Monday, April 16, 2012

Exploring Borough Market

This is a Guest post by MEENA VENKATARAMAN. In the light of the bright morning sun, Southwark cathedral is a beautiful sight. Days like these are few in otherwise grey London. It is nonetheless cold and we head to the market in search of hot food. Not surprisng at all, the sun is more an accessory, an adornment to what is a beautiful day. London has some of the best food markets and the one we are visiting is one of the oldest. We step on the cobbled street.

The first array of shops are lined along a narrow lane behind the cathedral. We spy a few cafes tucked away, bustling with people. A couple of steps down this lane and we enter the market itself. At once the colours, shapes and the distinct aroma of all kinds of food hits me, an assualt on the senses. I am drawn to colour like a moth to a flame and I reach for my camera. The first line of shops are full of sweet treats, a mouth watering spectacle. As we walk by, we pick up free samples to taste. If only we could buy them all.

Borough Market is ancient. The trick to surviving change is to adapt and assimilate, Evolve as they say. And so it has been with this market. When the market first stared is still speculative. Some say the 13th century or earlier, when the market was established in response to the growing traffic of traders selling their produce - grain, fruits, vegetables, livestock and fish on London Bridge. But the present location was a piece of land called the 'Triangle' which was purchased by the residents when the first market was closed down by an act of parliament in 1755. The market has been on the scene since and, in addition to the local produce, it has managed to assimilate the cultural vibrance of London as a city. It is not just British produce you find here, but all kinds of food from around the globe - Turkish, Middle Eastern, Malaysian, Indian, Thai and a whole host of others.

The vegetables are eye-catching. ‘Capsicum’ I say, ‘Peppers’ I am corrected :). The bright red tomatoes and fruits of all shapes and sizes sit neatly stacked. Behind them is a neat line of spices. Besides food and vegetable, the market sells art. Brightly arrayed cards are on display.

And then, there is the cheese. Completely fresh and extremely tasty. Stripped off packaging that it normally comes with in the supermarket the proposition of buying cheese seemed so much more appealing. The whites and mild yellows with promise of milky goodness seemed to linger on the taste buds. My personal favourite was the Cheddar. But there were so many others that were just as mention worthy.

It is a Saturday and what most people are here for is the food. It is hard making a choice in this place. But what makes it harder are the free samples being given away. So, we barter our appetite to what we think would make us a good meal and stand in patches of sun as we eat. The vegetable soya burger is great. Some distance away we buy some mulled wine. Out of curiosity we ask the lady what spices have gone into this yummy warm christmasy concoction. I remember cloves and nutmeg from that conversation and cinnamon maybe. A little away the Malaysian stall is running brisk business. Huge pots of curry are being made and given away in boxes. Where else would you get such a wonderful meal for under a fiver.

We walk along. The market is huge. We enter the section selling meat. Fish lies stacked on ice to preserve freshness I guess. There is more food and vegetable. We walk through and come out on the other side of the market.

What strikes me is how the market has shaped things to come. Around the market there are several restaurants. People seem to be queueing up to get it. The entire area has something special about it. There is a sort of synergy and there seems to be plenty of room for every kind of business here.

After a good two or three hours roaming the lanes inside and out we finally step out of this gem of a market. But it has been a frequent haunt with its promise of good food and drink when we find ourselves in the area.

I'd like to thank Meena for writing this guest post and for sharing her photographs. This is the link to Meena's blog: Travel Tazzels

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