While on my New Zealand fly fishing sabbatical I managed to sneak in a wee side trip to my old haunt Melbourne to catch up with some great friends & re-acquaint myself with the marvel that are Melbourne’s markets.
To say Melbourne is literally littered with markets might just be an understatement as they seem to be in just about every nook or cranny that will host one. I managed to make my way to three of my bog standard destinations – Queen Vic, the South Melbourne Market and the Prahran Market.
In my typical week while living in Melbourne I would visit at least one of these markets, and sometimes 2 or 3 of them to round up supplies & see what was in or coming into season. When we moved to the UK I was a bit giddy with food anticipation being just a stone’s throw from the likes of France, Spain and Italy (and old England too). But I would have to say that the selection of produce & fine foods in Melbourne’s markets beats what we have access to here in the UK. And I still have not figured out exactly why….one answer might be the seriously crushing dominance of the supermarkets who mainly stock their own ‘home brand’ products, thus blocking out the likes of artisanal Italian olive oils or risotto rices or French or Spanish charcuterie.
And I cannot really point to a cultural aspect to argue that Australia is more accustomed to or accepting of markets than the UK as the UK has an extensive history of actual market towns. Prior to the 19th century, people in the UK were mainly involved in agriculture and livestock farming and needed places to sell their goods – viola, market towns.
Or maybe you just have to be in the one of the Big Smokes (London, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, etc…) to have access to more specialised continental goods.
In the last 10 years or so there has been a bit of push back here in the UK in the form of farmers markets and a plethora of farm shops, but neither of these comes close to the diversity and range on offer at Melbourne’s markets.
And though my backpack was stuffed to the gills with fishing gear (I was 4kg’s over weight), I managed to squeeze in some ‘only in Melbourne’ goodies for my pantry in Frome…Melbourne, you do not know how market lucky & rich you are!