MARTA: Masters in taste and storytelling
And she's back: MARTA! An unusual local food market for everybody who likes ridiculous good food and - this is the unusual aspect - a chat with the people who are right at the source of it. If you think you're pretty up to date with all the fruit and veggies - born and raised in Belgium - think again. Stop by MARTA and be surprised. From eatable plants that keep mosquitoes at a distance to saffron jenever made in the Kempen, MARTA names it all. We met Caroline, one of the founders, during MARTA's breakfast. She told us everything there is to know about the concept.
MARTA started out as a group of four local food addicts who, in the spring of 2014, started planting their own veggies in the city center on an empty plot of land. They were amazed by the wide variety of crops that existed and of which most of us never heard of, as the offer in supermarkets is so limited. This was the seed for MARTA. The four started to look for great food producers around Antwerp with a special story. After a while they found out that their interest for local and good tasting products was shared by more people. So why wouldn't they share all their favourite stories and products at a place bigger than their own kitchen and garden? This is how the concept for the local food market was born.
Becoming a villager
Being invited to sell your goods at MARTA is not something to be taken for granted. MARTA meets, talks and eats with a lot of farmers. Once they fall in love with the farmer's story and products, they invite them to join the market as vendors. One of the market vendors, who recently stole MARTA's heart, is Jolly Jumper Smokes. This ex-fisherman smokes fish with his own mix of herbs, using only local species that aren't endangered. That's why they serve more uncommon sorts of fish, like the red poon or the conger. Beautifully smoked and really tasty.
This is by far one of the most relaxed markets you can visit on a Saturday morning. People take their time to get advice about new products and how to cook them, or enjoy a breakfast at one of the couches next to the river Scheldt. MARTA created this open atmosphere to become a hatchery for new food collabs. Like Floom, a home-roasted granola and muesli brand, and the fresh apple juice producer De Persmobiel. Together, they created the MARTA granola edition. A granola sweetened with pulp, the leftovers after pressing the apple juice. Another collab - under the motto food connects - is the project with Iraqi refugees of the Asylum center Linkeroever, on Antwerp's left bank of the river. Iraqi women were asked to create their favourite meal with products from local farmers. Now the women serve their specialties - like fatusch - at MARTA's markets. Together with the ladies of the asylum center, another new project is on its way: beautiful MARTA homewear is in the make with the leftover linen fabric of Belgian textile producer Libeco.
Closing the cycle
Have a great start of the day with a MARTA breakfast. Since you'll be sitting a long table, it will feel like eating with one big family. The breakfast is a collaboration between the caterer and the market vendors. And if you can't make it to the breakfast, you don't need to worry. At the end of every market, MARTA invites a known cook to shop at the market. With what he finds there, surplus ingredients and MARTA products, the cook will prepare a great meal. This is how MARTA makes sure none of the delicious and fresh ingredients go to waste. And it is a perfect way to close the food circle and a day at the market. Chefs of previous editions were Soekmekaar and Lara Kookt voor U. Next edition chef Peggy Acke of Carotterie will spoil your taste buds at the MARTA diner.
You can find MARTA every first Saturday of the month at the Kattendijkdok, from 9AM until 5PM. If you can't make it to the markets, go and have a look at the MARTA Facebook page to see where the local products are available elsewhere.
The next MARTA dates are:
- the 2nd of July
- the 6th of August
- the 3rd of September
- the 1st of October
- the 5th of November
Text by Kim Pillen
Pics by Rizon Parein