friends & neighbours

Daniel

Someone commented on Twitter lately that Saint John feels like a big urban centre with a small town heart. It’s easy to fall into conversation with a stranger while waiting in line at the bank or watching the harbour seals from the boardwalk. While it’s true that many people are in a hurry or isolated in their own little bubbles, the general impression for newcomers and old timers is of a friendly city.

So when one of the vendors in the City Market asked me about my camera, I stopped to talk to him. And I found out that Daniel has a lot of interests, a lot of ideas and a lot of enthusiasm, and he loves to meet people. As we talked and passersby shopped, I remembered that Christmas is not stuff, it’s people. The spirit of Christmas is right here, in these conversations, where strangers become friends, and newcomers become neighbours.

The next time I walk through the market, I’ll be sure to say Hi to Daniel, my new friend and neighbour.

Photo taken on December 18, 2010

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market slip

This rocky bit of shoreline has seen a lot of history. By tradition, this is where United Empire Loyalists landed following the American Civil War. An estimated 15,000 Loyalists arrived in what is now New Brunswick between 1783 and 1785, the majority landing here to found Saint John. They weren’t the first to settle here; this spot is just around the corner from a traditional Wulstukwuik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq trading spot and the site of Fort LaTour, and a number of Acadians had settled in this region as well. Those who had lived here before were displaced, having no “title” to the land.

As the young city became a properous port, this became Market Slip, where ships lined both sides of the pier selling fresh fish and other goods. Photos from the 19th century show a sea of masts and carts clustered around the area, and a line of warehouses that were later included in the development of the Market Square shopping centre in the 1980s (just to the left of this photo).

Now there is a boardwalk and hotel along the old pier, a mall with a line of cafes and restaurants, a summer stage, and a popular beach volleyball venue just above the high tide mark. The fishing boats from a local Mi’kmaq community dock just around the corner on Long Wharf, dwarfed by the huge cruise ships that bring hordes of tourists in the summer and fall. It’s a far sight different than what the Loyalists may have envisioned, but it still thrives.

Taken on June 26, 2009

fresh veg

I like to buy local produce, whenever possible. It’s not because the “100 mile diet” is the latest craze, and I don’t distrust the quality of foods grown in other places. I buy local for two reasons: to support local family farmers, who can’t make a living off their farms as it is, and because the food is almost always fresher. Just think: these cobs of corn have not travelled halfway across the continent to get here, they were picked just up the road near Oak Point. They should be fresher!

Grocery stores carry local farm produce as well — they’ve been talking up their local suppliers lately — and, let’s face it, grocery store produce is often cheaper than buying from a market stall like this one. The local store had fresh local cauliflower on sale for 95 cents a head yesterday, but we went out to the market and bought two for $5. Why? Because I gave that money directly to the farmer, and I’m sure the two huge heads of cauliflower were worth it. I wonder how much the famers who sell to the grocery chain get for their cauliflower?

Taken on August 13, 2010

at the bakery

I seldom buy grocery store bread, with uniformly sliced loaves that stay unnaturally fresh for a week. I prefer something with more flavour and chewiness, a loaf that is still warm from the oven and could easily be demolished in one sitting, inhaled by chunks torn off by hand, or sliced with butter and honey, or accompanied by a hunk of good sharp cheese and a juicy apple.

Last week, I bought a loaf of nut and raisin bread here at this market bakery, along with two delicious cinnamon brioche. They didn’t last long.

Today I’ve decided to make my own bread, a sesame cheddar loaf that is already rising. When it is in the oven, I will open the windows and strangers will stop and turn, drawn by the warm fragrance. And the whole neighbourhood will come to our door and I will welcome them in to share our bread.

Taken on August 13, 2010