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I had occasion to visit two markets in Toronto over the weekend. It is always a treat to go to St. Lawrence Market, probably because I don’t go there often. It’s further from home than Kensington Market, which I visit on a weekly basis, and it’s generally more expensive. I like to go into the building that houses the visiting farmers on Saturday mornings only. There I can buy exotic items, such as a kilo of goat feta cheese in a little bucket filled with brine for $14.50. The cheese stores well in my fridge for up to three months - if it lasts that long. It usually doesn’t. The same man who sells the goat cheese – a goodly variety, I should add – also sells very nice freshly made (cow) butter, which is a must in my house even though I consume very little on a daily basis, and much of the time he has double yolk eggs, which are a special treat. There are folks selling sheep products at St. Lawrence Market, which is difficult, if not impossible to find in other areas of Toronto. I always buy a tub of sheep yogurt when I see it, because my entire body loves it. It’s truly like taking medicine, I feel so good after eating it. The same folks sell sheep feta and a creamy cheese, which I will probably sample one day soon. I also bought Ontario clover and wild flower honey from the honey man. I had hoped to buy some fresh-from-the-farm spinach, which was there a month or so ago on my last visit, but those folks weren’t there this weekend. Although I didn’t buy any this trip, I can also get buffalo burgers, which are a nice addition to my B diet. One must always be alert in any market, however. A huge stack of fresh asparagus, one of my favourites, was shipped in from Washington State in the U.S. The local Ontario version will make its appearance later this month. I can wait. As with local strawberries, the difference is formidable.
Kensington Market is like home to me. I remember going there as a youngster living in Toronto, when it was mostly bushel baskets of farm-fresh produce placed in front of people's houses. The prices were always cheaper than elsewhere. Although the traditions have changed (it began as a Jewish settlement market) with the passing of each wave of immigration, it still has a lot of appeal for me. I should say here that I like grunge. Things that are funky, a bit off the usual really appeal to me. I love popping into the old buildings, each with their unique character, checking for freshness and price, with no obligation to buy anywhere I turn. Each vendor has his/her own character as well, which adds to the charm, in my eyes. Over the years I have developed my own routine, of course. Apples and beets come from one store, which also has the nicest garlic in the market (I think). One of the bulk health food stores gets a lot of my regular business. Here I buy goat milk, organic yogurt, eggs, oatmeal, spelt flour to make bread, herbal teas, walnuts, environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, supplements, etc. Another shop around the corner is where I buy most of the veggies I eat during the week, including the biggest carrots I can find, which make the best juice in my juicer. I should say here that at Kensington Market, it is buyer beware. A wonderful bargains may be worthless, in terms of quality, once you get home. Each apple, each carrot must be inspected carefully for imperfections and freshness. Experience is, as always, the best teacher.
Although I buy feta cheese at St. Lawrence Market, I make a regular stop in Kensington Market to buy my two current cheese favourites: mozzarella and the treat of the week, caprano goat cheese, which is simply delicious. It comes in a small round, and I usually buy a half round every couple of weeks. It is a firm, unripened cheese, and my body loves this cheese as well.
I began shopping regularly at Kensington Market when I returned to Toronto 16 ½ years ago and discovered that the prices there were often close to half (or less) the prices at the supermarket, with similar freshness/quality. It’s now an unquestionable routine.
Occasionally, I recall my early life as a young bride buying all my groceries under one roof, in the local supermarket, and wonder how I ever did that month after dreary month, even though the choices I now have were not available to me then. Now, I visit the supermarket for a few very small items, most of them not edible. It’s more work to go to the market, but it also makes my life a lot more worth living. At this stage of my life, that’s important.