Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Market at Gloucester Green

"What you want? Baby I got it!
What you need! You know I got it!"

Aretha Franklin's immortal lyrics might easily have come from the mouths of the many vendors at the weekly Gloucester Green farmer's market in Oxford. Wandering from stall to stall, I am stunned each Wednesday morning by the fresh, cheap, delicious delights hovering over the cobblestones of the square. 

It's rather an ugly little square on non-market days, surrounded by the less quaint shops of Oxford on two sides, and a movie theater and a bus station on the other two. But Wednesdays after breakfast it comes into its own. 

So what do you want? Clementines? Raspberries? Fresh salmon? A side of pork? Goat cheese? Feta cheese? Rustic loaves? Olives stuffed with Almonds? Olives stuffed with garlic? Hummus? Clove flavored hard candy? Banana chips? French fruit taffy? Yoghurt covered apricots? Or perhaps some nightdresses? Used books? Random fleamarket items crowd the edges, waiting for their moment of glory at the goods market which comes on Thursdays. Because it's really the food that shines on these mornings when I wander into the transformed square, always carrying at least two bags to load up for the week. 

This is the kind of market conjured up in the mind after watching Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady." Here vendors shout "best plums, fresh plums just ten for a pound" and "pineapples! pineapples!" Here moms shop to fill their fridge for the week, and don't collide with a half horde of young tourists waiting in line for milkshakes or candy, as at the covered market. It has all the splendid food of the covered market, but at half the cost, and in a transient state. 

Somehow each week, though I know it will be there, I have the feeling I have discovered a wonderful secret when I walk into Gloucester Green. For a few minutes I am a local, whether the people around me know it or not. I know it because I brought my own bags, I joke with the candy lady, and I know I have to flag the attention of the nut man as he attempts to cover the three twenty foot sides of his giant stand. Whenever I am in Gloucester Green on a Wednesday, I am at home in the bustle of this old city.  

No comments: