I have shopped at Prahran Market since the days of the guy who sat in a rickety tower calling out over the very crackly p.a. system to advise eager shoppers where the free car spots could be found in the jam-packed, single level, open-air car park. That car park has now been replaced by a multi level undercover one and though memory remains it is not my favourite market experience.
My favourite experience is one that occurred more recently and neatly wraps up all that I love about going there. It is all about my three Ps of marketing – people, produce and passion.
It had been quite a while since I visited the market, long enough to no longer feel like a regular, which was strange as I used to shop there weekly. But I was back and I had a shopping list so I headed to all my old haunts. I started in the meat hall with Charlie at J&L Meats, “Jo! Where have you been? We haven’t seen you lately…”. A quick chat about life and what was on the menu for my dinner, the selection of some beautiful meat and on to Claringbold’s Seafood. Here I am greeted with a big friendly smile from Peter, and a “good to see you again”. Another conversation, a trip out the back to get the exact fish I want and I cross another item off my list.
Next stop is Mr. Lee. More smiles, more greetings, more ‘where have you been?’s. It amazes me how much he packs into his little Asian grocery. Even more impressive is his ability to immediately lay his hand on whatever it is you need. It’s the same warm welcome at Delicatess, where Peter wants to know how I am and is happy to oblige when I want to chat about cheese. Michael Mow can still suggest the perfect potato for any dish I can name and when I cross over to Fresh Cut Flowers I am almost bowled over when they remember that tuberose are my favourite flowers and make sure I know they have some.
Final stop is Damian Pike. “Hello stranger…” and we are off and chatting like I was in there the day before. To many he is the mushroom man, to me he is the market mascot – and I mean this in the best possible way. There is little he doesn’t know about his own produce and the market overall. I like to leave Damian to last because we always chat for ages, exchanging recipes, news about food and the market and whatever else comes to mind.
Odd as it may sound, shopping at Prahran Market is an uplifting experience for me. The passion of the people who work there is almost contagious and I leave laden with fantastic fresh produce, head full of recipe ideas that I cannot wait to try and the warm feeling you get from spending time with an old friend.