Thursday, July 07, 2005

Ooh, la, la, Canada!

Damned Canadians are spoiled. Really, they’re hopeless. Soft. Like children. For example, a Montreal resident wants to make a nice dinner, what does he do? Wanders down to the Jean Talon market, buys himself any cut of organic meat he desires, picks up organic baby vegetables and fruit, freshly made pasta, maybe a little smoked fish, some local raw milk cheeses, poppy-seed strudel and a few chocolates, made on the premises. Then he goes home, cooks up dinner and enjoys his meal.


In Boston, you would have to order the meat from the farmer, go fetch it. The meat will be frozen, of course, since you can’t eat a side of beef fresh. Or you could go to Savenor’s and pay through the teeth. Your choice. Then to the farmers’ market – which day is it? Check the schedule, find out which market is open. It’s on the other side of town. Go get your vegetables. If they don’t have what you need, as they well may not, run to Whole Foods and pay, pay, pay. While you’re there, pick up the fish. You would like to run into town to another fish market, but you’re running out of time. Fresh raw milk cheese? Well, that’s impossible, because the government is heavily involved in flavor-censorship. Settle for pasteurized. Fresh pasta – great, just run out to Dave’s or Capone’s! In Somerville. Skip the search for poppyseed strudel, if you’re not a masochist. Chocolates, no trouble. Just a quick trip to the Fenway or maybe Harvard Square.

We Bostonian cooks, we WORK for our results. We become lean and tough. Canada, pftth!

Okay, so the Jean Talon market was amazing. If you’re not in the know, the center of the market is a tented area filled with vegetable and fruit vendors, the whole about the size of a city block. The perimeter is filled with bakeries, meat and fish markets, cheese shops and so on. There is a great store just as you enter that sells all sorts of Quebec-made foodstuffs, from venison pate to local cheeses to pickled cattails.

My haul included walnut-sized potatoes (the hazelnut-sized ones sold out just before I bought mine), tiny zucchini, radishes, spinach and lettuce; three local cheeses, all excellent (especially the very creamy, mild blue called “Bleubry”); almond-paste and poppyseed-filled strudels; a bag of dried mixed forest mushrooms; ice-cider (like ice wine, but made from frozen apples instead of grapes); assorted fruit liqueurs; fresh lychees; fresh tortellini, both meat and cheese; chocolates; and of course some maple syrup. I thought I was quite restrained, really. I left behind gooseberries, which are impossible to get in the States, and everything in the fish and meat markets, and all sorts of cheeses, and – well, you get the idea. It’s like paradise, or would be if you actually had a real kitchen to cook in, not just your brother’s bachelor pad with the one pan/one pot mojo.

I wanted to take pictures of pretty much everything, but my batteries died the moment I got there. Grr.

It’s not just the quality of the food, or the abundance, or the variety, or the fact that so much is organic. It’s the display. The vendors put a serious effort into making the booths beautiful. You get a sense that they just care more. It was wonderful to see, but at the same time, a bit depressing. Why don’t we have anything like this in Boston?

A note: I have no idea how to add accent marks. Forgive me.

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