While you could go to the grocery store to make the florescent-lit procession up and down aisles paved in fruit loops and cheese curls, you could also avoid the colorless experience for something with a bit more flavor. Rather than sentencing yourself to an afternoon at the meal mill, beyond the boxes and concentrates, there lies real food produced by real people.
Local markets and vendors do more than provide fresh and wholesome food. They rekindle our senses lost in a world of monotony. While the grocery store is a lifeless experience, where human interaction can be avoided entirely through the invention of self-check out, a market fosters connectivity and activity.
In Cleveland, we’ve been quietly hoisting the local marketplace flag since 1840. The West Side Market, a yellow brick market house on Cleveland’s West 25th St., is host to over 100 vendors, selling freshly harvested, freshly made products of cultural backgrounds from all around the world. From brats to gyros to pirogues to apple fritters, the West Side Market tantalizes all sides of the tongue.
On my most recent trip to the WSM I discovered “mochi,” a Japanese rice, dumpling-like cake, stuffed with various sweetened fillings like strawberry and red bean paste. As a candy-freak and confection connoisseur, the mochi opened my senses to something new, something I wouldn’t find stocked on a grocery store shelf. For lack of a better description, the mochi married gummy bears and dumplings, popping with unusual textures and flavor. I loved them and ate three, washing each down with a sip of coconut bubble tea.
Next, I bought some honey directly from the beekeeper, who told us her story of putting a beehive on the top of one of the buildings in downtown. How one puts bees atop a city building and then collects the honey from such a hive, I haven’t an inkling, but she told her tale of her product with pride, and I listened, entirely bewitched by her bee-centric enterprise. I sampled the honey from the end of a straw. It had been steeped with fresh lavender and I couldn’t resist buying a small bottle of my own to stir in to tea and spread onto toast.
Vendors continued slicing samples of fresh mangos and melon, shouting out to me as I made my exit, bags loaded with treats. I left feeling energized, rather than numbed or haggard by shopping cart gridlock, or failed barcode readings. It may take a little more planning, a little more foresight, but a trip to the market is a culinary adventure that supports small producers and transforms each shopping experience into a festival of the senses.