30 November 2006

fruits and veggies

Okay, so I've taken a few minor breaks from my day-long excursions to the north end of town. But breaks are necessary. Today I went up to the famous Jean Talon food market with my friend Nyambura.

Situated in the middle of Montreal's little Italy, at the north end of St. Denis, Marche Jean Talon has a long tradition of overflowing with arguably the best produce in the province (or so I'm told). In the warmer months, the market is outdoors; sheltered stalls packed with goodies line the sides of the market, and baked goods, spices and more veggies are in the centre. Now most of the goods have been moved inside for the winter, while the outside is a Christmas tree market. The smell of pine and spruce is a welcome reprieve from the subway air and polluted muck of downtown.

Inside the buildings there are literally towers of scores of varieties of fruits and veggies. Some of them I didn't even recognize. Piles of broccoli stretch 10 feet high, up to the ceilings. Intuitive employees watch which ones you are eyeing, and climb up to grab the best bunch for you. I've never seen anything quite like it.

Glossy black eggplants, fuzzy coconuts, dozens of varieties of apples in little baskets. It was a food lovers dream. I kept thinking of all the things I would cook, and tried very hard to figure out what a huge, tree stump/log-like species could possibly taste like. It reminded me of the time in Mwanza when I saw a jackfruit for the first time. The vendor, seeing my baffled expression, starting making fun of me and telling me it was a fruit bred with a reptile.

Also, the prices are simply unbeatable. I got 9 kiwis, 4 lemons, a bunch of tomatoes, 2 baskets of blackberries, some plums, a large bunch of baby bananas, and a giant avocado for $5.50. I haven't seen food prices this good since the Sunday markets in Mwanza. I would have gotten much more if I had brought a backpack or something, but I had no idea this place would be so...bountiful. Nyambura came prepared, and brought a bag on wheels. She filled it.

Outside the produce sections, there are rows of specialty shops with shelves stocked with oils, jams, pestos, and fresh juices bubbling in fountains. There are coffee shops and bakeries that diffuse smells of the sweet, warm and comforting variety. There are also many cheese stands, with towers of brie, camembert, and other out-of-my-price-range items. Those were especially hard to resist.

I spent the long subway ride back listening to Lily Allen. During "Nan, you're a window shopper," (great track), I became fixated with a little old lady dressed in an iridescent lavender trenchcoat, mauve pants, huge amethyst earings, a flowing pale purple silk scarf, a knit purple touque, and very strong violet perfume. She was so gaudily jazzed up that I wished I was related to her. That, and I was hoping I too would be that shamelessly tacky yet elegant, and taking the metro around town with a glittery purse, in my old age.

And now, on with the "important stuff".


Leslie said...

wow! what a place, great shots, I wish we had a market like that here. Sounds fun as well as delicious.

Erin said...

ooooh I was I had a fresh food market like that here. all jane/finch gives me is shootings and rapists.

Arieh said...

Dallas, great redesign. Your writing has been making me smile and miss Montreal. Keep it up.

Photos remind me of Asia. Regards!

Gillian said...

this market sounds incredible! and a complete dream... finding good fresh produce taht wont cost you your life savings in DC is impossible...