Illustration by Marcelina Jagielka

This week, the brilliant Victorian Christmas market is coming to Broad Street. This is the perfect opportunity to do some Christmas (or Oxmas) shopping, and to try whatever delights are on offer.

Christmas markets will forever hold a special place in my heart. They are always so magical, always viewed through the rose-tinted glasses of childhood nostalgia. The Christmas lights which seemed so breath-taking as a child still hold that innocent wonder. The stalls house delights of dubious necessity: no one ever needed a reindeer cat toy, but now somehow I have acquired one. But the food, of course, is what truly makes a Christmas market.

You can tell that there is a Christmas market on far before you can see it. Yes, you may hear the incessant Christmas music, the never-ending trills of Mariah Carey, and the reflections of multi-coloured, star-shaped lights. But the smells are what entice you in. There’s always the scent of caramel emanating from toffee-coated apples, candyfloss spinners, and enormous blocks of fudge. There’s the intensely comforting scent of mulled wine; the spice reminiscent of Christmases past. And then there’s the savoury frying of onions, the sizzling of sausages on grills, and the browning of burger patties. It may be a supermarket cliché, but the food really does make Christmas, and nowhere is this clearer than in a Christmas market.

Food markets aren’t just for Christmas though. My other favourite type of market are vegan markets, which seem to be popping up more and more frequently across the country. These are truly an eclectic mix of stalls, ranging from soap to samosas. At home, Nottingham has a regular vegan market every month. It appears to be a recent innovation, and one which I am happy to support. After all, it is great to see spaces being rented and maintained as community hubs. From the Nottingham vegan market, I have had an enormous vegan cookie sandwich (outrageous) and a vegan hot dog (messy). My favourite purchase, however, has to be the beetroot bhaiji, samosa and urad dal that I tried.

You can tell when the food you’re eating is really home cooking. Sure, a supermarket can say that it’s in the style of home cooking, but it can never truly compare. What I want is cooking from a home kitchen that someone has taken the care and compassion to create. The baiji was incredible: creative and not too oily (something that onion bhajis are liable to be). The samosa was surprisingly spicy and the dal was warm and comforting: everything a dal should be. I didn’t expect to go to the market and come away with a full meal, but I am so glad I did!

It’s always good to give a market a go. The Victorian Christmas market this week provides a great opportunity to get in to the Christmas and Oxmas spirit, even if it is still November!