With my growing desire to Know My Food, I’ve been yearning for a real farmer’s market. I was getting worried that too many fakes were popping up around here. I saw one market that was basically just conventional food, probably whatever the grocery stores didn’t take, being sold on the roadside in my very suburban neighbourhood. This was last fall right after we moved here. I only saw them about three times before the season ended (or they got found out). Whoever they were, I sure wasn’t going to form the kind of relationship with the grower that Barbara Kingsolver wrote about in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
There were a couple other ones I attended last summer, but again it wasn’t really what I was looking for. There were too many people selling too many things that had little, if anything, to do with what I was going to put on the table (unless you consider organic beeswax candles scented with real herbal tea infusions something that goes on your table). Not that I have anything against people selling natural products but I was looking for Food. I wanted to speak to the people who grew the food, knew where it came from and how it was grown.
I asked around my crunchy friends and of course they steered me straight. Apparently there are a couple of really good farmers markets in town and they aren’t too far from where we live (though we do have to go Into The City). Of course the bummer is that they only hold them on Saturdays. So after going through all this effort to tailor my life so I don’t have to join the tide of rush hour refugees, trying to cram everything they really want to do in life into their weekend, it looks like I will now have to do my food shopping on a Saturday morning. Bummer.
Nevertheless, I’m growing increasingly dissatisfied with the produce at our local big box supermarket. The more I read, the more pathetic the stuff in the store looks to me. Apples that alternate between bruised and mushy to looks-really-good-but-isn’t-ripe and therefore is also not very tasty. There is nothing in the store to tell me whether a food is in season or not, unless you consider price an indicator. For example, I bought some asparagus last week because the price seemed really good (1.98/lb). Usually it is over $2.50/lb. And I thought I remembered reading in AVM that asparagus was one of their first spring crops (the recipe for asparagus and morel bread pudding made my mouth water!). I’m also frustrated that I can’t tell where alot of the stuff came from. Oh sure, the Swiss Chard had little twist-ties wrapped around them with “Product of Mexico” stamped on them. The bagged organic apples say “Product of Canada” yet apparently come from Ontario. I’m not sure why we need to ship apples 3000 miles across the continent. And Ontario is freezing compared to here in BC, so how is it they’re growing apples and we’re not? Most of the loose produce does not indicate where it was grown. And the tomatoes, don’t even get me started…if they have any that aren’t bruised and rotten, they’re barely ripe. I only buy “on the vine” tomatoes because even though they still aren’t as good as the home-grown variety, at least they actually smell like a tomato (takes me right back to my grandfather’s garden). The other ones have no scent at all. I’m currently reading The End of Food and the first chapter is about tomatoes – it’s called “Red Tennis Balls” and now I know why.
But…farmer’s markets don’t start up here until another month or more, so I figured I was just going to have to wait. Then I mentioned it to a friend who read AVM long before I did and whattaya know? The wonderful folks at Eatlocal.org started a Winter Farmer’s Market last year! There are only two buying days left for this season, but one is tomorrow, so go ahead – ask me what I’m doing tomorrow! I’m particularly excited about these guys because I’ve been trying to find an ethical source for pork (I love me some pork sausages!) and I can’t wait to see what they have on offer. I hope I get a chance to talk to some of the vendors and find out more about what’s available locally.