A little December heat.
The first time I went to Abattoir, I was completely overwhelmed. From the rows upon rows of tables filled with bargain goods from China to the vendors hawking cheap tomatoes with loud shouts of “un euro, un euro, un euro” in rapid fire Arabic-accented-French, it was all just a little too much to process.
But I’ve been living here a few months now and have grown used to the pulse of the market. I’ve learned there’s a rhythm to the flow of traffic and the noise. I’m no longer shocked to see live ducks and bunnies at the farm stand in the very back. I’ve become adept at a polite smile and non, merci when slices of fruit are offered up to me on a paring knife by the vendors hoping I’ll stop at their stand. I even look forward to getting up a few Sundays a month to join all the other bubbe-cart-toting shoppers in search of a good deal.
I went to bed last night knowing that I wanted to be up early to get a market run in, but Joe needed a bit more convincing to get moving. I get it — in late December, the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 9am so it’s a struggle to want to do much of anything in the mornings. I was content enough to take my time with my coffee and wait for the caffeine to kick in before hopping the metro for the 40ish minute ride across the city to West Station.
It was eerily quiet as we walked the couple of blocks from the metro to the market, even for a holiday week. We almost wondered if perhaps we had missed a closing notice but were relieved to find a less-crowded-but-still-open Abattoir waiting as we got near.
As we made it through the covered area that houses all the dry goods, Joe wondered if maybe he should dig through the pile of €3 Sainsbury and Tesco “seconds” employee fleeces for one in his size to wearing under his riding gear. I wasn’t so sure he needed a “Fruit & Veg Team” jacket but was willing to play along…
Our real mission, however, was produce. I wanted a couple of eggplants to make baba ganoush later this week and some root veggies for roasting with tomorrow’s NYE dinner. So we followed the sounds of “yallah, Madame,” and made our way out into the open alley where tents cover boxes-upon-boxes of produce from all corners of the earth. We stopped at our favorite olive & nut stand to grab a half-kilo of the most delicious garlicky green olives ever (and saved €15/kilo from what we’d pay at the market near our house). We poked our way through piles of Belgian potatoes, Spanish persimmons, and Moroccan pomegranates filling our bag with whatever looked decent and fairly-priced. I found some beets and Joe picked up a few Bacon avocados after looking at and rejecting countless sketchy Hass avos from vendors who asked if we’ve ever tried them before… Sigh. Je suis Californien usually elicits a chuckle from the vendors who’ve incorrectly profiled Joe as Flemish. We even scored some cilantro which, despite having parsley-shaped leaves, smelled and tasted exactly as it should.
And then, just as we were about to leave with our market bag filled to the brim and weighing heavily on my shoulder, I spotted them out of the corner of my eye: JALAPEÑOS!
Heaping piles of the beauties in green, red and red-streaked-green beckoned as the vendor invited us over with an open sac waiting to be filled. And fill we did. Because when one finds fresh jalapeños in Brussels (let alone at €3/kilo), ándale pues GIMME A BAG OF THOSE!
It goes without saying that burrito bowls will be on the menu several times this week.
If You Go: The Market at Abattoir
* Public markets are held Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 07.00 - 14.00. Sundays include a flea market and are the busiest. Be prepared for dense crowds.
* We always take public transportation rather than deal with traffic. The closest metro stops are Gare de l’Ouest/Weststation (1 line) or Clemenceau and Delacroix (2/6 lines).
* Bring a bag for your purchases or, better yet, a shopping cart. You can also purchase a cart at the market for about €10 along with a random assortment of other household goods such as mops and cleaning supplies.
* I find it helpful to have smaller bills/coins ready but vendors are usually happy to make change from a €20.
* Take your time poking and don’t miss out on entering the buildings. There are a few permanent shops inside as well as all the meat vendors. (Meat the World is one of our favorites.)
* Some folks would argue that Abattoir is in a less-than-safe part of town but we’ve never been worried about anything other than pickpockets. Yes, there are a LOT of people and many of them are speaking languages other than French/Dutch but most are just there to do weekly shopping. Keep your purse/wallet close and you’ll be fine. (Worth noting that the same advice applies just about anywhere else in a big city.)