I remember waking up while it was still dark out, and being bundled up in the back of a van to go to “the market”.
My Opi (a colloquialism based on the German word for Grandpa, Opa) and Mr. Little would be in the front, sometimes talking but most often quiet. I would have a goodie bag in my clutches, full of treats (ahem – SUGAR) to keep me alive for the trip.
We were on our way to the Kitchener Farmers’ Market.
Thinking back on it now, I have no idea why a market like that would have appealed to me. Moreso, I have no idea why Opi would have wanted to bring a hyperactive little girl to a farmers’ market in a city a couple of hours away. It turned out to be one of my favourite things, and is still one of my fondest childhood memories.
If there is one thing that I have inherited from my Opi, it is a love of cured meats and strong cheeses. For years, I ate vegetarian, and when I first chose to eat cured meats again (on a trip to Germany, no less), I was reminded of him. That’s another story entirely.
The market seemed like a different world to me, when compared to the shiny grocery stores we usually got our food from. I hated going to grocery stores. I loved going to the market. There were so many bizarre things to hold my attention – pigs’ heads, doll clothes, cheese, pickles, preserves and hand-crafted knickknacks. I’m sure there were also vegetables, but that wasn’t on my radar at the time. At one point, we walked through a door and found ourselves on a walkway above the livestock auction. This was not at all like anything I had seen at home.
I would usually sleep on the way home, exhausted from the day’s adventure.
Once home, we would dig in to some of the day’s haul. There would be delicately sliced cured meats, hearty sausages, pickled fish and stinky cheeses. It didn’t matter to me that I would come home smelling like dirty socks (see Limburger), but my Mom certainly wasn’t impressed.
It was something special that I shared with my Opi, a food ritual that brought us together.
Now, visiting markets is something I love to do with J. We get overwhelmed by the crowds, the strange organization of stalls, the vast quantities of produce, but there is always something to catch our attention. Each market is different, with different products and a different culture. This is my first time back to the Kitchener market, and my first time there without Opi.
To be continued…
(Note: the first photo is actually taken at St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market… my choice of photo will make sense in the next post.)