Last weekend I attended my first Winter Farmer' Market. I organized a tour of the market for fellow dietitians to learn more about local food systems and we had the good fortune of having the Markets' Executive Director, Tara McDonald, give us a tour and a history of the market. The winter market takes place at the WISE Hall, which is just one block east of Commercial on Adanac and we were treated to the first sunny clear day that week on which to explore the surprising display of abundance. I continue to try and convince myself to carry my camera so I can put some fun photos up on the blog. After market day, I actually charged the battery and promise to get snapping.
Vendors spill out of the hall (next year the market will move to a larger venue) and down the street. 2009 marked the first year that demand overwhelmed capacity for the farmer's market society. Vancouverites are walking the walk when it comes to eating local and the market was packed all morning and food was getting bought up quickly. From low mercury, line caught tuna and biodynamic squash to grass fed meat and beautiful organic spelt bread from Rise (which I devoured almost immediately), the market shuts down any dispute that you can't eat local in January. Almost everything you need is here: gorgeous greens from Forstbauer biodynamic, legendary potatoes (I loved the banana fingerlings) from Helmer's in Pemberton, succulent olives from Dundarave olives ( I could write pages about picholines...which take me immediately back to Provence) and even some locally made kombucha - which I didn't try but will pick up next time for sure.
So often I feel like most of our problems with food and eating stem from a true disconnection from what food is and where it comes from. Food raised for export favours woody, tasteless varieties picked early to survive a long journey to our tables. Commodities such as corn become more food type substances than you could ever imagine: various shapes, sizes and artificial flavours in brightly coloured and agressively marketed packages that leave us wondering what food actually is anymore.
I grew up with a huge vegetable garden, a grandfather that spent his weekends fishing and a kitchen that was constantly turning out real food: bread made from scratch, left to rise on the kitchen table; pies brimming with cherries from the tree outside the window and salads made with vegetables picked just an hour before. Growing up around food connects you in a way that a lifetime eating boxed and bagged fare can't. Like most condo dwellers, I too obtain the vast majority of my food in a supermarket (thank goodness for Choices). While many West Coast retailers take advantage of local foods, it is visiting a farmer's market that lets you get a bit of that connection back. Don't know what to do with kohlrabi? Ask the person who grew it! Find out what biodynamic agriculture is....or why granny smiths make a better pie. And rediscover what food should taste like - food picked just a day earlier instead of two weeks earlier and shipped across the country. Greens that taste like the earth, not like water and new flavours like sunchokes or kabocha squash. The market is filled with small scale farmers - not those selling the cash crops of cranberries and blueberries but those doing the incredibly noble work of feeding us with a variety of winter crops. Whatever can be grown, is grown and then put on offer at the market. And buying from the market provides the farmer with more money for his crops so that his family might farm another year.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention La Boheme - the crepe truck of my dreams. By noon the line up was at least 10 thick for these amazingly satisfying buckwheat crepes filled with any number of creations. My friend Heather had an apple and ricotta number and I went for the cranberry brie...the crepe perfectly tender crisp and flaky, filled with generous wedges of brie and cranberry preserve, just a touch of bechamel and gorgeous winter greens. I have been dreaming about it ever since....
The next winter market is this Saturday January 30th from 10:00AM. Get there early, get a crepe and laugh at how ridiculously lucky we are to live in Vancouver. More information? http://www.eatlocal.org/
Let them eat crepes,