My memories of Toronto's St. Lawrence Market stretch back to childhood. My parents would get my sister and me out of bed early on Saturdays, and we'd make the 45 minute trip from our house in the 'burbs (Oakville, Ont.) to the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Everything seems larger than life when you're a kid and to me the Market was a magical, somewhat overwhelming, place to be. I remember the smells - fresh fish, stinky cheese, cooking peameal bacon - and the crowds.
My dad would often buy fresh baked date oatmeal cookies from one of the bakeries and I recall how delicious those were. We'd stop for lunch at the Market Grill (which no longer exists), and really make a day of it. And though my sister and I often grumbled at the time about having to get out of bed early for the occasion, we enjoyed it once we were there.
I've been living back in Toronto for pretty much my entire adult life after moving downtown for school 14 years ago. But it's only recently - the last three years or so - that I've lived close to the St. Lawrence Market and its bounty of fresh produce, cheeses, breads, seafood, and meats.
I'm proud to say I now know the 206-year-old building like the back of my hand - from the dry goods shops downstairs that sell my favourite olive oil, to the rice stand where I can get everything from arborio and basmati to jasmine and black Thai rice.
I've bought chicken scraps for stock from one of the butchers I frequent, fresh pizza dough and homemade pizza sauce from a stand that sells fresh pasta in the back corner, and of course Montreal-style bagels fresh out of the oven at St. Urbain.
Stonemill is where I get my Saturday morning pastry, which alongside a coffee forms my ultimate breakfast. Although I have had one of the peameal sandwiches on a bun that the Market is famous for. And if you're looking for a hangover breakfast, you could do far worse than the one at Paddington's Pump.
The sushi stand makes wicked avocado rolls, and when I'm feeling naughtier I'll get a takeout container of BBQ pork from the Chinese food counter.
And of course there's Kozlik's mustard - my favourite for cooking with and using on sandwiches.
The St. Lawrence Market is a gift to the city, and I consider myself lucky to live close enough to shop there. Next time you're in Toronto, consider visiting. And bring a shopping bag, because I wager you won't go home empty-handed!
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