Most helpful positive review
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Just like a good bit of meat, you have to pay for quality.
on December 17, 2012
This is possibly a book with limited appeal if you've never heard of Cleveland's West Side Market and if it does not have some special association to you... yet if you like just reading about new things and learning about different cultures, this still could be a thing to consider.
Cleveland's West Side Market opened for business in 1912, is one of the oldest city-owned retail markets in the USA (there are not that many left either) and is said to be a nationally-significant architectural treasure. This book is a complete history of the market to date and also looks at many of the diverse vendors who have helped make this market a rather special place.
This is a richly-illustrated book with a lot of great looking photographs both "old" and "new" that accompany an engaging, interesting text. It is clear that an "outsider" might not get as much out of the text than someone who has grown up with the market close by, but the market does not feel that much of a stranger when reading through the text either. Throughout the book are a number of "memories" of both stall-holders and Cleveland shoppers alike which helps place additional "meat" on the bones, so to speak.
It was particularly interesting to follow the building of the market and to see how things were not necessarily clear-cut and trouble-free. Often such retrospectives tend to gloss over past problems and focus on just the positives so this was a welcome change. The building is itself very impressive and this book has managed to encourage this reviewer to visit it should he ever be in the area and hopefully a "privileged visit" can be arranged to parts of the building that the regular public don't see and possibly don't even know about, such as the basement cellars with walls up to thirty-five inches thick that helped served as 'modern refrigerators' when the building opened for business.
Of course the market is more than just the building and many of the various people who have been characters in the market over time feature in their own chapter too. Again, for this reviewer the people were unknowns and never-knowns but the author's enthusiasm for this market helps bring these characters to life. The food sold at the market is also brought into focus as different times brought different fads, fashions and challenges to a changing Cleveland. These sections are a great illustration of American cultural history to boot, whether you have a burning interest for food and culinary matters or just like to read about 'Changing America' over the past century.
At first this reviewer was sceptical as to whether this book would really appeal to people outside of the Cleveland area. Yet the book is written in such an engaging style that you really don't need to have ever visited the market for it to begin to feel a known place. If this book is a great read to someone who has never visited the market and had never heard of it prior to opening its pages, one can imagine just how great it will be for someone who holds the market in great affection. The price is a little higher than ideal but you certainly don't feel short-changed by the book in any case. Just like a good bit of meat, you have to pay for quality.