I’ve lived in the greater Philadelphia area for going on 14 years, and for many of those years I lived a stone’s throw from the city, but I had never been to the famed Reading Terminal Market until last weekend. After our free night at the Park Hyatt, we found ourselves on Saturday morning in the city with no plans. My parents had agreed to take the kids to the zoo for the day so we could pretty much do anything we wanted.
We were like a couple of teenage kids after their parents left them alone for the weekend — giddy with freedom and no clue what to do with it. We debated everything from going home and getting some projects done around the house, to meeting my parents and the kids at the zoo (much to my mother’s amusement), to visiting the Art Museum. In the end, we decided to drive over to Reading Terminal Market for breakfast and for the cultural experience because we are classy and sophisticated, not to mention easily lured by cheap home-cooked food and stalls of raw meat and fresh produce.
The irony of our visit to Reading Terminal Market may be lost on non-locals. For one thing, you have to understand where we live. My neighborhood backs up to a working dairy farm, and we frequent a nearby farmer’s market that sells locally grown produce and home baked Amish goods. We needn’t drive all the way into Center City Philadelphia for fresh produce and baked goods. But while the Reading Market has all that, it has much, much more. The website sums it up like this:
More than 80 merchants offer patrons fresh produce, meats, fish, groceries, flowers, baked goods, crafts, books, clothing, as well as hard-to-find specialties and ethnic foods.
It’s also the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market, which is just cool in and of itself.
When we walked in, I was in awe of the sheer magnitude of vendors and their wares. I wish I’d had my camera (and a working flash) so I could show you what I’m talking about. There were vendors selling prepared foods of virtually every ethnicity imaginable as well as all the local specialties like Philly cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and Pennsylvania Dutch treats. But it was the raw meat and fish that caught my eye. I could have spent hours at the meat stands. We wanted to buy steaks to bring home but we knew we had to make several stops on our way and were afraid of it going bad. And then there were the fresh flower stands. My husband’s mighty lucky he doesn’t work nearby because I would be expecting flowers OFTEN if he had such easy access to those gorgeous affordable bouquets.
Finally we made our way back to the Dutch Eating Place — a counter service restaurant serving Pennsylvania Dutch breakfasts and lunches. The line was daunting, but it looked as if it was moving fast, so we decided to take our chances. Sure enough, within 15 minutes we were seated at the counter eating plates of French Toast and fried eggs and bacon with freshly squeezed orange juice and bottomless cups of coffee.
Then we walked next door to Beiler’s Bakery where we scored freshly baked cinnamon rolls and sticky buns for our Mother’s Day breakfast table and THE most delicious dinner rolls EVER that we served with Mother’s Day dinner. Suffice it to say that if I lived within walking distance of Reading Terminal Market, I would be out shopping for bigger clothes.
After we had our fill of the market (and I mean FILL in a literal sense; oh my WORD we were full when we left there), we stopped by Ikea and the mall on our way home. Once home, we just enjoyed the peace and quiet of our house sans kids for a few hours. We talked of doing productive tasks such as cleaning out the garage or setting up the shelves in our laundry room, but we ended up puttering around, watching some TV, and chatting with the neighbors. It’s amazing how having kids will change your idea of a fun time.
So basically, this week I learned that even though I can get local produce and freshly baked Amish goods right down the street, there is nothing quite like visiting an historic mega farmer’s market plopped smack dab in the middle of a large city. I also learned that getting away with your significant other for some much overdue together time is invaluable for your relationship. Try it! Really.
So what did you learn this week?!
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