Wednesday, October 26, 2011
“I wish you apple merriment.”
Don’t hear that very often, do you?
In fact, I found these the perfect welcoming words to market-goers at Apple Day in London’s Borough Market this past Sunday, which celebrated the season in royal style with food, song, and cheer.(See Queen.)
Surely it can’t be surprising to you that seeking out local markets is a major part of my travels? This is probably something that was instilled in me at a very young age, as frequent family road trips to Canada always included a visit to the massive, multi-floor market in Kitchener-Waterloo where my grandparents lived. (Butter tarts, anyone?) It’s a splendid way to experience local food culture and cuisine. I am grateful to my mother for this early exposure, as it’s been a high point of many vacations.
Markets vary widely in flavor and offering from place to place. The foundation is usually locally prepared foods and/or produce but many also include crafts and artwork. A huge market, the Borough was limited to food and included gorgeous looking fruits and vegetables, some of which were local and organic; savory English pies, pasties, and tarts stuffed with various meats, vegetables, and cheeses; custard and fruit-studded puddings and pastries; and elegantly labeled jars of mustard, honey, preserves, and chutney. A local farm was selling hard cider, both apple and pear, still and sparkling. There was also a surprisingly large number of people actively preparing tantalizing foods on site, such as seared scallops, duck confit, and Indian delicacies alongside massive vats of three different curries. Last—but definitely not least—there was one vendor selling fish and chips at a place called Fish!Kitchen, whose motto was, er, “Proper Fish and Chips.”
(Yeah, I know. But I saw the fish they were preparing and it looked amazing. As it turns out, this may well have been the best fish and chips I’ve had in London. Ever. I’d love to show you a picture, but the thought to photograph occurred only after I had already devoured half.)
What a delight to wander through the market on an unexpectedly warm autumn day, sipping a cold cider and savoring the local sights and sounds! (A photo montage of the market can be seen here.)
That it was Apple Day was really just the icing on the, um, apple cake. There was a large selection of farm-fresh apples, including native, local, organic, and heirloom varieties. (The Russet I selected was among the best apples I’ve eaten this season.) And hot mulled cider, of course. Many vendors had also prepared special foods for the occasion. Apple parsnip cake, anyone? No? How about apple cake made with olive oil? Need something more familiar? What about apple pie, toffee apple crumble, apple streudel, apple muffins, apple oat cakes, caramel apples, apple brownies, or apple fritters?
(“Do you want the warm vanilla custard sauce with that?” I was asked after finally deciding on the toffee apple crumble. “Oh, yes…,” I replied, longingly.)
Where was I? Right. If you enjoy traveling, you might consider checking out the local markets if you haven’t done so before. No doubt you will enjoy soaking up the atmosphere, but you may also end up sampling some of the best food in the city. If you don’t fancy leaving your own backyard, I imagine the place you call home has something similar where you can celebrate the season with local fare and flair.
And perhaps you just might get inspired to procure some fresh ingredients and cook up something delicious of your own. Or, in this particular case, pick up a few tasty treats for a whimsical trans-Atlantic plane picnic to conclude a fabulous weekend getaway.
WAY better than airline food, eh?