On Tuesday morning, I set my alarm for 7:15 a.m. to meet up with a friend and go to Reading Terminal Market for the first time. I had heard numerous wonderful things about the market located right by Market East train station in Philadelphia, and it did live up to its hype. The market, which celebrated its 120th anniversary on Feb. 22, is located indoors and manages to feel simultaneously cozy and expansive. The fare ranges from bakeries, to Greek food, to places selling honey, to vendors selling fruits and vegetables. This description offers only the bare minimum of an idea of all the different types of food there.
When I first envisioned writing about Reading Terminal Market, I thought I would focus on the whole market, rather than a specific store front within the market. However, once there, it quickly became evident that the market was simply too large to attempt to write about in its entirety. There were simply too many wonderful places to adequately cover in the space allocated for this column. Instead, after wandering aimlessly around, purchasing various items such as a mini king cake to celebrate Mardi Gras and some bread from the Metropolitan Bakery to snack on, I decided to focus on one of the merchants I saw when I first walked in: The Fair Food Farmstand.
The Fair Food Farmstand is truly remarkable. Selling fruits (apples and pears at the moment), various root vegetables, onions and different kinds of meat, Fair Food Farmstand buys products from over 90 local organizations. Fair Food Farmstand is part of Fair Food, a non-profit organization that works towards promoting the use of locally sourced products in this region of the country. I was quickly convinced by the wide variety of exclusively local food available for purchase that even focusing on their operation in general would not be satisfactorily detailed. I instead decided to write about one food that they sold: cheese.
For those who do not know me, you will not understand exactly how much I love cheese. On the cork board in my room, right above relics from some of the best plays I have ever seen, there is a card depicting the cow of Rogue Creamery (located in Oregon) jumping over the moon. When I was trying to think of a good gift to bring back from my hometown of Atlanta to Swarthmore, I decided to bring back some cheeses made in Georgia. Apart from the cheese I had with my meal that I wrote about in my last column, I had no idea about what the local cheese was like in Philadelphia. So imagine my delight (and truly, it was delight), when I saw a sign for local cheese — especially when I saw that the sign was encouraging people to request samples.
I love samples.
The Fair Food Farmstand had two different types of blue cheese when I visited, one which they said resembled a stilton and another which was creamier. I asked for a sample of the latter. It was quite tasty, but unfortunately my love for blue cheese for some reason does not seem to be universally shared by my hallmates.
When I purchase food, especially cheese, I like to buy them with others besides myself in mind. There are multiple, non-selfless reasons for this: 1) bribing people with food is a great way to make friends and 2) said new-found friends might be interested in sharing some of their culinary favorites with you. I got to try a wonderful mimolette (this crazy bright orange cow cheese that looks a bit like a canteloupe) from a friend last semester. But the most important reason is that I sincerely believe that part of the joy of food, is the communal aspect.
Eating well consists not only of the food you put in your mouth, but also the company that you share when you do so. It may not make the food taste better, but it will certainly make you feel better. I do not think I have written a column where I have not mentioned experiences with friends for that very reason.
After walking through the market for a while, I returned to purchase a brie. There were two for sale, and I very much appreciated the advice from the sales person pertaining to which I should purchase. The Fair Food Farmstand also had other types of cheese available besides brie and blue cheese. I believe that I saw a tomme, as well as possibly the same goat cheese from Shellbark Hollow Farm I wrote about last column.
The brie was a belated birthday present for a friend and was deliciously creamy and fresh, while still being flavorful. The cheese cost slightly over twenty dollars a pound, and I got a very sizable piece for only a little over eight dollars.
The one sentence summary? If you have time, go to Reading Terminal Market. If you like cheese, definitely try the local ones sold at The Fair Food Farmstand.
Next time: Martindale’s: I know last time I said in the article I would cover it, but it was an (accidental) fake out. Next column it really will be the subject.
Ameila is a first-year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.