Attack on My Beloved Haymarket

October 27th, 2008 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Even after college time here and 29 adult years living in Boston, I can be casual or cynical about my town. Yet in a foray into Rochester, New York, I was crushed to find a local institution outdone.

They haapples.jpgve a better Haymarket thingummy there. I am happy for my son, who started college there, but I hate it, hate it.

The apples to the right were in the Rochester market. Multiple varieties from a local orchard were there for the choosing.

Twenty-nine years ago, in a Snugli on my chest, my first born son started my weekly trips to Blackstone Street with me. Over many years, my other two sons and sometimes my wife have gone. I always have.

Starting when we lived on the Hill, I have been an early-morning spirit floating among the stalls. While I have come in a few afternoons for absurd bargains, like a flat of 24 pints of cherry tomatoes for $2, which I use as a pasta sauce base, skimmed for seeds and stem, I’m a morning guy. I come before the non-locals clog the slippery sidewalk and when the choice is best, even if the bargains not as precipitous.

I have given tours to many, generally free, but also as a prize in a church auction. I know who specializes in what, whose summer help will slip you bad produce, and under what conditions it makes sense to buy the fish. I have seen vendors become enfeebled and retire, I’ve known guys who’ve died, and I’ve made mental maps of stalls altered with no vendors. I took my boys to many breakfasts at Mike’s when Anna ran the morning show. It’s now just another vest-pocket Dunkin’ and a sorry subtraction.gourds.jpg

So, I lose my detachment when it comes to the Haymarket. I know too much about the white-bull riding, apple planting priest William Blaxton/Blackstone and what was there before the market. I take people by the Boston Stone and point out where the clipper ships docked. I am embued with Haymarket lore.

Even so, the farmers in Rochester charm with local fruits, vegetables, grouds and more.

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Oh, and I have no patience with those who have never been or were there once 19 years ago. My out-of-New England guests always go to Haymarket and a diner breakfast. They are invariably overwhelmed by noises, sights, smells and the treasures we gather…and then prepare and consume together.

onions.jpgThere I go again and as usual. Now I confess that the Public Market in Rochester is bigger and better and more diverse and just as cheap. The bags of onions to the left were $3.

As we are wont to hope in Boston, our market is nearly a century older (1830 to their 1905). Knowing they’ve outdone us in that cultural hole in Western New York won’t make me stop shopping at and loving my Haymaket. Yet, I admit that I am miffed that the Public Market is so good.

The differences are several and obvious, including:

  • With a lot more area farmers there, Rochester’s has many times the number and selection of in season fruit and produce.
  • Theirs is about three times bigger.
  • They have some things we just don’t — think Amish baked goods, local wines and large potted herbs
  • They have both indoor and outdoor stalls, providing several times the options of warm and cold noshes as the oyster stall and pizza bar here.
  • They have better hours than the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning to afternoon. They go Tuesday and Thursdays,  6:00 a.m.  to 1 :00 p.m., and Saturdays, 5:00 a.m. to 3 p.m.

cflower.jpgThey have the same level of inexpensive and ripe to the eye, nose and tongue wholesaler’s produce as the Haymarket. You can take $10 to $20 and feed a family from findings. Like the Haymarket and unlike grocers, this stuff is ready to eat as well as inexpensive. You’ll never get a white-pink tomato-like permanent object. The cauliflower to the right were from a local farm and nestled among baskets of fresh-cut broccoli.

So, Rochester’s Public Market pisses me off a little. My Boston pride was damaged. I’m trying to think this is a gift for my son and something to look forward to after a nearly seven-hour drive to see him.

pies.jpgRochester’s market is harder to get to. It’s below downtown, but on narrow North Union street with very limited parking. They don’t have a subway, although several bus routes bump and grind to the area.

We really enjoyed a miniature Amish baked pecan pie ($2.75) on our visit. We also returned home with a magnificant rosemary plant — a foot tall with multiple stalks ($5). I grow rosemary and know how tough it is to propogate and make flourish. This sits in our kitchen, perfumes our life, and was the basis for an impressive lamb dinner we had for guests this weekend.

The Amish couple from nearby Seneca Falls brought their inexpensive home baked breads and pastries.

I think I’ll adapt to knowing the the Public Market is out there, but there’s a bit of resentment. Maybe this is like a crush on a movie star.


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