Culinary instructor and writer Marilou Suszko and food writer Laura Taxel are a match made in foodie heaven. The duo found the perfect vehicle for their passions in a new book, Cleveland's West Side Market: 100 Years & Still Cooking, due out this month ($39.95, University of Akron Press). We spoke with Taxel about the collaboration, the market and, of course, the food.
CM: Why was it important to team up on the writing of this book?
LT: It turned out to be a beautiful partnership. I love being a fact detective. I read thousands of old newspapers. Looking at ads from papers from 1912, I think it's a gas. [Marilou] is a cooking teacher, she's written two cookbooks. She has a real handle on how to shop the market, what the food means.
CM: What surprised you the most in the course of your research?
LT: People don't just like [the market]. They have an emotional connection to it. One person told us a story about the way she used to shop with her mother; they had their routine about which places they'd go first. And here she is, 40 years later, and our questions made her realize she shops the same way. She comes in through the same door, goes to the vendors in the same way.
CM: How hard was it to choose the photographs for the book?
LT: It was almost overwhelming. We got help from all kinds of places. These kind of magic things happened. Somebody found the original rolled-up blueprints and remembered that somebody was doing a book about [the market], and gave them to the library, and the library contacted us. There are hundreds of photographs, old ones, from public archives, from people's private collections, shoeboxes, new stuff.
CM: What are your must-stop stands at the market?
LT: In the process of writing the book, now I feel like part of the family. When you know people's stories, you feel closer, more intimate. It would be hard to say favorites. I go all over the place. I always go to Mediterranean Imports to see Gus, and get whatever new, amazing cheese he has for me to taste. It always ends up being a party, because he'll give me something to taste and I'll be oohing and aahing, and it's almost like that When Harry Met Sally scene: Everybody standing there goes, "I want what she's having!"