Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cities in a Basket

Exploring the hub of a city (the food market) is my number one travel priority.

Towns historically formed as a market centre. The town emerged around the market place well before industrialization. Farmers brought their produce to town to barter or sell, long before we turned the fashionable 21st Century city phrase ‘farmers market’.

When I was younger, and long before I ventured away from home, I found a love of travel, of discovering other cultures. Discovery was pursued in my mother’s kitchen by exploring the food of other lands. Cooking became more than sustenance, more than nourishing myself and others, and became a way to embody myself in other cultures. From this, there also unfolded my deep love of well cared for produce and slowly crafted cookery that became an integral part of my being.

Now that I do travel as often as I can, the first thing I do in a new city is to find the food market. I felt right at home on my first sojourn to Paris because of the attention and importance that is placed on produce. On my most recent sojourn, I camped close by to one of Paris’ oldest markets the busy Place Maubert in the 5th Arrondissement. During weeks of looking, smelling, tasting, I was delighted to learn more about that city, that season. Now, once again away from Paris, I plunge into my bookshelf companion ‘Paris in a Basket’ Markets – The Food and the People (written by Nicolle Aimee Meyer & Amanda Pilar Smith, forward by Paul Bocuse, published by Konemann) to transport me to Paris at anytime.

Other favourites are mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona, Central Market Hall in Budapest and Naschmarkt in Vienna.

Closer to home in Australia, there has long been the fantastic Vic Markets (Melbourne) that serve not only the locals, but are a tourist destination in their own right. Victoria Markets have a special place in my heart for honouring me with my first – smell – of fresh truffle (the covering dome lifted reverently to release the aroma). I must admit of late I haven’t been to the Sydney Fish Market as often as I should. This is a timely reminder for a visit.

Markets appeal to all of the senses. Learn more about yourself and more about whichever city you are in, by loosing your senses in the local market. Allow yourself the pleasure.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

OUR social media GRIFFE

What is a 'griffe'?

I first came across the word 'griffe' this last holiday season, when I devoured 'Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas' in one overnight helping. I must admit when I first picked it up in the Shakespeare & Co bookshop, it was the similarity to the Hemingway classic, "A Moveable Feast" that attracted me to the title.

As it turned out, the book and I were well suited. Baxter is an Aussie who now lives in Paris; I am an Aussie who stills lives in Sydney but likes to visit Paris. The connection did not end there and was cemented with a love of food, French food.

Baxter also describes his daughter's coming of age when she brings home her 'griffe'.

My Google search found the definition of griffe: a clawlike ornament extending from the base of a column. The griffe Baxter refers to is the sum of ourselves that describes our personal style. For his daughter her griffe was her business card holder. The New York Times writer, Dawn Drzal, describes this griffe as the "individual and passionately held map of 'favorite cafes, shops, walks, meeting places' that every Parisian constructs of the city".

I got to thinking. We are calling it out, putting it out there, everyday, our own griffe. The griffe has become international and available. We put it out there on our Twitter, our Facebook pages and however else we connect ourselves with the world through social media. Yes, our individual statements of preferences, taste and style are publicly on display.