A few weeks ago my mom and I took Natalie to her first visit to the West Side Market (Metromix wanted a story on some favorite stands). I still remember my first visit to the market during a second grade field trip. I remember thinking it took forever to get there and that we must be in another state (I went to grade school in Solon – 30 mins tops). Once inside, I was mesmerized by all the people. That didn’t last long when my eyes wandered over to a counter where I saw a cow’s tongue and was thoroughly disgusted for the rest of the trip. My only purchase that day? Candy cigarettes. I think the whole class walked out with a pack. I blame this one instance on my on my 10 year smoking habit that I happily kicked five years ago (seriously – how were we allowed to buy candy smokes and how were these even marketed in the first place?).
Since that initial trip, I’ve made countless visits to this wonderful institution in our fine city. I’ve always been drawn to the market. My great grandfather came to this country from Sicily when he was 13 and started selling produce on a wagon downtown. Years later, he would open Paolo Volpe and Sons produce in the Northern Ohio Food Terminal. He never had a stand at the market per se, but I know he was friends with many of the vendors and I can picture their encounters when I walk the aisles.
When I lived in Cleveland Heights and later downtown, I was a regular shopper. And when my brother was in the trauma wing at Metro, the market became my 20 minute daily breather during those long two months.
Today, we don’t get down nearly as much as I’d like, but when we do, I’m still in awe by its rich history, glorious contents and the people. And while Natalie has no idea if she’s at the West Side Market, Heinen’s or our kitchen, one day she will and I’m excited to bring her on what will surely be many trips to market and watch her reaction when she first discovers cow’s tongue (we’ll pass on the candy cigarettes, though I can’t imagine they are still made).
Click here for my West Side Market photo gallery and to learn a bit more on some of my favorite stands.