Albert Lee (Part 2 of 3)
Favorite Spot: Reading Terminal Market
Address: 12th and Arch
I am: I’m what you call “Philly homegrown.” Born and raised in the 215, I spend my days entertaining tourists and locals at the official visitor center of Philadelphia.
Years in Philly: 32
Current home: Chinatown
My love note: Ah. The Reading Terminal Market. What hasn’t been said about this amazing space? That it’s on everyone’s must-see list? That you can eat through all of Philadelphia’s tasty traditions with one visit? Or that its storied history is shared amongst thousands of those who proudly call Philadelphia home. A resounding yes to all that and more.
Located on the intersection of 12th & Arch, it’s impossible to miss. Once home of the Reading Railroad, yes Monopoly, it now stands as a farmer’s market. Quincy Market in Boston, eat your heart out!
Sure, I can rave about sinking my teeth into a roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich from DicNics or take on the challenge of eating a slice of Pummel Cake from Flying Monkey Bakery (Google this if you don’t know what I’m talking about), but it’s much deeper than that.
The reason why I declare my undying love to the Market can be summed up in chicken bones and blueberry bread. Yes, chicken bones. No, not a cheesesteak or chocolate chip cookies, but the hollowed out bones of some fine poultry. You could almost use the cliché of “Chicken soup for the soul.”
Growing up in a Chinese family in Chinatown, no food ever goes to waste. What is defined as the term “foodie” now would have certainly made our household legendary. “Hunger never saw bad bread” and neither did we. If you can cook it, you can eat it especially when it came to chicken. Feet, gizzards, heart. I’m amazed I didn’t have feathers growing out of me. What I did have was homemade chicken soup made lovingly by my late grandmother. Throughout my adolescence, my grandmother (a native of China) would go to the Reading Market to GodShall’s Poultry and ask for a bag of chicken bones. She couldn’t speak much English but she knew how to say phrases like “Bob Barker”, “Come on down” and of course, chicken bones. And make no mistake, just because she couldn’t speak English didn’t mean you could cheat her. If you were off by a single cent, she would call you out on it.
So she would make her travels to the Market to get her bones for her soup. Through mountains of snow or torrential downpours, I could always look forward to arriving home with a big bowl of love waiting for me.
And as far as the blueberry bread goes, let me take you back to the days of Nintendo, specifically the “Game Boy” because that’s what I carried with me when I wasn’t holding bags of groceries from the Market. My mother and I always made our visits on the latter part of Saturday afternoons. Why you ask? Well, at about 5 p.m. every Saturday (almost like clockwork) we would group together with a sea of ladies hovering over the baked goods aisle at the Amish stands at the market. There I was, all squished in wondering why no one was moving. My mother says to just wait. Minutes pass. My feet are achy and my battery in my Game Boy is dying. Finally, I hear the sound of an Amish merchant saying everything on this side of the counter is $1.00. Whoosh!!!! As I was almost bowled over by the “Running of the Bulls”, my mother grabs a loaf of blueberry bread that is amply priced at one dollar. “Enjoying that dollar blueberry bread, aren’t you son?” as I happily chew away at the plump blueberries with my GameBoy safely tucked away.
Although we no longer go wait in the aisles for bread or stop in for chicken bones, we do make our weekly visits and grab whatever we can to use for now or later. It touches my heart to see the ads that say generations have come to this market to shop, laugh and of course eat. It is where culture and commerce meet and nowhere else in the city have I seen tourists, locals, and conventioneers come together and leave with nothing but a smile and a full belly. May it never change….