Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Market Day

It has been months since I have been to the West Side Market in Cleveland, one of the best places to be. On Saturday, a gorgeous blue-sky day, I decided I needed to get a market fix. I thought if I waited until afternoon I could avoid the usual Saturday crush. Well, I guess everyone in Cleveland had the same idea. The parking lot, which is huge, was just about full. As usual, the aisle of the outside arcade was packed solid with the usual mix of suburbanites, street people, young couples from the trendy re-habbed neighborhoods nearby, women in headscarves or saris, old ladies with carts, the usual ethnic mix from the west side, etc. The vendors, who used to be mainly Italian, Polish or German, are now heavily mixed in with Hispanic and Middle-Easter merchants. You'll hear Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Korean spoken all around you. All of the fruit vendors offer a taste, cutting into oranges, melons, or peaches (in season). This is not a farmer's market any more, but the prices are much cheaper than at the supermarket.

Inside the main building are a variety of stands: meat, fish, cheeses, eggs, fish, sausages (Hungarian and Slovenian are the best.) There used to be a sauerkraut and pickle stand, but now there are Indian, Mexican, Jamaican and Lebanese vendors and you can eat your way across the world, Oh, the bratwurst people are still there, of course, as are the pirogi folks.

There are tons of bakeries, some with very fancily decorated cakes and cookies. Some commercial types have crept in, but many of the original stands are still around. One of my favorites is the Greek bakery, run by the daughter of the baker. The old man was actually there this time and I told him how much I enjoy his wares. He makes a wonderful torte, like the kind of cakes you can get in Europe but not here. The daughter and I always have a chat. She said she had missed me and wondered where I had been. She spent a month in Greece last year and the stand was closed while she was gone. A couple of years ago she told me that her brother was in Germany, helping Christo wrap the Brandenburg Gate. That's a great obscure connection to fame if I ever heard one.

What I like to do is to get a bratwurst sandwich (hard roll, dark mustard) and go up to the balcony and look out on the whole main floor. Didn't do that this time because I wanted to take some pictures from up there and I can't juggle a camera and a sandwich at the same time. I love to look at the ceiling. It was designed, back in 1914, and is part of a ventilation system through a series of holes and a space between the ceiling and the roof. I'm not sure how it works but it is beautiful to see.

I always get too much stuff when I go to this market. I mean, it's there and it's cheap. Until our local farmer's market starts up in July, it's the only chance to see so many colorful, good smelling, edibles right in front of you. And I like the crowds. Ohioans don't shove, regardless of the country of origin.

Here are some of the tempting bakery items which must we resisted - with effort.

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