Tag Archives: food

Sunday Splurge: The Old Bus Depot Markets

13 Aug

The Old Bus Depot Markets

Last Sunday, I spent my first morning in Canberra aimlessly wandering around Kingston to become better acquainted with my new home.   Mostly, I came across leafy neighborhoods and apartment complexes, as well as Green Square, where friends and families gathered at cafes for Sunday brunch. 

Eventually, I happened upon the Old Bus Depot Markets off Waverley Avenue and was delighted to see a big warehouse full of bustling activity, with a set-up of about a hundred stalls, selling food, houseware, clothes, collectibles, antiques and other trinkets.   The market is modest-sized—it’s smaller than Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market or Bangkok’s famous JJ Market—but this made the market approachable and easy to navigate.

It felt like stumbling upon a gold mine–I had spent most the morning strolling through the eerily quiet suburb, with a waning hope that I’d find much stimulation. 

By that point, I was tired from hours of walking, so I had a glance around and resigned to come back the next week, fresh and hungry, to take full advantage of what looked to be a food lover’s oasis. Old Bus Depot Markets

The following Sunday, I skipped breakfast, waited until I felt sufficiently starved, then headed to the Old Bus Depot Markets.  It was a beautiful winter morning in Canberra—not a cloud in the sky with a refreshing chill in the air, perfect for spending an afternoon at the market.

Coffee vendors were strategically positioned at both main entrances, catching the incoming shoppers who needed their morning cup of Joe before facing the lively market.  I waited in a long queue, under the usual zombie-like trance that precedes my first cup of coffee, as two baristas quickly cranked out cup after cup.  The coffee was made with Wagonga Coffee beans, and my flat white was hot and strong without being too bitter.

Old Bus Depot MarketsWith caffeine in my bloodstream, it was time to explore the market.  I headed to the lower level where the food stalls were set up, most of which offered samples to shoppers.  I walked around and tried different olives, cheeses, jams, fudge and nuts, revving up my appetite.  Normally, I feel slightly awkward about sampling if I’m not sure I want to buy the product, but there’s no shame at the OBDM.  You’ll be surrounded by hundreds of others doing the same, some making second and third rounds at the sampling tables.  If you’re a more serious sampler, there’s always a representative on standby, who will tell you how the product was made and where it comes from. 

Old Bus Depot Markets

I headed toward the back of the warehouse, where a circle of lunch stalls served customers fresh food cafeteria-style.  It was a diverse selection, including Laotian, Ethiopian, Mexican, Spanish as well as stalls dedicated to pancakes and potatoes.  Everything looked and smelled delicious, but I narrowed my choice to the cuisine I hadn’t tried before—Ethiopian.  Fekerte's Ethiopian CuisineI ordered a small portion of vegetable curry and chicken coconut over rice from Fekerte’s Ethiopian Cuisine, thanking God I didn’t get the large because I felt full after three bites.  It didn’t look like a lot, but Ethiopian food is dense and seemed to expand once it hit my stomach.  The meal was sweet and hearty, serving as perfect “comfort” food, and I’d like to try the spicier dishes next time.

Old Bus Depot Markets

Don’t need to tell me twice!

Old Bus Depot MarketsLeaving the lunch area, I stopped at the most vivid and interesting stall in the warehouse, where one man was serving orange juice and warm drinks.  He did an excellent job of creating atmosphere, piling up crates upon crates of bright oranges and hanging a giant orange decoration overhead.  Colorful signs advertised his products, and a large painting of lush fields was propped overhead.  Steam spiraled out of three giant pots, where hot drinks promised to quench a winter’s thirst, stopping shoppers in their tracks.  I wasn’t particularly thirsty, but between the display and smell of spices wafting from the pots, I couldn’t resist.  Carrying out the theme of “trying new things,” I opted for the mulled wine, in which giant cinnamon sticks simmered.  Mulled wine is a popular Christmas drink in England and warms Australians during the winter, but hasn’t caught on back in America.  Old Bus Depot Markets

One sip of this drink will bring you back to a Christmas Eve (in the Northern Hemisphere) by the fire, as snow falls outside.  Mulled wine, with its careful mixture of spices, sweetness and hot wine, has the power of warming you to the core of your soul—it’s that good.  The stall (Jo’s Juice) also sells spiced apple cider, a hot honey, lemon and ginger drink, as well as lemonade, orange and apple juice. 

I ventured out to the other food stalls and browsed a collection of teas andGlenbog Fine Teas even noticed someone selling chia seed.  There was a lot on display, such as homemade pastas, pizza, bread, honey, chutney, curry paste, meats and sauces.  Every product was local and advertised as fresh, made with quality (often gluten-free) ingredients.  For many small food businesses in the area, the OBDM is a great opportunity to make a debut to the community.  A shopper doesn’t have to wait every Sunday to buy a product they like—most of the stalls have a shop, phone number or webpage to put through orders.

At this point, my mouth was watering at the sight of cookies, chocolate and muffins, making it time for dessert.  I probably made five laps around the food market before coming to a decision, since there was tempting macaroons, fudge and baked goods spilling from all directions.  Finally, I stopped at the Divine and Delicious stall and gazed in awe at their dessert cabinet, filled with muffins, cupcakes and brownies. 

Divine and Delicious

“What can I get you?” the girl behind the counter asked.

“Uh…uh…uh….” I stammered, at a loss whether to get the white chocolate macadamia blondie, the caramel and hazelnut fudge slice, or one of the other ten items that looked life changing. 

Divine and DeliciousIn the end, I chose a pecan and chocolate fudge slice, and divine and delicious it was.  The brownie was dense and moist, each bite providing chewy, sweet and nutty goodness. I went back to the stall to write down Divine and Delicious’s information and was floored to see that I had unconsciously ordered something gluten-free.  Who know gluten-free could taste so good and so unhealthy?

Feeling full and satisfied, I left the market and went to a nearby park for a walk, to ease the effects of a gluttonous afternoon. 

But what are Sundays for, if not to splurge and feel guilt-free afterwards?

The Old Bus Depot Markets are open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  An upcoming event is “Green Savy Sunday,” on September 16th, in which the market will be geared toward sustainable living and stalls will focus on products that have been recycled or made with low energy or using organic techniques.  Find out more about the markets here- Old Bus Depot Markets


Food spotlight: Ch-ch-ch-chia seed!

9 Aug

I’m not sure which American fads of the ’80s and ’90s ever made it to Australia, so bear with me while I recount the era of Chia Pets, as it’ll help us better understand our subject: the chia seed.

If you’re wondering what the hell a Chia Pet is, let me explain.  For a while, the children of America put down their teddy bears and dolls for a collection of oddball figurines, which could grow green “fur” or “hair,” through moistened chia seed applied to their terracotta bodies.  The chia would turn to gel, and sprouts would crop up within a few weeks, serving as endless wonder for proud Chia Pet owners. 

My personal fascination with Chia Pets stemmed from the catchy singing commercials (“ch-ch-ch-Chia!”) which filled American airwaves for about 20 years.  I must have had quite an ego at age five, because all I ever heard was “Ta-ta-ta-Tina! Tina pets!”  My heart would swell with pride whenever the grass-like chia sprouted from the porous clay-like critters, which ranged from chia puppies and hippos to chia professors and clowns.  My Tina pets. 

This lasted a while until my big sister visited one weekend and corrected me, as big sisters are wont to do. 

“You know, it’s ch-ch-ch-chia, not ta-ta-ta-Tina.”

Despite her argument, which made sense, I remained in denial and didn’t accept the truth until much, much later in life.

Unfortunately, my self-interest in Chia Pet commercials caused me to overlook the real intrigue—these curious little creatures were growing green stuff out of their backs, heads and torsos in a matter of weeks, with little effort from their caretakers.  One simply needed to soak the Chia Pet in water, spread the seeds, place it in a sunny area of the house and let the magic happen.  This should have been wildly fascinating, but it was lost on me, and I never desired a Chia Pet.  Hearing my name in a TV jingle was gratifying enough.

I regret this, because maybe if I had a Chia Pet, the seeds would have been planted for an interest in science, paving the way for a future as a biologist, which would have been cool.

Chia dropped off my radar for the next 15 years, until a friend recommended I read Born to Run, by American journalist Christopher McDougall.

In Born to Run, McDougall travels to the Copper Canyons of northwest Mexico.  His mission is to track down the reticent Tarahumara, one of the most mysterious and primitive Indian tribes left in the world.   The Tarahumara are known as the “running people,” as they’re capable of effortlessly running 100 miles a day, in one go.  If you think this is superhuman, get this: they run through unforgiving terrain in thin, hand-made sandals, resembling what it’s like to run barefoot.

Always the aspiring distance-runner, I absorbed every detail McDougall reported on the Tarahumara, in hopes that some beneficial revelation would be made, which I could emulate to improve my own endurance.

It seemed to me the Tarahumara were blessed with superior genes–they were literally born to run.  I don’t know what I was born to do, but after a lap around the block, I’m certain it’s not running.  In order to be a semi-decent runner, I have to train my heart out for several painstaking months, and when one sedentary week comes along, it’s back to the huffing-and-puffing start.    

McDougall raised my hopes when he described the Tarahumara diet, a major staple being chia seed.  Chia seed is full of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, which the body can store for long periods of time, keeping our energy tanks full.  Not to mention, chia seed provides nutrition we’re all constantly after, like protein, dietary fiber, calcium and iron, among other healthy nutrients and minerals.  Dieters have flocked to chia seed, as it allegedly tricks our stomachs into thinking they’re full. 

Along with our beloved Chia Pets and superhuman Tarahumara, the ancient Aztec and Mayan warriors reaped its benefits as well.  They ate this stuff to survive.  It’s been said one tablespoon of chia was enough to sustain a person for 24 hours.  And to think, I’ve been eating my weight in pasta before any physical exertion to keep myself going.      

I immediately went to my local health food store to see if they carried chia seed and fortunately, it was in stock.  There are endless ways to eat or drink chia, but I did what was inherent to an American college student and spooned it onto my peanut butter sandwiches or into my ramen noodle soup.  I eventually realized I could probably do better and found a raspberry and walnut quinoa recipe.  Quinoa (keen-wa) is another super food worth checking out—it’s a cross between rice and couscous and is nothing but good for you.

Chia is relatively tasteless—you could add it to anything–but I found its texture to be a little weird.  When chia seed is the least bit moistened, it wants to turn into gel, so it’s best to not let it linger in your mouth too long.  Runners are big into their energy gels (this has always eluded me), so many will consume their chia after soaking it in water for about 30 minutes.  Either way, it’ll turn into gel once it hits your stomach, making you feel full due to the increased size and weight. 

When I first added chia to my diet, I naively believed it was the magic potion I needed to get lean and turn into an ultra-distance runner overnight.  Even with chia, I still wanted to eat lots of cookies, thought about stopping two miles into a run, while sweating profusely and experiencing labored-breathing, but there was a noticeable lack of lethargy.  I’m a victim of serious midday lulls, and when I added chia to my diet, my energy levels felt more consistent. 

Many have claimed it to revolutionize their fitness and increase their brain power, but like anything, it’s something you have to try and decide for yourself. 

If you’re interested in trying chia seed, visit the organic aisle of your local supermarket.  I found a bag for $5.99 at Cole’s.  Also, get a copy of Born to Run–it’s fascinating, even if you hate running.