Friends have ridiculed me for quite some time on account of the fact that I once spent £8 on an aubergine in Borough Market. So embarrassing! I’m still ashamed. I was younger, a bit overwhelmed by the whole BM experience, and handed over the money as though in a trance. When I came to my senses on the way home, I bloody well kicked myself – ok, it was a lovely shade of violet and quite a weird shape, but for God’s sake, there’s never any need to pay £8 for an aubergine. It wasn’t gold plated, and tasted no different to any other aubergine I’d eaten before.
However, nothing tops my hubby’s spectacular overspend in a Brussels food market last weekend – he was fleeced to the tune of 30 Euros for 2 rustic cured sausages. Thirty ruddy Euros – that’s basically a similar amount in pounds, given the currently abysmal exchange rate! And he didn’t even taste a sample before buying…if I hadn’t been so distracted by the pastries at the adjoining stall, I would have rugby tackled him. His excuse is that he was so excited at being understood in French, he didn’t realise what he was doing. Still, once the shock had subsided, we had a good laugh about it. Well, you have to, don’t you? Either that, or punch the stall owner.
Anyway – wonderful Brussels. We ate and drank rather a lot. Not the usual moules frites and such like, but a lot of cheese, ham and waffles. The food market where the ‘sausage-themed daylight robbery’ took place was quite different to farmers’ markets in this country – since the UK is a relative newcomer to the farmers’ market scene, we have to try a lot harder to attract people away from the supermarkets using props to highlight the produce: nice tablecloths, cute blackboards, a few hay bales here and there. In Brussels, and also many towns in France, there is a much more ‘laissez faire’ attitude to making markets look pretty because people have years and years of practice and the tradition of cultivating good produce is ingrained in their food heritage. At this particular market in Brussels, there were hardly any concessions to rustic cuteness – food was lugged out of the back of minivans and shoved out onto crates in and among closed fairground rides. Not one lace tablecloth in sight – and that’s because the produce pretty much speaks for itself. Lucky Belgians!
Here’s a a few photos of the food market we visited:
Strawberry stall next to fairground rides:
Cheeses flavoured with Belgian beers:
Loaf of bread bigger than a dog:
Meat stall: note ‘oiseaux sans tete’ which means ‘headless birds’:
The lady wearing the waxed coat took so long to choose her bread, I thought I was going to faint from hunger; pony-tailed dude took his time serving her. The Belgians never hurry:
Anyway, dear readers, I’m curious: what’s the most ludicrous amount of money you’ve ever spent on an item of food and drink? Post answers below…
"Loaf of bread bigger than a dog:"Brilliant!
I've made some pretty bad food blunders but probably the most expensive (and actually revolting) error I have made to date was in a posh restaurant in Paris. I ordered a sausage which had an Appellation d'origine controlee. I thought “mmm in this restaurant with an A.O.C. and at 15 Euros it’s got to be good”. To be fair the waiter did say something to me when I was ordering it, probably along the lines of “are you sure sir?” but I just said “oui, oui” because I didn’t really understand and really wanted to get my teeth into this amazing sausage. When it arrived it was presented on its own and was extremely large. The waiter did seem particularly pleased with my choice. I was impressed as were my friends but whilst waiting for their courses to arrive I noticed an unhealthy smell wafting from my prize. My fears were confirmed when I cut into it and the stench of a thousand rotting corpses came forth. Initially I thought there might have been a mistake and it was off but this was a really good restaurant and reasoning they couldn’t actually serve poisonous food I ventured on, slicing fully through the beast. The cross section was not what I expected but it did explain the smell. Where there should have been lovely juicy pork there was instead white folds of something that looked a bit like tape worms. Mildly ill at ease I cut off a piece and, against all my instincts, put it in my mouth. The texture was exactly as I feared, rubbery and slimy. The taste was initially not as unpleasant as the smell but the aftertaste was, if not worse. After stifling my retching and actually swallowing it, the thought of having to eat any more made me want to leave. The smell by now was overpowering and my friends were beginning to complain. I explained I couldn’t go on with it so full of bravado they all gave it a try, and one by one they went pale and lunged for their drink to wash away the foulness.On returning home I told my dad about my experience and he said he thought it was probably made from the lower intestine of a horse. The thought of it still makes me shudder to this day.PF
I, too, was swayed by the purply-velvet hues of an aubergine. Covent Garden Real Food Market it was, the cads. It looked so shiny, so luscious and it was a sunny day…the Amalfi lemons next door to it blinded me, I swear.Then there was the £15 for Toulouse sausages at a French market in Croydon. *shuffles*
i spent £12 on a punnet of strawberries in paris.(and then forgot to eat them)
Ha ha I'm so happy I'm not the only one…Cookwitch, how much did you pay exactly for your aubergine? Kitty, forgetting to eat the strawberries is hilarious! Phil, I also shudder to think of That Sausage…how horrible!
Anne, I think it was £5. Borough Market has a magical aura around it that negates Careful Spending. It's not our fault.