Friday, November 25, 2011

The Jean-Talon Market Gets a Book

Fig.1. This book is filled with beautuful pictures and great recipes.

As someone who spends a lot of time at The Jean Talon Market, it was about time someone wrote a book about Montreal’s oldest and biggest food market.  About time because aside from the fa├žade of food visible at The Jean-Talon Market, there’s a lot of history embedded within the roots of all those vegetables being sold there: a tale of immigrants, of culture, and of a city.  Susan Semenak succeeds in adding all of those ingredients to her book. A book that's well written, engaging, and reinforced with many beautiful photographs. 
In The Market Chronicles: Stories & Recipes From Montreal’s Marche Jean-Talon,  Semenak touches on the history of Montreal’s largest market, on the food, and on eating locally and in season; but what really makes this book unique are the stories of the people behind the food.  Mushrooms at Les Jardin Sauvage taste great, but reading about how Francois Brouillard and acclaimed chef Nancy Hinton forged a romantic relationship over foraged fungi spoke to the bond between food and sensuality.  The vegetables at Birri are beyond reproach, but Semenak sheds some light on why Lino and Bruno Birri’s standards are so high.  Anyone who has been to the market will be familiar with the smell of grilled meat coming from L’Olivier, but Semenak captures the ambition and cultural nuance that resides within a tale of two immigrants.  

Fig.2. Photos of Semenak visiting a sheep's-milk farm in Ste-Helene-de-Chester. The where-a-bouts of the lamb Semenak is holding are still unknown.

Semenak also succeeds in establishing the connection between localization and The Jean Talon Market; all the while asserting a human face, and many dirty human hands, toward all of the food products we sometimes think just magically appears on grocery store shelves.  She removes the cheese from its vacuumed prison and the fruit from its cellophane container and reminds us all that’s it’s all right for hands to touch the foods we eat.  The book is also an important reminder of how blessed we are in Montreal to have such a wonderful farmer’s market.  

Looking for a great Christmas gift, here it is.
Market Chronicles: Stories & Recipes From Montreal's Marche Jean-Talon is available in English and in French at all book stores, as well as in Costco. Published by Les Edition Cardinal.
English verions have almost sold out, but I found some still available at La Maison de la Presse in Little Italy.

Here's just one great recipe from Semenak's book. A soup made for winter and the cold nights ahead.