That to me would be Kensington Market. The place where I bought my first pound of authentic Italian cheese, home made sausages and eggs sold in the open air. In 1974, there were Portuguese shopkeepers who butchered a live chicken if you wanted it freshly killed for dinner. They’re long gone but the market has survived.
Kensington Avenue, south of College and west of Spadina, is where most immigrants to Toronto went as soon as they found out about it. The meat, fish, veggies, nuts, fruit, spices and breads were sold fresh, cheap and in ethnic varieties not found in supermarkets. Over the years as I was lucky enough to live close by as a student, it was the stews made of the market veggies – a few days too old and cheap – that I could afford living on a loan. Kensington was simply “there”! Authentic, benignly chaotic, totally bustling, real and the home of buskers, counter-culturists, shopkeepers and a few daring restaurateurs alike. In the beating heart of the most multicultural city in the world. Kensington Market worked because it had always been the place of and for the people.
The other day I walked through the market once again. Found a new used fall coat in Bungalow, a rather chic boutique by Kensington standards. Ran into a few places like Flash Back still open and as daring as ever! Comforted is what I felt, and yet so much has changed, of course. Like all places of and for people, Kensington Market has kept up with the changes and is still beating with the energy of the city. I felt at home – just like I had back four decades ago. The very fact that Kensington Market is still there and vibrant shows how proud my beloved city of Toronto is of its immigrant history and heritage.
To honour the passing of time and the change of immigrant faces, here is a wall mural that captured my attention.