like! Everything you could possibly want to cook is there, including some of the freshest & most delicious east coast mussels I’ve purchased anywhere! Much like other markets you can also buy cookware, especially hard to find items, and grab lunch, or for breakfast one of the famed peameal bacon sandwiches from Carousel Bakery. Even Anthony Bourdain has been known to chow down on one!
Don’t forget the small town markets! Very often the most charming, they’re often staffed by the folks that do the growing. Usually set up weekly like the adorable Ridgeway Farmer’s Market located in quaint Ridgeway, ON, I get to stop by when I visit my brother and his family. Chatting to the folks there you can tell how hard they work, and how proud they are!
Markets while vacationing…
One of my favourite cities to visit is Florence, Italy and I love going to the Mercato Centrale/Mercato di San Lorenzo, one of the oldest markets in Florence. While it still boasts the massive open-air leather stalls outside, it’s changed recently to include a massive upstairs with a cooking school, fashionable eateries, and posh prices to match. Modern times indeed! Although I’ve checked it out, I still prefer the downstairs, with the stalls and producers selling everything you need to make the grandest (or simplest) of dinners, get supplies for a picnic in one of Florence’s many parks, to simply grabbing some fruit for a late morning snack. I especially enjoy interacting with elder vendors who don’t speak English! For more on my experiences here check out my blog post!
In Rome there’s the open air Campo de’ Fiore. Literally translated into ‘field of flowers’ it certainly has an abundance of those, as well as a dizzying array of seasonal fruit & vegetables. Regional cooking equipment is always available, including massive selections of espresso makers, and olive wood boards, bowls, & cooking utensils. Like many open air markets it serves double duty; a bustling produce market during the day and an avid night life in the evening; read more here or check out my thoughts & photos in my very own post on the market!
What markets can do for you…
Markets have been, and will always be part of my life. To eat smartly where you live, shopping locally and in season makes sense for your taste buds, as well as financially. When travelling, checking out what’s in the markets is an indicator of how the locals eat, and a great way to find new & interesting produce! When you find something you don’t know, ask. If you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen where you’re vacationing, you can really live & eat like a local.
Do yourself a favour and check out local markets, whenever and wherever you can.