Friday, September 9, 2011

In Praise of Farmer's Markets

I am a firm believer in buying fresh and local foods in support of our farmers, organic producers and overall environmental factors that favor fresh and sustainable seasonal eating over transportation waste, energy usage, packaging, manufacturing, and fare chock full of bizarre chemical preservatives.

It used to be that people were weary of eating organic because they thought it cost more than a regular grocery store but today with the advent of weekly farmer's markets, it's easy to buy your weekly food for fractions of the cost you would pay on similar items in the grocery store that factor in travel from farm to store shelf as well as employee labor into the mix. Plus, you get the best tasting food because it is grown, plucked and delivered right to your neighborhood market as it is grown, when it is in season, and while it is fresh.

Today, I visited the Venice Farmer's Market in my new neighborhood with a veteran shopper and new friend Jacquelyn who owns the organic, herbal elixir company Chakwave and spent $58 dollars on enough food for a whole week. Times four, that equals $232 dollars, a fraction of my old monthly supermarket grocery bills. Sure, I will have to supplement my bounty once in a while with things like salt and pepper and other staples, but I am thrilled to eat what is readily available and to know that every week will be a treasure hunt of what is ready for the eating and a creative new approach at daily recipe creation.

But it's not only about the cornucopia of the food. It's about the relationships I will build with the farmer's and sellers and the dialogue about food and interesting ways to use it that will come into play that excites me.

Today's bounty was not about merely shopping, but about getting to know the sparkle of the individual vendors and discovering items and new ways to consider their usage.

This included:
-a leafy head of kale for my thyme-tinged omelets, for baking olive oil spiced kale chips and for sprucing up a salad with crunchy texture
-pungent cilantro for salsas and slaws
-plump blackberries to pluck at random from the fridge for snacks or to blend into probiotic rich smoothies
-enormous heads of garlic
-sweet baby red onions for tacos
-gluten free, moist cookie squares adorned with chocolate chips and peanut butter made with love by opera singer Sonia Kazarova
-a bunch of yummy goodness from the cute boys at the Greek booth including eggplant turnovers that are great sandwich substitutes, greek feta cheese in a tub of oil, large balls of falafel for stuffing into pita with hummus, and tabouleh salad for refreshing side dishes
-bags of pinolas and filberts to accentuate fruity mixed green salads
-a long stick of rosemary to rub on roasted chicken and new potatoes
-a round loaf of dark squaw bread to pull chunks from for dipping into soups and various vegetable dips
-starter pots of swiss chard and collard greens for planting in the garden accompanied by directions by the passionate seller on what conditions to grow the goodness within
-clean, cool, and juicy radish sprouts from ther Jazzy herbalist who sticks to his sobriety program by playing music to his various sprouts with love for sprinkling on hearty tomato, ricotta and avocado sandwiches
-Korean pickled daikon and tempe for sprucing up vegetarian dishes and stir frys
-brown sticky rice to eat with the fingers for snacks
-robust yellow squashes to slice and then simmer in olive oil, salt and pepper with a crust of blackened parmesan cheese
-beautiful and massive peaches to slice up for dessert with lemon juice or creme fraiche
 -and a cup of hearty brewed and bold coffee to enjoy the beautiful morning while shopping

I am not sure I will ever enter a conventional store again.

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