A Tale of Two Markets
While I was at home with my family, I got to explore two different markets with my mom! We went to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia at the beginning of my vacation, and the Columbus Market in South Jersey towards the end of my time at home. Both were such fun experiences, and were very different despite both being Amish markets!
The Reading Terminal Market has been an integral part of Philadelphia since the late seventeenth century. It was established so that farmers, fisherman, and craftsmen could come together to exchange their goods. Today, it is more well-known for it’s fun lunch establishments and specialty ingredients stores, but still invokes the original purpose of mixing of goods and ideas.
It was so much fun to weave through the aisles, checking out traditional Amish canned goods, butcher shops with locally raised meat, candy shops with Pennsylvania Dutch classics, and people watching to find an odd collection of Philadelphia businessmen, tourists, and country farmers.
My favorite find of the day was a spice shop that sold bulk bags of lesser known spices, loose leaf teas, and fancy roasted coffees. I picked up some allspice and garam masala, as well as some loose leaf tea and a half pound of Frangelica roasted coffee beans. My mom and I went to the store twice, not getting everything we wanted the first time! The other highlight of this market was the prepared food. At noon, the indoor market was flooded with 9-to-5′ers on their lunch break, looking for a quick bite. You could find every time of cuisine, from traditional Pennsylvania Dutch to Cajun, Soul Food to Middle Eastern, American to Italian, and more. We circled the market twice before making up our minds on lunch – there were just too many options to choose from!
We settled on crepes, where my mom enjoyed a seafood crepe and I got a Mediterranean veggie. It was fun to sit at the counter and watch the guy make perfectly formed crepes one after the other, and it was even better to taste the delicious result! How such a thin crepe can be so light and fluffy is beyond my skill set, but has inspired me to learn how to make these delicious things myself!
Overall, I loved my experience at the Reading Terminal Market. I appreciated that it was indoors, so that you can get the fun market experience even throughout a cold winter. I also loved all of the specialty ingredients stores, and loved watching the mix of people flood past me.
Almost like book ends to my vacation, we visited the Columbus Farmer’s Market in Columbus, NJ before I left as well. If you described both of them to me, they would sound almost the same, but the experiences were so very different!
They both featured traditional Amish goods, like canned vegetables and jams, candies, baked goods, and traditional butchers, but the Columbus Market had a wider focus than just foods. They also sold handmade crafts, like intricately quilted pot holders, hand sewn table runners, country-style home decorations, and much more.
Beyond the Amish portion of the market, there were stores that sold all sorts of items at pretty good discounts. There was everything from an As Seen On TV shop to a discount scrapbook store, and everything in between. Outside, there are more tables set up with more typical market goods – perfume, knock off designer bags, hats, scarves, etc. Beyond that, there is a flea market that runs during the summer. We had fun exploring the indoor market, where we picked up a few bulk items, looked at all of the beautiful handiwork of the Amish crafts, and had a quick bite to eat.
Before leaving, we went to the true farmers part of the market. The produce was beautifully displayed in wooden baskets, and was remarkably cheap! Mom and I had a field day, picking up a bunch of fruits and vegetables to split between us. Even with self-restraint, I still ended up with at least four bags of squash, green beans, eggplant, potatoes, apples and oranges. I would love to go back in the summer at the peak of the NJ growing season!
Overall, I found the Columbus Market a better place to do food shopping. The prices on their produce were unbeatable, and the Amish bakery, butcher, and canned goods were amazing. There were not as many options, and the Amish are definitely not vegetarian friendly for lunch. (The only non-meat options were a soft pretzel or pizza.)
I had so much fun exploring both of these markets, and have come home loaded with some fun new spices and veggies to play with!