I am very blessed to have family in Montreal. My cousin Andrew and his wife Catherine live on Nun’s Island where we gather for a few days over Christmas. I always insist on going to the Marche Atwater to purchase a few delicacies on Christmas eve. This market is protected from the winter snow but still chilly enough inside to give it a Christmas feel. The market is packed with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats and of course Christmas sweets. It also houses bakeries, cafés, florists, and generous people who bring roasted chestnuts and fresh sprouts. To my total pleasure I find a little juice bar. I order a carrot, orange and ginger fresh pressed juice and wander along the aisles that are packed with local Quebecois all trying to pick up the last few specialty items before Christmas, of which there are plenty at this market.
First there is the cheese store, where many of the products are imported from France. I find my cousin Andrew scoring an aged Comte from France, destined for the customary after- dinner cheese course. If there is any left over, it will be perfect in the spinach and Comte cheese omelette that our LEBW sous chef is a master at making. In this lovely cosmopolitan store, I also find confiture and chutney for our home made tourtiere.
Along the way, I pass a vendor selling imported Panettone from Italy. Antonietta Matera from Loison is handing out samples of her famous Panettone. One bite and the aromas take me back to the Panettone I used to eat at our Christmas table when we were younger. It is a mildly sweet bread with simple ingredients such as cloves, cinnamon, orange, and pistachio. Lots of aroma but low on the sugar. So tasty, I decide to look at the different varieties she is selling, and I find one made with rose water! It is so precious that it is presented in a box with an antique rose print on the exterior, tied with a taffeta bow, and handed to me in its own matching bag. A perfect gift. The ingredients are so simple that they are presented on a card beside the display. Live, natural, good quality ingredients. As a holistic nutritionist, these are the qualities I am always looking for, even in my occasional deserts. And when I find it I don’t pass it by.
As I leave the market, I wonder to myself, what our grocery carts would look like if all food producers had to post pictures of the ingredients in their foods, and how that would influence the public’s grocery purchasing behaviour. What a different world this would be.
While walking through the aisles with my husband Tom and my two cousins, I think about how lucky I am to be with my family in such a bountiful place. It reminds me of the French market so much, I forget I am in Canada.
Joyeux Noel and Bon Appetit!