The Ice Woman Cometh to Reading Market

Winter is finally here:  late January on the east coast of the United States.   The forecast is for massive snow and howling winds for the next 30 hours or more.

In Philadelphia, where very little excuse is needed for the consumption of fat, sugar and salt, this forecast filled up the Reading Market early.  Need to store up on fat, sugar and salt.

“It’s the end of the world tomorrow” I was told by a vendor of meats:  “buy everything.”

 The Reading Market, from the late 1890’s, two blocks from City Hall, is one-half block wide and a half-block long.  Sitting on massive bulwarks of stone, it is made of a narrow,  pale cream-salmon coloured brick which came into fashion close to 1900.  Big, big windows on three sides of the building.

On the ground floor of the old headhouse of a rail station serving the northern suburbs of the city, the market’s basement is storage.  Its second floor is now part of the convention center.  It is widely frequented and much appreciated.  The Market’s history has been, of course, a reflection of the city’s history for the last one hundred years and more. 

It is flourishing now and this is probably the result of its physical connection with the vast adjacent conference center; and the popping growth of the city’s restaurant scene in the last quarter century.  Also the re-establishment of breweries in the city.  There were 100 of these in 1900 and none or 1 in 1970.  Today the number of breweries in metro-Philadelphia nears 20.


The market’s reigning female gargoyle

The market experienced a perfect storm today:  a promised massive snow storm which will close the market tomorrow, a Saturday, brought everyone to buy fat, salt and sugar in the many ways these are prepared. 

The Amish and the Pennsylvania Dutch are very active in this market. And there are representatives of several other of the city’s largest ethnic groups selling food and other goods.


Only Bassett’s Ice cream, in business since 1861, was abandoned today by customers wary of ice.

People began eating and buying and eating some more early this morning.  Comfort against the storm.  Next week it will be comfort for surviving the storm.

Salt, sugar and fat to the max





This was proposed to me for a Mardi Gras cake.  I declined it with regret.


The market’s resident animal totem.  Loving it all.


Reading Market November 2009 5

Reading Market November 2009 3



 The featured image is Head in Ice, New York, 2002 taken by Irving Penn; a chromogenic print made in 2003.

Gift of the Irving Penn Foundation to the Smithsonian Musuem of American Art, Washington, DC. 2015.

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