I love a market.
I love discovering a market – driving into a town and seeing a cluster of stalls and crowds milling around, buzzing with excitement. I always have to stop and investigate.
For me there’s nothing more thrilling than walking through a town or city and turning a corner and suddenly realizing I’m in the middle of a bustling market, selling all sorts of stuff that’s particular to that part of the world.
And of course integral to all markets are the food stalls – often run by local chefs who like to turn their hand on market day to making simple but delicious food that can be eaten as you wander through. Invariably these stalls only sell stuff that’s fresh, using produce that’s locally sourced, and of the highest quality. The kind of food you can’t get in a supermarket.
Some of my memorable markets are:
- The huge Thursday markets in Barcelos, North Portugal
- The Sunday street markets around 125th Street in Harlem, New York
- The Saturday markets in Rue Moufftarde in Paris
- The Saturday markets in Salamanca Place, Hobart Tasmania
- The Camden Lock Markets in London
- Pike Place Markets in Seattle
- The Sunday morning markets in central Krakow, Poland
- The morning farmers market in Fortville, Cannes France
- Havel’s Market in the centre of Prague
- The markets down by the waterfront in Helsinki, Finland
- The Siem Reap night markets in Cambodia
- The Temple Street Night Markets in Hong Kong
- The San Lorenzo markets in Florence, Italy
- Crawford Market in Bombay
- The Camel Markets in Cairo
- And all the tiny little markets I’ve just stumbled across in my travels.
And then there’s the Rylstone markets.
The Rylstone Artisan and Produce Markets are held every second Saturday of the month, and whilst they’re not quite Florence and they’re not quite Prague, they ARE true blue Aussie.
Rylstone is a small country town 3 hours drive (240kms) north west of Sydney. To get there you have to drive through some beautiful bushland, ravaged at the moment by drought.
Rylstone began life in the mid 1800s, and now has an ecclectic population of about 1000 people, with a mixture of locals who’ve been there for generations, along with a younger hipper “blow-in” crowd who’ve established some cool shops and eateries.
On a Saturday morning the main drag is bustling… (note the lack of parking space.)
I live in Mudgee, a further 45 minutes drive to the north west – and it has a population of 8000. It’s regarded by the folk in Rylstone as “the big smoke.”
Rylstone, and its sister town Kandos some 20kms away, have developed something of a foodie reputation. Nestled in the surrounding hills and valleys are producers making wonderful cheeses, breads, olive oils, honeys and jams – along with the best poultry, lamb and beef. The Mudgee district also produces some terrific wines.
The Rylstone Artisan Markets are situated in the Municipal Shire Hall and surrounding grounds.
Opposite is the Rylstone pub.
Note that no-one is parked outside the pub because they’re all either at the markets, or hanging out along the bustling main drag.
The pub has a bar called The Lady Bushranger bar. Also note that it has an ATM, and one could place a very cogent argument that the banks are now the modern day bushrangers.
The Lady Bushranger referred to is a local legend. Her name was Jessie Hickman, and she was one tough mother. Her stock in trade was cattle “duffing,” in Aussie lingo. In America lingo it would be called cattle “rustling.”
Jessie Hickman lived in a cave outside of Rylstone around the early 1900s, and is reputed to have escaped custody one time by stripping off in front of the local copper until she was completely stark naked. The cop got such a fright he averted his gaze, and she slipped away.
Walking into the Shire Hall on market day, the first stall you encounter is a food stall run by Ali, a former Sydney chef. She sells delicious home made quiches and wraps and muffins. All sourced from local produce.
Ali used to cook for the Sydney Dance Co, the jazz clientele at The Basement, and other prestigious establishments. She did catering for the Big End of Town, but a back injury put a premature halt to her burgeoning career and she went bush – and now the Rylstone locals benefit from her relocation.
I try her free range chicken with roasted vegetables quiche, ($4.50) accompanied by her own secret mustard mayo recipe, and the combination is yummy! The quiche tastes like it was made with enormous generosity of spirit.
Further into the hall is a stand selling the most delicious home made jams, marmalades and relishes. Run by Frances, her produce has blitzed the local show awards.
She makes her jams and relishes from fruit trees on her own property, which is a ways out of town. What she can’t source from her own trees, she gets from other farmers in the district.
I buy a jar of her spicy Tomato Relish, for $8. Perfect for hot dogs and hamburgers. (I would road test it soon!)
I wander outside, careful not to take any chairs, tables or furniture with me, and see a stall selling icecream. I feel like an icecream after my chicken quiche with mustard mayo.
Rebecca runs the stall and while she scoops me out a macadamia and wattleseed icecream cone, she tells me that she was given a home icecream maker several years earlier. Ever since she’s wanted to make innovative and unique icecreams.
My icecream is creamy, flavorsome and quickly disappears. Beautiful. And like nothing I’ve had anywhere else.
What with Ali’s chicken quiche and her home made mustard mayo, and Rebecca’s heaped icecream cone, I’m now feeling a bit full. Then I catch sight of the stall next door – the Rylstone/Kandos Rotary Club cook-up.
I wander across.
Run by Amanda and David, along with Graham, they make hamburgers with sausages and eggs and bacon with fried onions, for $5.
The money goes towards Rotary’s charitable work, and their youth programme. Rylstone/Kandos Rotary Club is helping some of the young kids around town, but as well their funding goes towards helping victims of natural disasters and conflicts overseas.
Feeling charitable, I order a hamburger.
Cut now to a cross section of my stomach –
Think of it like a geological cross section of a mountain, with various strata showing the ice-age, the dinosaur age, the neolithic age, and the disco age etc…
My stomach cross section has Ali’s chicken and roasted vegetable quiche swimming in her secret mustard mayo, then on top of that is Rebecca’s macadamia and wattleseed icecream, fragmented with slightly digested bits of sugared cone, and now on top of that I’m about to put the Rylstone/Kandos Rotary Club hamburger, with bacon, egg and fried onions?
Then I remember Frances’ tomato relish!
I open the jar and liberally douse the innards of the hamburger with the relish. This will either enhance the eating experience exponentially, given that the relish is from an award winning producer – or it will make me puke.
I’m so eager to try it I take a bite before I realize I haven’t taken a photo!
Not only that but I feel good that my $5 is going towards worthwhile charitable enterprises.
However, the whole eating experience is now starting to sit uneasily on my stratified stomach. So I have a Coke Zero.
I find that Coke Zero is like a broad spectrum antibiotic. It lays waste to everything in its path. In this case I suspect it de-stratified my stomach. Who says that sugar chemical substitutes can’t have redeeming features?
I must say I haven’t met a Coke Zero I didn’t like.
As I walk back to my car, parked on the main drag, (yes, I was lucky enough to get a parking spot!), I think about all the markets I’ve ever been to in my travels around the world. And I wonder what it is about a market that excites me so much.
It’s the opportunity to learn more about where you are, through the remarkable people who run the stalls. And that’s what I loved about the Rylstone markets. In meeting and chatting with Ali and Frances and Rebecca and the Rotary folk, I learnt more about my country, and about the spirit of the people who live here.
So second Saturday of the month if you’re passing by, drop in to the Rylstone Artisan and Produce markets and stratify your stomach – that is, if you can get a park…