Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Settling into home from home

Last week, shortly after I first got here, I was having myself a coffee and a read of my book, which I do a lot as a lady of leisure, when I overheard an ex-pat conversation about where to buy good food in Brussels. (Things I'm learning about Brussels - there are ex-pats everywhere) Naturally my ears pricked up and I latched on to the conversation that was happening a few tables away. The couple were having a grand old conversation about different areas of Brussels, where was nice to live and where were the best places to do their various bits of shopping. The conversation couldn't have been better suited to someone like myself, just off the plane from Dublin, looking for somewhere to live, with an insane interest in food. I listened intently while pretending to study my book. Don't judge me, you've all done it. Unfortunately for me, these two were clearly Brussels veterans and despite speaking English, every time they mentioned a place name, their pronunciation was so impeccable that I hadn't the slightest notion what they were talking about. So, serves me right I suppose for listening in on other people's private conversations.

Well, a week later, I've moved into my new home from home for the next few months and as luck would have it, it's right down the road from one of 'the' markets that my cafe friends were talking so enthusiastically about. It's exactly as they described. It happens weekly, on a Wednesday, and is filled with everything my culinary heart could desire. As far as my limited understanding of French allows me to determine, and what I overheard from the cafe couple, it seems to be stocked with produce from surrounding farms with an emphasis on local and organic. It's got everything you need, bakers, cheesemongers, fishmongers, florists, butchers and of course wine. As I said, everything my culinary heart could desire. And at the end of my street. I couldn't have picked a better location if I had actually done some research and tried.

I've always been insanely jealous of the European's relationship with food. Ever since I went to Italy as a little girl and experienced what a real tomato tasted like. Europe has access to the kind of local produce that we as pale skinned islanders on the edge of the Atlantic can only dream of. And it seems that fresh produce and a culture of market shopping go hand in hand. In Europe it's nothing fancy, it's just the way people have shopped for years and continue to do so today. Why wouldn't they? The sun shines down on them, the produce is in abundance and it fosters community spirit. It allows local economies to thrive as bars and restaurants pop up around market squares turning them into bustling centres. Understandably, we in Ireland are jealous of this and are trying to emulate our European counterparts with food markets springing up all over the place. Except, we still don't have the produce, so instead it travels miles and miles to get to us, is overpriced as a result and usually, if out of season as it so often is, is as tasteless and undesirable as a wet rag. We've also totally missed the point of food markets. Ours seem to go hand in hand with a certain lifestyle choice, not with the everyday business of good food for all. (With the notable exception of the English Market in Cork of course.) Even the organic markets import the majority of their veg from the continent so do nothing to help with sustainability or cutting down of food miles. Quel dammage! It's a minefield, but one I can avoid for the summer, by shopping in my newly adopted, wonderful, local market. For those of you who find yourselves in the Brussels area, it's at Place Chatelain, on Wednesdays. Don't miss out. 

So all in all I'm pretty thrilled with where I've ended up. There's enough bars and restaurants around me that I will never get bored and I'm pretty sure I'll be at the market every Wednesday without fail. I may not be able to live this way in Ireland, but I'm sure going to soak it up while I can. 

my street

1 comment:

  1. I just adore your blog. Your writing and photography are both soo great. Keep up the great posts and I look forward to reading more