June 21, 2010

Market Shopping

I’ve written previously about the local markets and the wonderful bounty they provide. And I’m sure there will be many more posts to follow in time. Once they open I don’t venture inside a chain grocery store too often, just to get the staples of milk, juice and the odd bottle of ginger ale (and now my gluten free goodies). There are so many benefits of shopping at the local markets and my list could go on and on, but I can only ever find one disadvantage – the crowds.

Back in May Noah Richler wrote an article in Maclean’s lamenting shopping at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market. Throughout the article I kept smiling as it reminded me of many shopping experiences in the Byward Market on a Saturday and Sunday morning. I learn quickly and the only time I venture there on a weekend is if out-of-town friends and family beg to go.

Unlike Richler, I can venture to the market downtown or on Parkdale any day of the week at any time I desire. When I worked in the market or near Elgin St. I would often take a stroll down to the market on my lunch break and pick up some goodies for the week or the weekend. I could take my time starting at one end, looking here and there, and then making my way back picking up what I wanted. It was perfect as the vendors had a chance to answer my questions or chat a bit. With my wonderful cloth LCBO bags full I would wander back to work. It was the least stressful part of my day. When I worked in the government it got me through the day. I would return to work all smiles, show off my goodies, and sometimes share my berries. During rhubarb season my students would be appalled with the horrible tasting sticks I presented, especially after they got a bite, but more so after they saw me take a bite of it and savour the kick it gave. But a few days later when they tasted my rhubarb loaf, their sense of wonder would turn into disbelief as they were shocked it was the same fruit.

Back in February, my Honey and I wandered through the St. Lawrence Market and luckily it was nothing like Richler had described, probably because it was mid-February and mid-Saturday afternoon. We could walk at our own pace and criss-cross the aisle. We did get surrounded by a crowd at one point, but that was at the food court and we just went on our merry way. Again, unlike Richler, we weren’t on a mission to get anything. If anything, our hearts kept dropping as we saw so many things we would’ve liked to try, but our hotel room didn’t have a fridge (I always begin to drool at the cheese counter).

Still, I did find some similarities. There are more local chefs picking up some of their fare at the markets, but luckily you have to get there early in the day to see them. I think of them like rabbits; look quick, oh you missed them. And some people don’t believe in lining up and swarm the vendors, especially on a weekend. But I’ve noticed they are usually tourists. Maybe they are those Torontonians Richler writes about. It is wonderful that tourists love to take some time while they’re in Ottawa to stroll through the markets, but they don’t buy anything and take up so much space (why are they always in groups of six or more?). Yes, I realize I toured the St. Lawrence Market as a tourist, but it wasn’t during peak time. And like Richler’s experiences, I too will tell the senior citizen to wait their turn. Unless they are frail and look like they’re about to tip over, they can wait like I did (I find seniors are far worse than teenagers in budding in line). But unlike Richler, success is in all how you say it. Instead of chastising the poor person, I find something like a guilt laden apology for thinking I was ahead works wonders. Maybe it’s because Ottawa is more conservative and in general, people don’t want to insult others, compared with larger cities, and so we wait our turn (except when suburbanites want to get on the bus, but I digress).

We still venture to the markets on the weekend, but our path follows different streets where we can stroll at our own pace. On mornings when we go for an early breakfast and decide to walk off the coffee jitters, we keep an eye on the time and try to be on our way by 10am at the latest. We get to enjoy the markets our way: enjoyable, pleasant and stress free.


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