Ahead of me is a lady in her mid-fifties, with a blond perm, towering stilettos, tight black leggings and multi-colored top. I can’t see the front, but I suspect ample cleavage, and perhaps a nice big brooch. We are underneath the market stalls’ awnings, but she is holding an umbrella with panther pattern, a matching shopping tote dangling on her arm.Just when Lady Panther ducks out of sight to inspect a special offer on shampoos, I hear a man ask a fellow shopper “What’s with the dog and the barking?” When no response is forthcoming, he answers his own question “Well, I suppose it can’t bullshit, can it?”. (“Waarom blaft die hond zo?” “Ja, hij kan natuurlijk niet lullen, hè?”)
Amsterdam, indeed. Not quite the people one would imagine meeting at the Noordermarkt (Northern Market), though. The Noordermarkt is an organic market, held at the foot of the Noorderkerk (Northern Church) on Saturdays. Reputedly, the food on offer is excellent, but it is a challenge to not spend an entire week’s food money on a bag of apples. I was expecting men in red jeans and women in pearls, and am delighted but a little confused to come across this pocket of old-school Amsterdam style.
Come to think of it, I also wouldn’t expect vendours selling nylon clothing (one size fits all, no returns) or quite as many stalls selling factory-made cheese for “only 1,50 each!”. And wouldn’t fish mongers at the Noordermarket offer fresh fish, next to the fried goodies? It is all a bit puzzling, but I shrug it off, happy to find three big tubs of olives for under ten Euros. Then, as I am about to leave, I spot a street sign. It reads Lindengracht.
Out comes the map, and my spectacularly awful sense of direction has done it again. I should have walked one block further south to reach the Noordermarkt. I rectify my mistake and find a market that fits expectations much more neatly. Overpriced cheese? Check. Raw food stall with lady in flowing robes? Check. Gorgeous produce at impressive prices? Double-check. I came here to be wowed, to find special things. And I do. I see baby artichokes, can’t tear myself away from the scents wafting from the herb stall and count at least seven different types of goat’s cheese at one dairy trader alone. I buy a dinky strawberry tarlet and a crusty loaf of artisanal French bread.
Also, I can’t help but giggle when I hear one, particularly hot-potatoed, guy bellow “amice, give me my MRC”. I could have misheard, and he could have innocently asked for the NRC (a national newspaper). Much more fun, though, to think of possible secret codes for the moneyed. Mental Rust Corroder? Monitor for Rotten Children? Milk and rice crispies? Ah, to be wealthy and order your breakfast in shorthand.
Laugh as I may, though, the Noordermarkt not only makes good on its promise of inflated prices and ridiculous clientele. The strawberry tart is seriously delicious, with sweet sweet sweet strawberries, subtle vanilla cream and a crumbly crust. Worth every penny. And the bread. A crunchy, crackly crust with lots of flavour. Crumb with plenty of irregular air pockets and a bit of a chew. This bread deserves to be made into a meal. So I do. Mind you, the other ingredients come from my local, wisecracking market people (no need to file bankruptcy over a sandwich), but it doesn’t matter. Noordermarkt bread, Noordermarkt tasty.
Noordermarkt Portobello Sandwich
Cut two generous slices of good bread. Fry a Portobello mushroom in some olive oil, about seven minutes on each side. Sprinkle with salt, cut in half. Cover one slice of bread with the halved mushroom.
Mix 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt, add a generous teaspoon of cilantro pesto (or a big handful of finely chopped fresh cilantro). Spread over the mushroom and the other slice of bread.
Cut a ripe tomato into thick slices, spread over the sauced mushroom. Cover the mushroom-cilantro mayonnaise- tomato slice with the second slice of bread.