Saturday, August 10, 2013

Garden to Table

Currently Reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

With summer comes an obsession with food that I cannot (and will not) ignore. I itch to tackle every farmer's market within a 50 mile radius, even driving long distances to wander past tents and feast my eyes on the abundance; I stare at vegetables and fruits, soaking in their colors; I make "Dear Santa" lists of new and different recipes I want to try, with a zest unmatched in the warmer months when shopping for food becomes a chore, rather than an adventure. Unless I'm in a rush, cooking is a delightful hobby, one that I really enjoy and take my time with. I love lifting the cover off my CrockPot to see firm yogurt where there was milk just 5 hours before. Cracking eggs is one of my favorite things to do. I could stand over a pot of butternut squash soup for hours, just smelling it. With my husband at my side, my kitchen becomes my playground. (He'll tell you this isn't true when I'm tired and cranky. He would be right.) Some of my favorite recipes lately: Tortellini with summer squash and peppers (thank you to my friend Joanna for that idea!); enchiladas; honey wheat bread; green bean and chicken salad; veggie fritatta; and zucchini muffins.

I don't label myself when it comes to food. I don't eat only organic, I'm not vegetarian or vegan, I'm not a pure locavore, and I don't abstain from gluten or dairy or anything else YahooNews tells us is bad for us this week. We eat less meat in our household than most people but we usually have at least one meat meal a week. We do stay away from highly processed food, as I choose to make it myself if I can. The yogurt, cereal, stock, beans, salad dressings, granola bars, dips, and doughs in our house are all made from scratch. (I hope to add more to this list as time goes on.) And I try to make all of our meals from scratch as well. No frozen or boxed dinners in my kitchen! So I suppose I am a "from scratch" kind of foodie, reclaiming food production as much as possible for a person without a garden or greenhouse. (And believe me, I've already started planning those.) But these decisions are my own and are not necessarily the answer for everybody. Not everyone has the time, opportunity, or money to make the same food decisions and I respect that. And I know a lot of people who make even stricter, and better, food decisions than I do. We all do what is best for us. My least favorite thing is someone pushing their own lifestyle on me, so I refrain from doing the same. While food and how it's made is very important to me and my family, it's not always a priority for others. And that is just fine with me. The one thing I will always promote, however, is the farmer's market. Or as I like to call it: heaven-on-earth.

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This morning, my mom, aunt, and I went to a local farmer's market, my first time to that particular one this year. I was giddy for days, in anticipation. While I usually hate to wake up before 7:00, if a farmer's market is the destination, there is no such thing as too early. The morning was perfect- a blend of blue sky and warm breeze that seems to be a special trademark of the Midwest. Music was already playing in the gazebo as we approached. The square was bustling and full- of flower stalls and craft tables, families enjoying a picnic on the lawn, the heavenly aroma of baked goods, produce of every shape and color, a multitude of dogs on leashes, the scent of homemade soap, and above it all, a sense of familiarity and community. It sounds too perfect to be true. But it's not. This is how grocery shopping should be.

Farmer's market people are like pet people- friendly, helpful, and talkative. I find myself chatting with vendors about the location of their farms, which library they go to, where the milk came from in that amazing block of feta cheese. I love to just wander past the stalls, imagining these vegetables and fruits in the soil only a few days before, trying to visualize where they grew and what they will taste like. I find myself inadvertently reflecting on the wonder of shopping locally and being more of an active part of the garden-to-table process. At the farmer's market and in my kitchen, I feel my healthiest, strong in body and soul, proud of where my money goes and excited about the new swag I bring home. Shopping at the farmer's market is the best therapy I know. Today, the therapy resulted in bags of summer squash, swiss chard, bell peppers, red leaf lettuce, corn on the cob, eggplant, and feta cheese. And Mom scored some fantastic apple cider donuts- breakfast in the morning!

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I've been feeding my food/cooking craze with Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, an inspirational read that serves as part gardening guide, part expose, part farming memoir; and some awesome cookbooks: Local Flavors by Deborah Madison; Make-Ahead Meals Made Healthy by Michele Borboa; and of course, my go-to cookbook Bible, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. New books I'm excited about: Michael Pollan's Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, Slow Food Nation by Carlo Petrini, and Real Food by Nina Planck. I have three weeks off from school and I have big plans. Making cheese (or at least ordering the ingredients.) Trying new vegetables (I'm looking at you, eggplant). Blanching fresh ears of corn. New types of bread. Oh yes. It is going to be a great month in my kitchen.

What do you love best about the farmer's market? Is there a particular food that gets you going? Do you have any recipes (or your favorite cookbooks) to share? I love more inspiration! :)


  1. I notice you reading a Bill Bryson book. My mum met him a few years ago. :) Great post. xx

    1. Thanks Kate! How exciting- I love Bill Bryson! Is he as great in real life as he is in his books?

    2. My mum only met Bill briefly but she said he was very funny. :)


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