Sunday, September 17, 2006

Market Go Round

It's been quiet in the kitchen this weekend as other priorities have pulled me out of the house for long stretches of time, causing me to eat out more than usual.

But I can't let the weekend slip by without a report from the farmers' market... not when the produce this week was so good that I made two rounds.

On the first round, I picked up those heavy items that will keep a long time: plump orange sweet potatoes from the new farmer (I cleaned 'em out), fingerling potatoes and sweet onions and garlic from the Cheerful Lady, red potatoes and a butternut squash from the Gentleman Farmer, another pint of honey from the Bee Man, and a quart of local maple syrup.

After dropping those off, I returned eagerly to the market, much to the amusement and delight of my favorite farmers. (As they often tell me, "I've never seen anyone get as excited about food as you do!") And once again, I stocked up:

--lettuce and green beans from the Gentleman Farmer
--Roma and cherry tomatoes, plus a surprising reprise of edamame from the Tomato Farmer's wife (who was surprised herself to have enough to bring this week!)
--more fresh sage and a cucumber from the Cheerful Lady
--Fall Russet apples and Bartlett pears from the Orchardist

I carried home a lighter load the second time around since I'm winding down my food preservation for the year (with hopes for one last batch of salsa and one more of applesauce) and since I know I'll be too busy to cook much this coming week.

But I settled in with a good salad later that evening, along with a delightful book by Mike Madison called Blithe Tomato. Madison himself is an organic farmer, and this collection of short essays captured not only the local color seeking and providing the local flavors at the farmers' market but also the ups and downs of being a farmer. His realistic, honest portrayal of his struggles on the farm help you appreciate all the more the effort and the sheer grace that brings food to our tables:

For centuries, to tend a little plot of land was the fate of most of humanity, and most were ill-suited to it, and so it was looked upon as drudgery, to be escaped from if at all possible. Now hardly anyone is left who can live a comfortable life by operating a tiny farm. Now we recognize what a rare privilege it is. (p.35)

Most of his stories focus on the local personalities from his own area, but they gave me a new insight to my own local farmers, making me want to get to know and support them even more. As Mike's more famous sister, Deborah, mentions in her foreword:

And as the food we cook can't be any better than the ingredients we start with, no matter how brilliantly we shape them, we all owe a huge debt of thanks to these farmers who bring good food so close to home. (p. xii)

Amen to that!

So for the next few weeks, I may well go around the market twice on Saturday, gathering as much of the last local produce as I can stash away for winter and giving as much money as I can to my local farmers in the hopes that I'll see them again next year.

What goes around, comes around.

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