Posts Tagged ‘farm to table’

Spring has spring and oh, it is a wonderful and beautiful feeling!

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Yesterday, in the spirit of all things “springy”, I visited the Baltimore Farmers Market which is located beneath the I-83 Expressway. I was happy to see that many of the vendors from the year before were there and prices were very good, as always. I was a little sad to see less produce (fruits and veggies) as last year but I was reminded that it’s still early in the season so abundant fruits and veggies will be coming my way soon and I certainly cannot wait. The scents were overwhelming at first in a not-so-good way with a blast of fried foods, eggs cooking and that wet, outdoor, protein-rich scent where puddles of water had gathered as the vendors with cooked food products were set up. However, once we walked past that section, the scents of cheeses and fresh bread hit me which, the carb whore in me suddenly perked up and my mood was immediately elevated to new levels. It’s amazing how the feel of a cool, smooth, flawless kale leaf, the firm feel of sweet onions, or the sweet cream in those old-fashioned milk bottles can make me appreciate the animals, and earth from which we gain nourishment. So while there wasn’t as large of a selection from which to choose, I did not leave empty handed; in fact, we made two trips to the car. Besides, isn’t that what a Farmers Market is for? To get creative and get some ideas about food for the week that you may be lucky enough to change up next week!

Below are seven helpful hints of things I’ve learned from experience (and inexperience!) but before I get to that, here’s my usual “Good, Bad and Ugly” breakout:

The Good:

  • Most vendors were pleasant and seemed happy to be there. I will definitely return with much cash to encourage the feeling of happiness and warmth when interacting with these awesome folks. As I go there more this year, I will share more about the individual vendors…
  • The food was so fresh and so clean, clean!! The fish smelled and looked fresh, as did the buffalo, kale, collard greens, onions (red and sweet), sweet (heavy) cream, half and half, pressed olive oil, and avocado honey, among other products.
  • The co$t of all items I listed above were about a hundred dollars and twenty dollars. Yes! I got all of that for $100! Suck it, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter!! MUAHAHA
  • There’s not only produce and meat, there’s soaps, jewelry, clothing, and an entire section with cooked breakfast and lunch items, including coffee, delicious little donuts (that were featured on the Baltimore news recently for their tastiness), freshly made smoothies and juices, sandwiches, omelets, etc.
  • Abu the flutemaster. This gentleman at the opening close to the I-83 exit makes all of his instruments from PVC pipes, plastic funnels, etc., he plays them well and they sound very good!
  • The connections with people. I randomly met a Facebook friend in person and was able to share a few minutes of conversation and camaraderie.

The Bad:

  • If you’re not a morning person (which I’m not!) the “getting there” aspect is a bit tough on a Sunday. The vendors are there from ~7 AM to 12 noon. So don’t go partying like a rock star on Saturday night unless you’re in your 20s still and can do that sort of thing on two hours of sleep. 🙂
  • Sometimes parking can be a pain but if you plan it right (see the helpful hints below), you can walk a few blocks with ease and not worry about the parking.
  • For some, there may be an issue with the number of homeless people who are around asking for money or food. I’m not bothered by a homeless person and prefer to give food, etc., but some of the people I’ve encountered in the past can be very demanding while others aren’t rude or abusive.
  • There were two vendors who didn’t make my “pleasant” cut.
    • One was just kind of “cutting” with her tone because I pronounced the name of some greens inaccurately (my tongue was not feeling the word, “Mesclun” at o’dark thirty AM. She said it was because she had just taken a swig of a potent smoothie, which was fine if that’s the case, but I felt like I was being judged a bit by my inability to state my order. I ended up just pointing to the wretchedly worded greenery as I asked sheepishly for a pound of it.
    • The other vendor was the Caribbean food vendor who sold cooked items. This man was rude and even if his products weren’t dry and overly seasoned (I promise you that the statement is accurate and not based on his demeanor. After all, I know my Caribbean items!), I will not spend my money or recommend his products. Unfortunately, he may have been from an Island and I had to sigh at my Caribbean peeps and their ‘tudes. Why? Here’s a play-by-play:
      • Me: Is the Caribe pollo item spicy?
      • Vendor: The ingredients are listed right there.
      • Me: What kind of… [as I raised my arm to point to the part of the sign that said, “peppers” I was immediately cut off]
      • Vendor: Right there. It’s listed there. Not spicy. [giving me an irritated look as if I asked if he had washed his hands before serving the food or something offensive]. Either way, he appeared aggravated that I didn’t just place an order and move on. Apparently, this someone had watched a little too much, “Soup Nazi” Seinfeld episodes!
      • Me: Okay, well your ingredients list peppers and I need to know what kind.
      • Vendor: Oh, multi type. Sweet peppers.
      • Me: Okay, that’s all I wanted to know. I’ll take it. [Thinking, “was that so freekin hard!? I’m never going to spend my money here again.”]

The Ugly:

  • There is nothing ugly about this Farmers Market thus far!

 Natasha’s Helpful Hints

  1. Get there before 9 AM if you want parking spots relatively close to the market. This Baltimore Farmers Market It’s located below the I-83 expressway ramp so while it’s convenient to access, remember to pay attention to the metered parking signs and parking lots that clearly warn you against parking in them or you may be ticketed and/or towed. It’s in the heart of the city and tow truck drivers don’t seem to sleep.
  2. Take ca$h! Most of these vendors do not accept credit cards for small purchases. Many take cards for larger purchases like the items for $25 and up, etc. but for the most part, cash is king there.
  3. Take large cloth carrying bags. They have soft handles that are more comfortable for walking longer distances, and you can place a lot of the smaller bags of items you purchase.
  4. Return your empty cream, milk and olive oil bottles to the vendor for saving$!
    1. The creamery vendor took $2 off the purchase when they have their glass bottle back.
    2. The olive oil vendor takes $5 or so dollars off the purchase when you return the olive oil glass jar.
  5. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes! Sometimes with all the walking on an uneven surface, with dogs, children and crowds, your feet will be stepped on and it’s not a club people…don’t go getting mad when people accidentally step on your toes. It can get pretty hot with large crowds of people so dress for summer time.
  6. If you don’t like a vendor’s attitude or products, walk around. Chances are, there are more vendors selling the same products. You’re there for a good deal and fresh produce. Scope out the competition. But please remember that the vendors need to make money too and they’re often better and fresher than the supermarket chains so don’t be a cheap bastard and get upset with the prices if they’re mostly consistent. If you really think they’re expensive, leave and go to your supermarket. Don’t make the experience a bad one for others.
  7. Smile! Talk with the vendors only if they’re not busy. I’ve found that everyone (except the two I mentioned above in the “bad” section), were willing to tell me about their products, such as, the day the fish were picked up from the fishermen, the small business fees when paying with a credit card, etc.

Have you been to the Farmers Market in your town or neighboring city? Or the one in Baltimore and/or DC? Tell me about it!

Happy Spring!

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Giving thanks and food was the #1 topic in the U.S this past week. It coincides nicely with this post in my Wonderful Humans series. This wonderful human is someone I’m thankful to have in my life as a friend and fellow lover of good food and drink, Mara L. I measure friends in many ways, some of which include being fun, caring, thoughtful and generous and of these traits, she is all, and then some. She made the list not only because she’s a friend, but because she is a person with one of the biggest hearts that I’ve met in awhile, but not in a bad medical way or anything, and because she loves to feed strays like me!

This woman’s home kitchen skills is like going to a fancy, organic (soup?) kitchen for working folks with discernible palettes. I joke about the soup kitchen aspect because she feeds us for free and expects nothing in return. The meals she prepares are always nutritious and tasty with farm to table ingredients that are prepared in a variety of yummy ways. Let’s see, there’s been numerous ethnic styles of dishes and to top it off, or rather, whet our appetites for the middle eastern styled meal at a recent dinner, she hired a belly dancer to perform. Let’s just pause here for a second and take a poll. How many people have been to someone’s  home where they were treated to a surprise belly dancer performance? I didn’t think so…oh, and just ‘cause I know y’all, no, strippers don’t count.

While the free food and filling of my belly should be enough to fill this post, this is just one of the reasons I consider her a wonderful human. When so many were worried about the economy and the troubles that would befall them, she still opened her home up on numerous Saturday evenings to friends and their friends and significant others for dinner, without asking for anything in return. She wanted to continue perfecting her already amazing cooking skills and to find a way to connect with friends outside of social media.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of living out loud and having fun, let’s just say that if fire-hooping and fun dance parties sound appealing, you and she have similar spirits. For those wondering, because I really do know some of my blog readers, she is a real person and not just an imaginary friend or firehooping fantasy in my head. Pfft.

What else…? Ah yes, how could I forget?! Kidding! I can’t forget to share that her husband is just as kind, cool and a friend as well. If not, how else would we still be eating free of charge at her house? 🙂 Goes to show that good people do attract other good people.

Oh, and just to show that not only do we eat and drink, which, let’s face it, is about 80% of what we do, they supported me at not just one of my mild and mellow, burn some sage and other incense at a poetry reading. No, these two were almost in the middle of the melee when a poetry partner and I hosted a poetry show at the Gladys Knight Chicken and Waffles restaurant, where obnoxious bar patrons heckled the poets all through the night. Granted, the show was sponsored by the alcohol, Patron. Needless to say, I never want to host a supposed mellow poetry show sponsored by alcohol again…I will just continue to take it in boxes to their house for the dinner parties!

Yes, some may say that this is just a post about a friend and yes, while it is, it’s a post that will hopefully remind us to enjoy some of the (dare I say, more?) important things in life such as having enough, and at times, too much, food in this country, and to hopefully, pay the kindness forward, and above all, cherish the wonderful humans in your life. Don’t wait for the holidays to show appreciation for what you have, do it every day.