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Nov 4, 2002 10:26 PM

Haymarket Stories

  • s

Thought I would attempt to start a thread...

Anyone have stories about Haymarket? I have a couple of my own, but will chime in later if anyone else would like to start off.

- Meals made
- Tips for buying
- Tasty morsels

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    Helen Rennie

    My husband is a grad student at MIT and his lab has a tradition called Graduate Student Lunch (GSL). Every friday 4-5 students make lunch for all 80 students and faculty members. This year, Jason's group decided to make pasta with fresh tomato sauce and bruschetta. All in all, they needed 60 Lbs of tomatoes. At the $2.50/person budget where else do you go but Haymarket. When we asked for 60 Lbs. of tomatoes, the vendor thought he did not hear right. When we persuaded him that he heard us correctly, we got real VIP service, not the usual brisk Haymarket attitude. We even got tomatoes delivered to our car :) I could not go to that lunch since I had to work, but I heard that the sauce was great!


    1. I've fallen into the habit of cruising through Haymarket on my way home on Friday afternoons and picking up a few items.
      I enjoy the whole scene there... smells, sights, crowds, noise, hustle and bustle. It's just so Boston, and lots more fun then the supermarket.
      some of my buys are fresh herbs like cilantro or sage or parsley 2/$1., portabello mushrooms 1.50 a lb., avocados $1.
      each week is different. last week I got peeled butternut squash and persimmons. I also like the cheese guy, good goat cheese and grab a slice from haymarket pizza.

      1. I guess for me the whole experience of Haymarket is the fun as much as anything for me. I love the madness of the struggle for good stuff cheap. The crush of the crowd. All the people, some rich some poor, from every ethnic group imaginable, buying a weeks worth of groceries on the cheap for their families.

        Or if you want to see Haymarket at its wackiest, go at 5:00pm on Saturday as they are just starting to tear down. Suddenly prices are slashed by 80%. A sense of desperation sets in. Huge boxes of produce that were cheap to begin with now sold for a dollar or two.

        Then on towards 6:00 or 7:00 the best part. I think one of the best tourist attractions in Boston. The front end loaders (heavy construction equipment) come out and scoop up all of the rotting leftovers at the end of the two day brawl. I get a bit of an image of the movie "Soylent Green."

        Mashed tomatoes, Hunks of rotting watermelon, and a lone grapefruit that really does not look that bad.

        It has as sad edge too, inevitably there are a few very poor folks picking through the heaps, salvaging a few spare morsels for their dinner table.

        There is something so elemental about an open air food market. Goes back to the beginning of human existence.

        (Some of the most interesting markets I have ever been to were in Spain and Africa.)

        At Haymarket, does anybody remember the guy at the meat market who used to say, very loudly: "PSSST, hey, want some meat?"

        There was something amusing, in your face, and vaguely obscene in his shtick. Never failed to make me laugh.

        Or the cheese guy who almost forces food in your mouth so that you taste his wares. Reminds me of my nudgy grandma, rest her soul.

        One of my favorite haymarket things to do is buy a big papaya or mango, some strawberries, and a sack of tangelos (for juice) and make an excellent all fruit smoothie to go with a batch of pancakes.

        Or the time they had the nicest red peppers I had ever seen, 10 for a dollar. They were delicious. The one and only time I ever made piccalilli, two big jars that carried me through winter with a bit of summer sweetness.

        I also have a tip for haymarket novices. There is an unspoken rule that most folks do not know about. You are definitely not allowed to pick your own fruit, but once you buy a bag you can rummage through the bag and check out what you have bought. If there are bad ones you can hand them back and ask for new ones, or, if the whole bag sucks, which it occasionally does, you can ask for your money back.

        They will growl a little if you try these techniques, but it is one of the unspoken rules of haymarket that this is acceptable. Whereas if you try to select your own fruit, you will definitely get yelled at.


        2 Replies
        1. re: StriperGuy

          Oh, how I loved shopping at Haymarket when I'd visit family in Boston. That was always the first place I wanted to go. I'd load up on seafood and make a big pot of Italian fish soup.

          Until your posting, I always thought that the "want some meat" guy was my own family joke. You'd be strolling along and suddenly from the left, there'd he be, looking lecherous.

          Thanks for a beautiful post. Pat

          1. re: StriperGuy

            How about the goofy guy selling reinforced paper shopping bags? I can't remember much of his shtick, but a friday afternoon at the haymarket just wasn't right without him.

            Some other tips. You have to be aggressive, without seeming rude. When you ask for 2 lbs of tomatoes (or whatever), ask if you can pick your own, or tell the person you want "good ones". During the cold season, be careful buying leafy vegetables. Those fuel-powered heaters they use give a good coating of fuel odor on any exposed vegetables. I made the mistake of buying mesclun greens from one of them ($1.50 a pound! how could I resist?) and couldn't really wash that stuff out. Better to buy it prepacked in plastic if you're buying it at all. Or else look for the stands that aren't so close to the heaters.

          2. The thing to remember is that Haymarket is done by wholesale grocers (and fishmongers, meat, cheese, etc.) that are dumping the goods they did not get out to the supermarkets during the week. So it's at least a week further off fresh than what you get at the Stop & Shop. This may be an open air market, but it's a long way from a farmer's market. Even in the peak of local harvest season, you're more likely to get produce from Mexico or California than Massachusetts.