Back when I fancied myself a chef, I used to go to the farmers’ market and come back with hauls of produce. At the time I was caught up in the ethos of farm-to-table cooking, taking whatever the vendors had brought in and making a meal of it. Thus came into being the Tunisian stew with Swiss chard, the relish that became a salad of dill and tomato and watercress. One warm summer evening, a roommate told me cherries were in season, and I came back the next day with my own basket to work through, standing over the sink and spitting cherry pits into my hand.
Long gone are those days, or the ones spent sifting through old books sold on the curb, but the impulse to go somewhere and return bearing treasure remains. More so than the superlatives—the freshest peach, the prettiest coffee table tome—it was the desire to fall in love with the unexpected that drove me. A surprise for someone who dislikes surprises.
I didn’t buy anything at Queen Vic, no kangaroo leather belt, no glossy pear, no salami dangling tantalizingly above the counter. I rarely buy anything any more. But it was enough to be there, to stand amid the crowds picking their way through the goods, and to be swept up in their fervor, wondering which heap of trinkets to rifle through next, what serendipitous dish to make for dinner tonight.
Spanning seven hectares, Queen Victoria Market is Australia’s largest open-air market, and, with almost 150 years of history, among its oldest. Food is the obvious draw here, with dozens of vendors selling produce, meat and fish, and gourmet goods. There’s also an expansive crafts and clothing market, though you’ll have to sift through the touristy knickknacks to find some hidden gems.
513 Elizabeth St, Melbourne
Tue, Thu: 06:00-14:00; Fri: 06:00-17:00; Sat: 06:00-15:00; Sun: 09:00-16:00
03 9320 5822