JEAN-TALON MARKET – Montréal, Québec, Canada

JEAN-TALON MARKET – Montréal, Québec, Canada (Photo courtesy of Montreal Tourism)

JEAN-TALON MARKET – Montréal, Québec, Canada (Photo courtesy of Montreal Tourism)

The Place to Buy your Foodstuffs in a Metropolitan Culinary Mecca

The Jean-Talon Market is situated in the center of a huge urban residential area of Montréal, and it is the largest outdoor public farmers’ market in Canada.  At it’s peak in the summer there are over 130 vendors and shops that set up mostly outdoors and people flock to the market in hordes like it’s another festival.  A food festival, if you will….  Every day.

The central corridors of the market are lined with stands that set up daily deals, often advertised with sharpies on handwritten signs.  You can buy a colorful plethora of fresh fruits and veggies by the basket, at bargain prices.  There are plates of sliced samples to try before you buy.  There is no checkout line and no cash registers.  If you want a receipt they might have to write one up for you on a piece of notebook paper and it might say: “1 panier concombres, $2, Ferme Raoul et fils, le 20 de avril, Raoul.”  There are also two Florists with fresh cut flowers and potted plants, and you have 3 different vendors selling eggs.  Double yoked eggs and duck eggs cost a bit extra but you can’t find them at the supermarket down the street.

Shoppers Pick Up Culinary Inspiration at the Jean-Talon Market in Montreal

Around the perimeter of the market there are permanent buildings with more specialty stores that offer a variety of goods all year round.  You will find Fromageries where a real cheese addict could drop over a thousand dollars to get their fix (author witnessed this), Boulangeries that cover the neighborhood with the smell of baked baguettes and croissants, and Boucheries that sell Horse meat, Bison filets, and Wild Boar sausages.  Then there are 4 Poissoneries with fresh seafood on ice, health food stores, restaurants, cafes, spice shops, an SAQ (liquor store), and a Maison du Chocolat, to name a few. Premiére Moisson is the champion of all baked goods in Montréal and they occupy the largest building in the market, where they put their artisanal cakes, pies, and quiches on display behind glass like a fine arts museum exhibit.  There is a service called Talon Courier that takes orders online for anything from the market, and delivers by bike within a 4 km radius.

The Jean-Talon Market has come a long way in the last few decades to cater to more of a city shopper crowd.  Not long ago you could buy live chickens and/or live goats for a few dollarsand now it’s a bit more like a suburban mall.  Nevertheless, it remains and grows as a healthy alternative to the corporate factory food ‘Supermarket’ model.

Knowing where to go, for what, and when, is key.  In a non-global economy shoppers understand that produce isseasonal. Sure, you can find strawberries in February if you want, but they are from South America and they arrived on a plane, get it?  Local food doesn’t pay airfare.

After all, what do you buy on a daily basis that is more important than FOOD?  And what is more important than your HEALTH?  You can’t put your trust in a huge corporation to give you nutrition, sustainability, or even taste.  But you can trust them to pump your foods full of hormones and chemicals to maximize their profits.  And you can trust them to grow their resources wherever it is the cheapest, then fly the foods halfway around the world, all year long.  So it is not surprising that people are going back to the basics of food.  Local farmers and small farms.  It’s not the stuff that has a shelf life longer than you.  It’s the fresh gifts from Mother Nature.  It’s the pictures of the things on the food pyramid, folks.  And the joy of cooking and eating.  Humans’ oldest, favorite pastime.

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Categories: Americas, Food + Drink, On a fork, Stories

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