Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 8, 2013 11:02
Maybe I’m just a slave to consumerism, but I think that one of the best ways to get to know any place is by flexing your wallet. One of my favorite spots to go in Washington D.C. is Eastern Market, located just off its eponymous metro stop on the blue and orange lines. The interior is the longest continually operated fresh food market (since 1873!), and it is open every day but Monday, while an arts-and-crafts market takes over the streets out front on the weekends — a fantastic (but costly) combination, if you ask me.
I first made the quick trip to the Capitol Hill establishment with a friend one weekend last summer when I was on campus finishing up my dreaded final economics requirement. The 98-degree heat rising off of the D.C. pavement (seriously, summer here is the worst) had left us feeling a little drained, so we were relieved to find fresh, hand-squeezed lemonade for sale as soon as we walked in the door. But we didn’t stop there: Before we braved the outdoor market, we polished off two sandwiches, several free samples and a pretzel.
The food sold at the thriving farmers’ market is mostly local — coming from places in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. But that doesn’t mean there’s not rich variety: You can probably find any type of fruit, vegetable, cheese or meat you have in mind, and it will inevitably be delicious. The prepared foods range from classic American sandwiches to the more “international,” which include everything from creative takes on hummus to traditional Indian food.
The arts-and-crafts market boasts vendors of just about anything from all over, but some of the most interesting buys draw inspiration from D.C. itself. Colorful canvases depict scenes that span across neighborhoods and decades. Copies of old city maps hang out for sale. Images of street signs are repurposed into artsy posters and postcards. Edgy yet elegant jewelry sparkles from display cases and mannequins. As a side note, the outdoor market also provides an unparalleled spot for people-watching in the District — if you’re into that kind of thing.
Needless to say, I found myself returning on my own throughout the summer despite the heat, bringing home that scarf I just had to have or fresh fruit for an after-work snack. One of the great things about Eastern Market is that there is something there for everyone to enjoy — from pies and cakes to antique records and other vintage collectables.
I think what’s most appealing about a place like Eastern Market is that it brings things and sounds and people from all over the city. It’s a lot of what’s vibrant and interesting about D.C. on display. Bringing together the cuisines of different peoples and the arts of past and current generations, Eastern Market represents the metaphorical melting pot of Washington, D.C. In fact, making the trip to this marketplace may be more interesting than travelling to one of D.C.’s many museums because it actually brings our city’s multi-faceted culture to life.
And one of the best things about living here — something I all too often take for granted — is the realization that D.C. is our city and we play a part in its culture. Sometimes, this may be the creation of our very own Wednesday farmers’ market on campus (another one of my favorites!). Other times, it may simply be enjoying a pretzel in a different neighborhood on a blissful afternoon.
It may be cold now, but as spring blooms (hopefully sooner rather than later), I’ll be headed down the blue line to one of my favorite finds. Our on-campus farmers’ market during the fall and spring is wonderful, but Eastern Market is definitely worth a monthly — or weekly, if you so desire — weekend trip and a few bucks.
Audrey Wilson is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. CULTURE SHOCK appears every other Friday in the guide.