I’m a born and bred southside boy, but no stranger to the mean streets of Dublin north.
Back in the 70’s and early 80’s – when, like today, money was a scarce commodity – my dad made a weekly trek through ten feet of snow, volcanoes, solar flares, heatwaves, and floods to pick up fruit and veg on Moore Street. Or so he likes to tell us (actually, he got the bus and carried the boxes and bags home).
Fast forward a few years to the 1980’s. My parents had a gaggle of kids now so they’d finally bought a car. Every Saturday, they piled us all in and drove us to Moore Street. The traders lined the length and breadth of the street, and Dad knew them all by name. The women would always throw in “a little extra”: a few apples, a couple of extra carrots or – if they were feeling particularly generous – a head of cauliflower (back then, people still ate cauliflower).
Dad also bought a packet of jam tarts, and allowed my two wicked sisters and I to choose one chocolate bar each. You could pick up four out-of-date chocolate bars for £1 (€1.27), just outside the world’s grottiest looking pub (now long gone). We’d all pile back into the car, shouting and fighting, and then share some bags of chips from Burdock’s. Those were our treats for the week. On the drive home, dad would brag and boast about how he’d got the best deals on the freshest produce, before launching into a rant on the evils of tinned, jarred or frozen fruit and veg.
A few weeks ago, Jean and I found ourselves on Moore Street to meet a photographer from the RTE Guide. It’s changed a lot since my yoof.
You’re just as likely to find some great Asian, African, and Caribbean shops – including The Spice of Life and Crystal Continental Food Store – as you are veg sellers. There’s a strong Chinese and African presence on the street, and you’ll get some great cheap eats there, including Curry King and Mauritian eatery Coin de Mare. Immigration really reinvigorated Moore Street, although its redevelopment with colourless and character-free buildings by unimaginative developers during the boom years was a debilitating thump in the street’s soul.
You can still get excellent value on fruit and veg: Jean and I picked up a mountain of very delicious and very fresh food for under €5. Unlike the supermarkets, the fruit isn’t always polished to within an inch of its life, and doesn’t get binned just because it doesn’t look perfect.
Sadly, the age-old trading tradition appears to be in decline. There were barely half the same amount of traders as there used to be, and one of the sellers gave us the melancholy news that the fruit and veg sellers were “on the way out. This is the last generation – we’ll be gone in a few years.”
If her prediction is correct, this would be a real shame. Moore Street is one of the few places left in Dublin city with genuine character (Camden Street has it too, in a different way. You’ll find good value with their fruit and veg sellers too). My dad says it’s because you can’t get anywhere to park anymore, but I’m hoping it’s that people have simply forgotten or don’t know what a great value gem – in every sense of the word Moore Street is. Get out there and rediscover it.