This afternoon we decided to explore Borough Market in Southwark, London. It’s one of the finest markets in Europe, selling retail and wholesale fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, sweets, as well as prepared foods like pies and buttys (that’s a kind of sandwich!). The foods come from all over Europe, but most are from here in the UK.
The market sits in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral, near the London Bridge train station, and has lots of neat twists and turns as you negotiate space between the stalls. Rumor has it that a market has existed in this location since Roman times, but the first mention in text has been dated to 1276. In 1550, Edward VI granted a royal charted to the City of London, giving them control of all markets in Southwark. But apparently it was a bit too successful, because it was abolished in 1754 for causing too much traffic! Not to worry though, the market started up again 2 years later, in a slightly different space. Because of its nearness to the wharves, the market was famous for it’s fresh fish and produce, and was more successful than other markets in London.
There is a bit of an outcry at the moment, because of the new Thameslink transit project being constructed through the area. A great deal of the original market space will be demolished, and locals fear that the famous and historical atmosphere will be ruined. But the Thameslink is a vital upgrade to the north/south train route across central London, delivering commuters from both sides of the metropolis to the centre.
And now for your favorite part of the post: pictures!! I hope you’re not hungry, because you’re going to want to eat something after looking at all the fantastic food! If only we could find a way to pipe all the fantastic smells through the internets as well. 😉
Going to food markets like this one is a very European way of doing your shopping. Sure, there are farmer’s markets in the US, but they’re usually more for tourists or strict fruit and veg. There were a lot of people here doing their regular shopping! And it’s definitely the place to come for odd cuts of meat — the butchers had all sorts of rare game and rare cuts. One stall had the leg of a pig (and it was recognizable as such, believe me!) clamped down on the table. And when you ordered your prosciutto, they sliced it directly off the leg! Such an experience really highlights for me how separated most people are from the origins of their food. It took me by surprise, and I don’t think of myself as being particularly squeamish!
The other thing I wanted to comment on was the frequency of shopping here in the UK. I don’t know if it’s just a factor of the average fridge size (TINY!) or more of a cultural expectation, but people here tend to go food shopping every single day. Occasionally they might skip a day, but definitely not less than that. It’s been an adjustment, since we’re used to going shopping once every 2 weeks and buying tons and tons of food to freeze. Here food is much more fresh, and they use significantly more fruits and veggies! The UK has an extensive 5-a-day program that reminds you to eat 5 servings of fresh fruit or veg every day. That’s a lot! But we’re doing our best to keep up and keep healthy. It’s easier without being able to fall back on frozen pizza!