Like many people interested in food, I adore farmers’ markets. Whether the markets are vast or tiny, quietly meandering past stalls laden with artisanal foods is one of (my) life’s simple pleasures.
Our little English town’s market has an impressive number of producing participants. My favourites are the cheese makers, with so many types of cheddar it is hard to choose (but, mature cheddar with stem ginger is one I always have room for in my straw bag), and the lady who sells goat meat—this one is not a favourite because I like goat meat, I’ve not tried it, she is a favourite of mine simply by virtue of what she offers; so far from the well trodden aisles of main stream, grocery stores. I can’t pass the wild boar stall without buying some form of this medieval meat. Boar sausage, stew meat or chops; to me wild boar tastes like a sumptuous cross between pork and beef. I like the idea that it is the same meat the people of this area ate half a millennia ago.
Standing back and looking at the produce stall, brimming with all that just-pulled-from-the-ground winter veg, is as lovely as taking in a still life oil painting. Muddy and fragrant with the moist earth clinging to its once inhabitant, you can practically smell the cell-multiplying force that brought those root vegetables into existence.
I have a particular soft spot for potatoes. Knobby and imperfect; barely any resemblance to their pristine tuber cousins that lay in plastic bags along Sainsbury’s shelves.
Shopping in a farmers’ market is so much more of a sensory experience than shopping in a chain grocery store. It is so much more satisfying, contemplative and calming.
Of course, I can’t buy everything I feed my family from local farmers’ markets; they are more of a weekly treat. I slog through the massive grocery stores the other six days. But once a week, for that hour or so that I wander, mind-adrift through the farmers’ market, when I can see, smell, touch and taste produce created by people who are passionate about its very existence, I experience some sort of gastronomic nirvana.
The food I buy will fill my belly, but the market itself fills my spirit.