Through the Kitchen Window

I confess that I am an inveterate shopper.

And though I confess this, I don’t do it shamefacedly, with regret or with any pretense at trying “break the habit”. No, emphatically, NO!!!

Because the kind of shopping that I am addicted to is something that my family and friends benefit from. I don’t shop for jewelry. I don’t go out and spend hundreds or thousands on clothing, shoes, purses or any of the other “fripperies” that most self-confessed shop-a-holics do. For me, the shopping “monster” raises its ugly head every time I set foot in a farmers market, gourmet food shop, kitchen boutique or fresh produce stall. I love to shop for food!!! The fresher the better, the more unique and different, the better the chance that I’ll try it. And I don’t look just for bargains either. Above all, I demand freshness, quality and flavour. The bargains can wait.

For the most part, I do my “market” shopping at the St Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto. It’s a ritual that even my kids love to take part in. We meet for an espresso from Pasta Mia and fresh baked croissant from Stonemill Bakery, both on the lower level of the south market building. And once we’ve been fortified, we venture the stalls. The north building houses the farmers who show up every Saturday morning to hawk their wares. Fresh herbs, vegetables, cheeses, home baked goodies, you’ll even find home made meat pies made with a spelt flour (gluten free) crust. The south building houses the vendors that are there daily (except Sundays and Mondays) and boasts a couple of excellent quality butchers, cheese and fish mongers as well as organic vegetable sellers, Stonemill and Future bakeries and the peameal bacon on a bun vendors that are the requirement of a Saturday morning spent at the Market.

And probably every other Saturday you’ll find me, sometimes alone, sometimes with my kids, traveling the aisles with my bundle buggy and reusable bags, tasting, smelling and buying the very things that make me the happiest. Once I’ve overflowed my buggy, I head home happy in the knowledge that I have an afternoon of cooking ahead of me.

I visit the Jean Talon Market in Montreal as often as I can as well. I recently visited Montreal for a weekend of which one of the highlights was going to see a good friend, Jo-Anna Downey, a comedian, debut her one woman show. It was a great night, her show is awesome and if you get the chance, check her out. But the highlight of my Sunday was spending the day at the Jean Talon and Milano’s, my favourite Italian market, situated in the heart of “petite italie” on rue St Laurent. By the time I was done, we’d had to move the luggage to the back seat in order to be able to store all my goodies in the trunk!!! If you’re in Montreal, don’t miss either of these gastronomic gems!

But I think even I was blown away by my recent visit to the St Jacob’s Market. For some reason, I’d never been there as an adult, though I recall a grade five class trip out to the St Jacob’s Country. We set out for this adventure a bit late in the day this past Saturday. We’d been put off by the thunderstorms that arrived first thing in the morning. Once the rains let up, we decided to brave the weather and hope for the best.

The best was indeed awesome! By the time we arrived the rain had packed up its bags for the day and left us, it had been replaced by the most glorious shiny, hot sun. It made a great day that much better! On arriving at the market, we were greeted by dozens of farmers hawking their wares. Fresh garlic, scapes intact! Onions, some of the biggest beefsteak tomatoes I’ve seen in a long time, so fresh and redolent of summer! Peas in the shell! String beans, flat beans, so many kinds of squash I lost count! Flowers!!! Roses, gerbera daisies, even orchids!

My bundle buggy was soon filled to the brim and sent back to the van for emptying and a chance at refilling. And refill it I did! By the time we were done, I had purchased broccoli (3 gorgeous heads for $5), cauliflower (2 for $4) which I steamed and buttered for Larry. String beans that I made into a green bean salad and flat beans which I’ll cook up with tomatoes, onions, peppers and toss in the shelled peas for interest. Scotch bonnets and red Tabasco peppers at $2 for a dozen of each. A box of baby Portobello mushrooms for $10; huge Cremini (served with grilled t-bones) and baby Shiitakes (to be stir fried with the broccoli) were $4 each for a pint.

Inside the Market building we found beautiful t-bones that we grilled with a mixture of the Cremini and Portobello mushrooms for a late dinner when we got home with our spoils. Crab stuffed whole calamari. Smoked back bacon that, together with some side bacon was part of our French toast breakfast the next morning.

I was able to purchase a couple of small jugs of this year’s maple syrup for Matthew’s girlfriend Rachael to take home when they leave to go back to England at the end of the week.

I found a pasta maker that makes several different types of gluten free pasta for anywhere from $3.79 to $4.25 per 450gr package! Montreal style pumpernickel and sesame seed bagels!

Well, you get the idea. I barely scratched the surface of what was there, and we’re definitely going to be making more visits to this gem of a market. Larry is a bit afraid I think!!!

Sunday was spent in my most favourite way: cleaning, chopping, slicing, dicing, and most importantly, cooking or precooking all the spoils of the previous day. I was tired at the end of it all, but my fridge is full and my family will be enjoying the benefits of my “shopping binge” for the rest of the week.

And I can’t think of a better obsession to have. Can you???

So, if you’re too far away to take advantage of the markets I’ve mentioned here, do a Google search of your own and set out for your local market. I can guarantee you, you won’t regret it!!! And drop me a line to let me know what gems are out in your neck of the woods!


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