Parsley Street

21 Aug

A large proportion of the streets in Brussels are named after the things that used to be sold there. There’s Rue du Marché au Charbon (Coal Market Street), Quai au Bois à Brûler (Firewood Dock), Rue du Marché aux Poulets (Chicken Market Street), Rue du Marché aux Fromages (Cheese Market Street), Rue Chair et Pain (Flesh/Meat and Bread Street), Rue du Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market Street), and so on. But my favourite has to be Rue du Persil (Parsley Street). A whole street dedicated to selling parsley? I can’t imagine there ever being enough demand for parsley to have an entire street bursting with the stuff. As soon as I discovered this street I started imagining lines of tables piled high with parsley, their vendors all competing madly with one another for the customers strolling down the cobblestones. A woman steps onto parsley street, wicker basket on arm (yes, my imagination seems to have been tinted by My Fair Lady), and is serenaded by proclamations of… I don’t know. Greenness, freshness, bigness? How do you market parsley? Apart from the flat-leaf variety and the usual bushy kind, could there be any real difference between one parsley stall and the next? On the other hand, perhaps there was a difference. Maybe the street started with the freshest, most expensive stuff, and as you walked along the colour started fading like a painter’s shading and you ended up with the yellowed dregs of parsley sold to the plebs. Which segment you shopped in communicated your social status, so you’d have to be careful on parsley street, lest you be spotted at the wrong end. ‘She shops towards the bottom of parsley street; we couldn’t possibly invite her to dinner.’

You might think that ‘parsley street’ might actually have just been the name they gave to a street selling herbs in general, but Brussels’ own Rue du Marché aux Herbes (Herb Market Street) counteracts that theory. Go to Rue du Marché aux Herbes for your rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano, but for the cheddar cheese of the herb world you must go to Rue du Persil!

Rue du Persil (French), Peterselie Straat (Flemish)


A sprig of Parsley Street


Alright, so a modicum of research reveals that ‘Parsley Street’ may have been so called because they used to grow parsley there, not sell it. So now you have one of two options: you can either pull the plug out of my little parsley street imagining, and watch the woman with the wicker basket and the hand-flailing vendors swirl down the drain (this image will be replaced by a moist and earthy-smelling scene peopled with men in muddy overalls stooped over their green plots), or you can ignore this revelation and let wicker basket lady and the shouting parsley merchants live.

I know which one I’d choose…


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