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.

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