7070 Avenue Henri Julien
Montreal, Quebec H2S3A3, Canada
Subway: Station Jean-Talon
Open Mon-Wed, Sat 7am-6pm
It makes perfect sense that a multi-lingual, multi-cultural city like Montreal would have a huge outdoor market. The Marché Jean-Talon is a doozy. Situated in the geographic center of the city, like the heart of an artichoke, it’s a weekly destination for people who prefer to get their food close to where its been pulled from the ground, picked from bush or tree, butchered, churned or fermented.
We knew we were headed in the right direction for the market because every man, woman, and child coming toward us walked with the slow measured gait of someone girding for a long walk home as they carried bags laden with staples for the coming days or week to home, car, or nearest metro stop. Lots of cloth sacks, by the way, not many plastic bags.
The market sells anything you can digest or cook: from aisle to aisle, you’re bathed in the aroma of meat, cheeses, yogurt and all manner of dairy products, fruit, vegetables, spices, seasonings, bread, cakes, cookies, pastries, fresh pasta, and flowers (oops, not digestible but pretty). Just about everything is naked. No shrink-wrap, no foamy-white plastic containers, no packaging. Most of what you purchase is wrapped in paper or plopped in paper bags.
The assortment of shoppers is as vast as the products in the stalls. Baseball caps, head scarves, T shirts, flip flops, families in Sunday best, families in beach attire, couples of every age race and gender preference.
Aisles and aisles of concessions occupy an area of several acres. Between May and October, about 300 vendors, many from country farms, fill the market. The overhead roofing today has open sections and appears to be retractable in cold or rainy weather.
Rows of small eateries and stores lining either side of the market are like camp followers taking advantage of the foot traffic roaming through the army of vendor’s stalls inside it. Cafes, a few small souvenir shops, specialty stores selling olive oils from all over the world, more bread stores, restaurants, wine bars, ice cream shops, even a few clothing stores.
There are certainly super markets in Montreal that may be nearer to the homes of the shoppers who are slowly wading through the crowded aisles. Shopping at the Marché Jean Talon is more than a necessity on the weekly to do list.
For many, it is a ritual. A relaxing way to take their foot off the accelerator of Monday - Friday routines, and enter a place that offers endless choices of how they’d like to add variety to the days of their week by the vegetables they buy, or the new kind of cheese, or the bottle of wine the guy from the Quebec winery is offering on special today.
The market felt like an aroma-therapy session with the terrific visual component of seeing all the products arranged just so. Whether I bought or not, I felt better for having strolled through a vast open air theater laden with all kinds of food once removed from its source.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.
with sweets for Arabian tastes...
and produce you can touch before bagging...
and buy one of those local wines that look so enticing.