Saturday, 18 August 2007

A Visit to Waterloo Farmers' Market (St. Jacobs)

NOTE: (Added Spring 2009)
This market is now closed.
The St Jacobs Market across
the street is open.

This weeks' Farmers' Market visit took us to what was once the Waterloo Farmers' Market, which is now, as far as I can tell, part of the St. Jacobs Farmers' Market. (They are directly across the street from each other.) It's certainly run by the same people, and has many of the same virtues and flaws. This was the first Farmers' Market I shopped at in the area, and one we came to regularly for a number of years when we lived in Waterloo. It's changed a lot - not for the better - since then, so I may have a bit of difficulty assessing it fairly. It's still a large and very diverse market with lots of good things, so don't take any complaints I make too much to heart.

I always used to prefer the Waterloo Market to the St. Jacobs Market, because it had more food and less junky random stuff, but that balance has changed over the years, and it is now no better.

Waterloo Farmers Market (St Jacobs)It's a large, low, sprawling industrial type building which has been gussied up with a fake barn style front. I don't mind the utilitarianism; it's the fake front that has me rolling my eyes. Never mind, I'm a sort of reverse snob and I know it.

In spite of having lived and shopped in the area for 16 to 18 years (I've lost track!) we have never taken this horse-drawn tour of local farms. Someone must though, because it's been going for all that time and certainly longer.

Mennonite market stand at Waterloo Farmers Market (St. Jacobs)When we first started coming, there were a lot more old-order Mennonites who had stands at the market. There's still a good sprinkling of them, and they generally have an interesting selection of mixed produce, including some apples that are rarely seen anymore. This stand had Melbas, a sweet apple reminiscent of McIntoshes.

Outdoor stands at Waterloo Farmers Market (St. Jacobs)There are noticeably a lot fewer people at the market than when I first started coming. There was no way you could have seen all the way down the row of stands 15 years ago - it would have been wall-to-wall people.

However, it's not really the outside that has changed. It's the inside. It used to be that the Waterloo Market had almost all food booths. Now, there is an awful lot of cheap, crappy tat inside, as well as booths that aren't rented at all.

I can't blame the cheap, crappy tat for the deterioration of the market, though - that came in after the number of farmers and shoppers dropped off. They have to fill that vast space somehow.

Al Medina and La Casbah at Waterloo Farmers Market (St. Jacobs)Al Medina and La Casbah are rival suppliers of delectable, if rather expensive North African treats; Al Medina with an Egyptian emphasis and La Casbah with a Moroccan emphasis.

Gerber and Stemmler Meats at Waterloo Farmers Market (St. Jacobs)Gerber's and Stemmler's meats have both been fixtures of the market for many years. The summer sausage in a bag is a local specialty, and it's superb. However, we got some of the little pepperettes, which I find completely irresistable.

European Pastries - Excellent Whole Wheat Bread at the Waterloo Farmers Market (St. Jacobs)We used to shop from these two ladies regularly, when we lived closer and I ate wheat. They have a selection of nice if fairly ordinary cookies and cinnamon buns. Their "high fibre" (it's not outstandingly - it's just whole wheat) bread is some of the best whole wheat bread I have ever had, ever, anywhere. It's the sort of soft-crusted North American style loaf of bread that the mass producers have made a world-wide laughing stock, and when you eat the bread from European Pastries and taste how good it is possible for this bread to be, you could just about cry. They grow and grind their own wheat, and what can I say? It's what bread should be. It is worth going to the Waterloo Market just to get this bread.

Bast Cheese at the Waterloo Farmers Market (St. Jacobs)Well, George T. Bast is still managing to draw an old-fashioned market crowd with his large selection of quality cheeses. Good for him.

The haul - what we bought at the Waterloo Farmers Market (St. Jacobs)I thought about going across the street and doing the original St. Jacobs Farmers' Market as well, but that will have to wait for another time. We could barely carry what we had already: bicolour corn, a couple hot peppers, red and yellow beets, two kinds of peaches and Burbank plums, fingerling and purple peruvian potatoes, green and yellow flat beans, broccoli and cauliflower, onions, zucchini, celery, pepperettes, bacon, blue cheese and a loaf of that excellent whole wheat bread. Think we'll manage to survive for another week?

1 comment:

Valli said...

I haven't been to the St. Jacob's Farmer's market in years. I remember it very differently from what you describe, but I haven't lived in Ontario in 13 years, so, lots has changed. Last Christmas I went to St. Jacob's with my parents one evening and was generally disappointed in the quality of the stores and what they offered. You used to be able to get beautiful crafts from local artisans at the mill but it is now almost empty. All gone I'm afraid.