My pace quickens as we near the building, the sounds emanating from behind the glass doors to Findlay Market calling us in. The door swings open, and I hurry in behind my mother, trying to escape the sticky air that haunts Cincinnati in mid-summer.
The sweet funky smell of curing meats hits my nose before my eyes have a chance to adjust to the scene: a long hallway of cases upon gleaming cases offering every kind of meat imaginable, displayed in its natural glory—giant slabs of bacon, uncut oxtails, chicken feet, whole ducks. It’s years before I’ll cook these strange items myself, but even as an adolescent I can tell this place is special: It offers not only a taste of the unknown, but also a taste of the Old World, of butchers and fishmongers and pastry chefs that used to be our ancestors’ only connection to fine foods, long before the words “organic” and “foodie” entered our vocabulary. I linger awhile longer by the cheese case, admiring the perfectly round balls of fresh mozzarella and the spidery blue veins of the Gorgonzola.
Looking up, I realize I’ve already lost my mother. Her red hair is a beacon in a crowd, and I rush to her side, pinching the back of her shirt so as not to get lost again.
On this Saturday morning, the hustle-bustle inside the market is near a roar, and I have to stand close to hear what’s on our list today: lunchmeat and Havarti cheese from Krause’s, Mom’s favorite deli; some fresh fish from Heist Fish & Poultry (of course, Mom knows the owner); olive oil and fresh bread from Dean’s Mediterranean Imports; homemade goetta from Eckerlin Meats to help quell my family’s tireless appetite for the regional breakfast specialty—at least for the weekend; and an assortment of colorful summer veggies to liven up our weeknight meals from whichever vendor happens to catch my mother’s eye.
We scour the market together looking for the best prices, the prettiest vegetables, and the weirdest meats, enjoying the process as much as we enjoy the spoils of our labor. When we can’t possibly carry any more, we make the trek home, laughing and smiling about all the beautiful things we’ve found, the acquaintances we’ve made along the way, and the delicious food we’re going to make with the fresh ingredients we’ve collected.
These days, my weekly Findlay Market experiences are a bit different: I usually come to the market by myself, accompanied only by long lists for catering gigs and a mission to find any number of esoteric ingredients for my latest cooking project—whether it’s soba noodles and quail eggs for a Chinese feast or labneh and olives for a Middle Eastern spread.
Like my mother before me, I’ve made friends with the vendors at my favorite shops, and I still ask each vendor how he or she would cook the meat I just purchased, even though I have a cooking method in mind already. I’m reminded of my mother every time I step foot into the market, and I still call her afterwards to discuss my purchases and the mouth-watering dishes I’m going to make with them. I can hear her smiling through the phone as we discuss the best way to grill peppers (blackened, then peeled), the lingering tang of homemade Greek yogurt, and the sweet delicacy of Champagne mangoes—my newest discovery.
This article will also appear in Domestica magazine, a local publication new to the Cincinnati area.
Mango & Roasted Strawberry Sorbet
I like this sorbet best with Champagne mangoes, which tend to be smaller and have an almost wine-like sweetness, but any old mango will do—and taste great! You can find Champagne mangoes at Findlay Market, in some grocery stores, and at Sam’s Club when mangoes are in season. Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe.
½ pint strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced into ½-inch thick slices
¼ c. sugar
2 large mangos, or 4 Champagne mangoes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Juice of 1 lime
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon dark rum
Pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Put the sliced strawberries into a small baking dish and toss with ¼ cup sugar. Roast the strawberries in the oven for 8 minutes, or until softened. Remove from the oven.
- While the strawberries are roasting, cut the mangoes. There are two methods for cutting mangos: You can use a mango corer to split the mango in half and then cut the flesh away from the peel. Or you can peel the mango and then cut the flesh away from the core.
- Cut the mango into chunks and put into a blender with the lemon juice, lime juice, 2/3 cup sugar, water, rum, salt, and the roasted strawberries, making sure to add any strawberry juices from the pan to the blender. Process the mixture until smooth. Taste the sorbet, adding more lime juice and rum to taste if desired. Chill the mixture thoroughly in your refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.