Adelaide's iconic the Market – a history by Catherine Murphy

Stories, history and recipes from the Adelaide Central Market

By Tricia Brown
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the Market – Stories, history and recipes from the Adelaide Central Market

the Market – Stories, history and recipes from the Adelaide Central Market


For over a century, the Adelaide Central Market, in the heart of the city, has fed Adelaide people with colour and chaos as fresh and abundant as its produce.

The theatre of the market has consistently drawn capacity crowds for sensual experiences and given satisfaction, comfort and pleasure. Suppliers of this bounty are the hard-working stall holders; men and women with deep attachments to the place and the tradition. This book of stories, history, recipes and fabulous photographs will delight friends and fans of the market just as much as a well-cooked meal.

Author Catherine Murphy first visited the Adelaide Central Market in the mid-1970s and fell in love with the excitement, colour and excess. She still does her weekly shop there or meets friends to enjoy coffee or a meal. The task of doing justice to a community history never before published was at times overwhelming as 'the stories of stallholders and their families reveal a dynamic relationship between the Market and our city's unique character.'

The Central Market was established in 1869 and since then has nourished and sustained generations of customers, growers, retailers and shop keepers. The stories in the Market are of hard-working Market people united by their passion about their produce and their service. 'Like all good show men and women they perform, wax lyrical, strut about, shout their stuff and love to be loved.'

These fascinating tales from market people, past and present (with many stalls and businesses handed on down through the family), are combined with the wonderful photographs of Mick Bradley who has been documenting market life since the 1970s. Other photographs are from the Adelaide City Council Archive. The mix is a great read of bread and circuses, of stories told by them and about them, of stories passed carefully on through generations.

The stories also trace the change in Australian cuisine through immigration and the beginnings of our taste for such things as good coffee, imported European cheese and pasta. When Con Savvas and his brother Sam opened a Market stall in 1958 their customers were ninety per cent migrants but from 1975 onwards, many Australians started to try and buy. Not having time to explain how to cook pasta or beans, customers were told to come back on Tuesday (a quieter day) if they wanted to know what to do.

Included in the Market also are recipes by Rosa Matto, a chef and cookery teacher who has childhood memories of the Market and now uses it as a source of fresh ingredients for cooking classes and catering. The recipes reflect her ideas about the food eaten by Adelaide people throughout three eras of Market history – Old Fashioned Recipes (1869-1940), European Influenced Recipes (1940-1970) and Contemporary Recipes (1970 to now).

The recipes present a mouth-watering multi-cultural slice of Australia today as we know it and I, like many, give thanks to those who have brought us such things as penne with pancetta and rocket, laksa, pizza, baked prawns with fetta cheese, quince paste, fattoush, filo pastries and turkish coffee.

Adelaide Central Market has continued to develop and change. There is now much more diversity, a wider mix of nationalities and more shops and cafes and the Market remains an important part of life in Adelaide. This book, first published in 2003 and reprinted in 2004, is not a new release but is still a best seller. It is easy to see why as it provides a truly fascinating read of our changing culture, food and life. 

'Food is a perfect way to appreciate and understand difference and you can smell and taste the Market's cultural influences. Adelaide Central Market is supported by a culturally diverse body of workers who set the table to feed our city. Feasting together at this central banquet are the complex characters of time, place, taste, food, health, work, family, childhood, immigration and cultural digestion. Tuck in!'


the Market by Catherine Murphy and Rosa Matto (published 2003, reprinted 2004 pb RRP $29.95) is published by Wakefield Press and available online. subscribers receive a 20% DISCOUNT when buying this book directly through Wakefield Press. Details and link here »


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February 07th, 2011
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