Jean-Talon Market: A Wonderful Place in Montreal

Peppers at the Jean Talon Market. Photo by Tim Giebel. Used under Creative Commons license.

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, the zenith of the harvest season here.  And so it seems appropriate to write about my favorite place in Montreal thus far: the Jean Talon Market.

Jean Talon is the largest open-air market in North America, and it happens to be two blocks from my apartment.

I go almost every day, and the scene is always one of novelty.  Each stall displays its own wonderland of food, most of it produced by farmers in the Quebec countryside.  Eggplants and colorful peppers gleam in the sun.  Infinite wheels of soft cheese sit behind glass at the fromagerie.  There are hearty cuts of meat.  Barrels of apples.  Garlic hanging in bunches.  Steamy spiced sausages and savory lunch crepes. 

Certain vendors now recognize me, since I have a few favorite stalls I go to again and again. Whether they realize it or not, they’re helping me practice French, and I am able to understand more of what they say every week.

Buskers take turns working the market crowds.  One day you might see a clown making balloon animals for kids.  The next day there’s a folk guitarist with a cat on a leash, belting out sovereignty anthems.

After I’ve strolled a few aisles, I’m usually smiling from the simple joy of being a flâneuse at the market.  A regular grocery store cannot compete.  A grocery store is more or less always the same, whereas the Jean Talon market changes with each day and with every turn through the arcades.

The air is now crisp, and the market’s green rows have given way to piles of yellow-red gourds and squash.  And so today I filled my sack with autumn treats, including Quebec apple cider and a pumpkin.  I felt the comforting warmth of my baguette through its paper bag.  Had an urge to wear flannel and corduroy and listen to old-time music.

In winter the market will be smaller and enclosed.  I will trudge through the snow for potatoes, apples, and fresh meat pies.  And I’ll know that spring has truly arrived when the market bursts open again with greens, flowers, and music.

I’m really going to miss this when I’m back in the U.S., aren’t I?

Ah well — I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Now off to steam some sweet carottes!

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