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I can hardly believe that I’ve lived in Southern Ohio my entire life and have only just now visited Cincinnati’s Findlay Market. Oh, I’ve visited the food meccas in the region. When I was a child, Woody’s in West Carrollton was among the first to carry exotic ingredients such as green chiles and tortillas. It was a destination in Dayton for decades. Huge wheels of cheeses and barrels of pickles and sauerkraut, cake decorating, and one of the first pizza ovens in a grocery store — imagine that! So ordinary now, but in the day it was a novelty. Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield became my grown up destination for finding fruits and vegetables you could never imagine, not to mention any kind of beer, wine, meat, seafood, or obscure item for a foreign cuisine. But to have not visited one of the oldest and most famous markets in Cincinnati is somewhat embarrassing, especially since I consider myself a pretty good cook and love all things gourmand.

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Nevertheless, the Sunday before Mardi Gras, I rode to Findlay Market in Over-The-Rhine with my parents. I was also embarrassed to realize it was mere steps from Music Hall, one of Cincinnati’s treasures. It was chilly and overcast, but the mood was festive. Live music, masqueraded shoppers, the intoxicating aroma of a shrimp and crawfish boil, and a crush of people inside the market. Oh, and the return of Hudepohl and Christian Morlein! What a treat! Mom and Dad had been to Findlay Market before and had a few places to stop. Dad bought a variety of sausages — Scandanavian white, Vidalia onion, Italian, and a variety of wursts. Bakery items lured my Mom, who ended up buying an insulated bag for picnics in the Northland this summer.

I love looking at seafood. In Southern Ohio, good fish is not as readily available as it is on the Great Lakes or Coasts. Cheeses and breads always tempt me, but it was the goetta that finally became my purchase. Embarrassment is ending today. I’ve never had goetta, that uniquely German sausage with pork fat and pin oats.

I wish every community had a Findlay Market. It’s festive to see so many people strolling and sampling. The array of specialty items is itself a reason to go, but what impresses me about a market like this is the expertise and passion the vendors have for their wares. Authentic German sausage recipes and Schnecken aren’t readily available at my local grocery store. And though my Kroger Marketplace has made many things like smoked paprika and proscuitto available, it is a pleasure to have a conversation with the person selling it who is as passionate about food as I am. It won’t be my last trip to Findlay Market. And I am looking forward to the Farmers Market in the spring. Maybe this year, I’ll make the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.

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