Cow’s tongue and candy cigarettes. This is my earliest memory of the West Side Market. Now, I don’t believe this was my first visit there, but this is what I remember from a first or second grade field trip. I can picture all us kids holding hands in a single-file line following Sister Genevieve, who was barely taller than the tiny tots trailing her. We turned a corner and there it was: A COW’S TONGUE. Ewwww… was basically the reaction that we all collectively shared. Our disgust quickly faded when we turned yet another corner and were greeted by a stand of all candy. This was much more appeasing to a child’s palate. And this is where a bunch of us purchased candy cigarettes. I can still remember the chalky yet sweet taste and how they blew “smoke.” Elementary kids from St. Rita’s smoking fake cigarettes at the market… What a memory. Sidebar: I can’t believe they actually made candy cigarettes???
Candy smokes aside, 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 was active there and friends with many of the vendors. I can picture their encounters when I walk the aisles and all that glorious history within those 100-year-old walls and it still makes me smile.
Truthfully, we don’t shop there as much as we used to. Visits now are every couple of months. While they are kid-friendly, let’s be honest – strollers and Saturdays mornings at the market don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. I want my kids to grow up with a strong appreciation of the West Side Market and its rich history and am eager for when we can make these visits part of our routine once again. I want them to be proud of the fact that this market – the longest standing public market in the country – is right in our backyard.
Of course the West Side Market is celebrating its centennial this year. And like any good event, there are plenty of opportunities to join in the fun:
October 7: A festival to end all festivals. Music, parade, food and much more. I can’t wait for Sunday! Learn more here.
November 2: The People’s Party at Crop (though this one is sold out…)
November 3: Gala fundraiser. What a line-up! Tickets and more info here.
Congratulations to the West Side Market and all – past and present – that played a role in getting us there. Here’s to the next 100!