Goat Cheese for The People and Other Adventures in Steeltown

In Hamilton for academic business, I was, as always, curious about the food in this city. Nicknamed “Steeltown”, this is a place legendary for its working-class history of steel mills and trade union organizing.

It was in Hamilton, in 1872, that the notion of a 9-hour working day (down from 12) was pioneered. 1500 workers took part in the now-famous “Nine Hour March, ” which inspired a series of Nine Hour demonstrations across Canada. And last January, 10,000 people took to the streets in support of 900 steelworkers who have been locked out of the US Steel mill since early November 2010.

So it was fitting that my Hamilton friend The Fashionista took me on a tour not of museums or art galleries, but of populist, work-a-day food. The day shimmered, not just with rain, but with all the possibilities that a day off from work (of twelve hour days, no less) can bring.

The Hamilton Farmers Market has been around since 1837. I couldn’t find much about its history, except for this sinister quote from Wikipedia: “”The origins of the market lie in a tangled swamp of land speculation deals, political rivalries, sharp practices and legal chicanery among the principals, many of them revered founding fathers of Hamilton.”

At its current indoor location downtown it boasts nearly 70 vendors, including Latin American, German, Caribbean, and Asian food purveyors, a perogy booth, fantastic coffee, and the best apple galette (with ornage zest!) I’ve had in quite some time. It even has a community kitchen. I bought some lemon salsa that danced expressively on my tastebuds the next morning.

After a long day of meetings it was sweet to stroll among the vegetables and breads and flowers and talk about nothing more complicated than food, clothes, and our writing lives. She’s a considerate one, The Fashionista. She knew this was the tonic I needed.

Fashionista was at a loss as to what to cook for the coming week so I talked her into making Potato-Sunchoke Soup with Chili Oil from Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef blog .

All that shopping made us hungry, so we trudged through the rain to Sky Dragon, a Marxist worker co-op cafe, for a late breakfast.

My omelette was bursting with goat cheese – more goat cheese than one could possibly expect from something priced at $6.95!

It was as though these Marxists had decided that the revolution must be luxuriant.

And how great, really, that I happened to be wearing my Emma Goldman t-shirt bearing her famous slogan: “If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution”.


  1. Oh, wow! I tend to swing through Steeltown for a week or so every year, to visit my partner’s family, and had *no idea* that this market even existed! Usually my visits are spent running errands at suburban strip malls, and playing rummoli at the kitchen table… How much improved those card games would be if accompanied by a market-made apple galette. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I second the suggestion to make Potato-Sunchoke Soup with Chile (sic) Oil from Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef. I noticed the pic of sunchokes you posted. The recipe has you make enough of that delicious chili oil to keep in your fridge and throw onto rapini for weeks to come.

  3. Glad I could be a helpful hostess and show you the charms of my adopted city. I just wish I looked better in that photo! It’s by taking friends around that I learn more about the city, like who knew the Sky Dragon cafe had such a yummy and extensive breakfast menu?

    Stay tuned for my sunchoke soup adventure!

  4. Thanks for the history lesson Marusya, and the Wikipedia quote is so hilarious!… Mmmm… Those apple galettes look awesome… great pictures…! I can’t wait to go to the Sky Dragon after what you say – last time I was there I went to the Bread and Circus cafe also a leftie hangout with coffee and beer served in the same room… that is so important! One never knows till the last moment if it is coffee or alcohol that will bring the zing back to life!

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