FOODIE FRIDAY: FARMERS MARKET FINDS
I travel a lot with work (ha, no kidding!) and usually the guests come and use the boat over the weekends, so very often I cannot get away on a Saturday to take advantage of local farmer’s markets…not to mention the fact that it’s a real pain in the a** to try and get ashore, then find transport to said market when you don’t have a car. Furthermore, my hours are such that unless somewhere is open before 6am, I am likely not to get there (with guests on) as my workday starts quite early, and there are usually no breaks. This is completely irrelevant to the Farmer’s Market Discussion, but a view into the life of a yacht chef may in some way explain some of my behaviour.
Farmer’s Markets. I love them. When we were based in Savannah for some of 2015-2016, I got into the habit of going to the market in Forsyth Park every weekend. It was part of the rhythm of Saturday: get up, go to SteadFast for the Saturday AM CrossFit class, then head over to the park to get our weekly proteins and vegetables and eggs. Then a coffee somewhere (Sentient Bean or Foxy’s) and home to process the veggies before stuffing them all into the fridge to be cooked for weekly food prep the next day. I absolutely LOVED this Saturday ritual. I talked to the people selling the food, found out where and how they ran their farms and what level of care they took with the crops and animals. I got to know a few interesting characters along the way (the mushroom foraging guy comes to mind…who seems to know a hell of a lot about the ‘good’ and ‘interesting’ species…and his buddy who does the aquaponics).
The thing about going to a farmer’s market or a farm stand is that you are getting food that is in season NOW. Also, the food is grown locally, so the carbon footprint is a hell of a lot less than buying something grown on another continent, or even the other side of the country. This also means that the dollars you spend are getting to the people that did the work and put the care into producing the food, rather than a lot of it going to shipping costs and middle-men. You are supporting a small business.
Eating seasonally will force you to try new vegetables and fruits and expand your horizons a bit. Last year, I arrived in Savannah right at the start of peach season. We don’t actually eat a lot of fruit, but I can tell you that we GORGED ourselves on the local peaches. We had peaches in salads, I made bbq sauce, preserves, had them as dessert and snacks: it was wonderful. When it was over, I felt mildly bereft. Now that I am in New England, peach season was upon us in August (season is a bit later this far north) so I made the most of it again.
Last year I found out there was such a thing as red okra. We ate that endlessly for a while and I canned it too. Then later in the fall, who knew that the local farmers would be planting all sorts of radishes as a pre-winter cover crop?? Or purple carrots so dark that they died my hands, cutting board and tongue purple?
After several months in Savannah, I was doing 90% of our grocery shopping at the weekly market, going to the grocery store for pantry items and a few things (shocker) not locally available. I was getting shrimp from the guys on the shrimp dock in Thunderbolt, eggs from local sources. It was fantastic. Because we mostly eat vegetables and proteins eschewing various processed foods and spending our dollars on fresh stuff comes easy.
When you are at a market and see things that you cannot identify, have no clue how to cook, instead of sticking to the same-old, same-old…why not ask the person selling whatever (it) is and how best to cook it? You may just discover a new thing that you will love!
Cooking and prepping all this fresh, season produce also lends itself to a very important style of food prep. For politeness sake, I will call it K.I.S.S. food preparation. Really, in my mind I think of it as: Don’t F*&% with nature Cooking. Don’t mess stuff up! You don’t need to overthink this. If it is fresh, came out of the ground or off a bush or tree very recently, likely washing the outside and cutting it up into bite-size pieces is enough. Maybe toss a little olive oil and Maldon salt on there…or steam it, or roast it or whatever, but for goodness sake, let the ingredients SHINE. Probably you have heard some celebrity chef or other talk about letting the ingredients speak…for themselves. This is where we do this, people. Not everything needs a fancy sauce, incredible amounts of preparation etc etc. KISS cooking also has the advantage of taking very little time.
So if you are a person that lives on land and in a place that has farm stands or a weekly market, I think it’s worth checking out. Yes, I am totally making a plug writing this blog post for local farms, local farmers, local food supply, seasonal eating, and essentially, quality food!
Fair winds and following seas…