I really think I get it now... the draw of the Maritimes. I had an inkling before, having visited Ireland and listening to stories of Newfie friends and my Halifax sister. But there is something in the morning mist, the salty air, and the pre-Confederation vibe that draws you in. I've fallen in love with the east coast and I'll long for it until I can return again.
On Saturday we woke up and had breakfast (more pancakes!) and then headed down to the Saturday farmer's market. This market had been talked up for weeks and I looked forward to comparing it to the other markets I've known and loved. I arranged to walk over with my host and his friend and meet my sister's roommates there. Of course we were running late and so when I did arrive I alerted the roommates of my presence with a one-word text indicating my whereabouts, "ukulele." The girls found me in no time.
There is a bit of controversy at the moment as various levels of government as well as stakeholders of the farmer's market have consorted to develop a new building down at the waterfront that will soon house the farmer's market all week long, all year round, bringing an end to the wickedly cool twisting, turning market in its current location at the Alexander Keith's brewery. The thing we most love about this place is, no doubt, its unexpected levels, its iron stone walls slowly rusting over a century, and arches that give way to wide open, glassed in courtyards.
Everyone in Halifax, at least those who regularly attend the Saturday market, seems to take pride in their knowledge of the vendors and the geography of the labyrinthine food and craft bazaar. Such conversations as "Oh yes, the honey lady... yeah, she's right by the lavender salt guy and the ice cream people... No, not those ice cream people, the ones just past the really good bread place." I can't say I blame them for losing this familiar established order. In an ever-changing world there is comfort in consistency.
Regardless, change is a given and change will always come. For Halifax, the new market venue will reflect the changing trends in energy consumption and our new, hip propensity to buy local, hopefully benefiting market vendors and Haligonians alike. Designs for the waterfront market include wind power, geothermal storage, rainwater conservation and solar collection, rooftop agriculture and coastal habitat space, and a more navigatable floor plan. The benefit of a daily market will undoubtedly appear on restaurant menus all over town, as well as in kitchens and picnic baskets on both sides of the harbour.
Leaving this local dispute aside, may I just say how thoroughly delighted I was by my time at the Saturday market. Wandering down to the lowest level, I stopped to buy some lobster-shaped maple fudge, and then followed my in-the-know guides to the oyster man. Breakfast oysters... amazing. I had two. I could have had a dozen. And probably should have, since they were only a dollar. A dollar! Some of the freshest oysters I've ever slurped. Everyone around me squirted lemon juice and Tabasco, but not me. Give it to me straight, I say. I made some joke about how where I come from all we have is prairie oysters, and when the man asked if I had ever tried them and I said no, I feel some of my plain oyster-slurping cred was erased. Oh well.
We also picked up some beet greens (should be called reds in my opinion), brioche, and double smoked bacon for a scallop cream sauce for dinner. I was advised to take a chance on a bottle of Jost Eagle Tree Muscat, 2009, a silver medal winner at the All-Canadian Wine Championships. It was a nice counterpoint to the creamy, smoky pasta dish and a joy to sip as I reflected on my wholly Nova Scotian dining experience.