Friday, May 20, 2011

Lester's Food Tour Hits the Big Time

Last summer, my friend, Lester Esser and I organized a Farmer's Market Shopping Tour as a way of helping people get the most our of what they could find there. We had a blast, and learned a lot from Lester, a personal chef. And that was the point: how many times have you been to a farmer's market and come home with the same four veggies you always buy in any supermarket? Having a chef lead us in our shopping experience meant we could ask questions-- what IS that? How would I cook this? We challenged our shoppers to buy one thing they'd never tried before and incorporate it into their meals that evening. Lester also brought us to his favorite gourmet food shops that are peppered around Rozzie Square, so we got to discover secret places to find the most amazing balsamic vinegar, fresh cheeses, fresh-cut meats and many ethnic ingredients. In all, it was a fantastic afternoon, and we all came away with a renewed enthusiasm for shopping farmer's markets.

Now Lester has developed a regular schedule of market tours. You can read about his new program, featured here on Boston.com today (Congrats Lester! A Teachable Feast is very proud!)

Watch here for info on a potential Lester Esser tour of Attleboro's Farmer's Market, later this season.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A farmer's market is the ultimate teachable feast

In just under an hour from now, I will go to my local library to attend an organizing meeting for a new farmer's market that's slated to launch in about a month's time here in Attleboro.

I am thrilled at the prospect. I'd been experiencing some farmer's market envy after touring the amazing and beautiful Roslindale market with A Teachable Feast and Chef Lester Esser last summer. I know there are other good markets nearby, but to have the chance to help create an awesome market right here--one that I can walk to (selfish of me, I know)--is really wonderful.

Of course, being able to buy fresh local produce and support local food artisans and growers is also a huge attraction.

But there is another: it's the chance to bond with my community as I ponder a head of lettuce or wonder how to cook that dinosaur kale. A farmer's market is a wonderful place to meet my neighbors and talk face to face, no electronic medium in the way, and learn something new.

In my continuing quest to learn—and share knowledge— about food, I see the farmer's market as a central kind of living textbook. You simply have to ask the farmer-- What is this? How do I cook it? How do I store it? What shall I serve with it? How do I know when it is ripe/fresh/sour/rotten?

I am the kind of learner who wants my teacher by my side as I discover something new, so I can say "Am I doing this right?" or "Why did that happen?"

I love cooking classes for this reason, and will soon launch a new season of food learning opportunities. My good friend Lester Esser, chef par excellence, will be leading more market tours in Roslindale this year. And now, with the new market coming to Attleboro, we hope to collaborate on a few local market tours as well. These tours give shoppers the chance to learn from a chef (and Lester has deep and wide food knowledge) about the foods you'll find in a farmer's market. He can tell you how to choose the right peppers for the job, for example, or tell you about the subtle taste differences in tomato varieties. You can go tent-to-tent, table-to-table with him, and ask him "what IS this thing anyway?" He's fairly tough to stump, so you'll learn a lot.

I do hope the new market is open to having a food knowledge program attached to the selling operation. I know several cooks and gardeners right in our community who could share their passion for food in a way that helps customers go home excited to try their fresh goodies. This learning connection will bring them back, and strengthen the bonds between growers and buyers, neighbors to neighbors. People will want to shop in the farmer's market, because the fresh food is not only better tasting and better for them, but because it comes with new ideas, and new relationships with their community, and that is well worth their support.

Well, I'm off to the meeting... stay tuned!