Friday, July 8, 2011

Food Lessons and Confessions

First, a Food Lesson:
This Saturday, at the Attleboro Farmers Market, A Teachable Feast will be presenting a very simple and fun food demonstration by a friend and local chef, Peter Brown. Peter will be showing us how to grill pineapples and peaches to bring a whole new kind of flavor to summer meals.
I know grilling fruit is not exactly a new idea, but for some people, it really is. This demonstration will show us how to shop for pineapples and peaches—what do they look and feel like when they are ripe or over-ripe? Then we'll learn how to properly—and safely—cut them, especially pineapples. Grilling is likely the easiest part, but Peter will show us how to know when to take fruit off the grill, at the moment when the sweet caramelization happens, right before things go all mushy. That's where a little knowledge can make a big difference between happy eating and no eating at all.

That's the thing about food: if you know what you're doing with it, you can find endless joy and satisfaction. If you don't, you may well find frustration, hunger, and lots of extra garbage.

Which brings me to a Food Confession:
Last week, at the very first Attleboro Farmers Market, I challenged myself (and readers of this blog) to buy one item that was new to me. I ended up with a beautiful bunch of fennel—which ended up in the trash. How?! Well, I had a crazy week, the meal I planned that included the fennel was changed, then we had a few meals away from home so that, when I reached into the vegetable crisper in the fridge yesterday, I pulled out a droopy, un-yummy-looking piece of green vegetation formerly known as fennel. So, what did I learn from this? First, when you are buying a new-to-you fresh food, be sure to ask not only how to cook and serve it, but HOW TO STORE IT. I may have been able to get a week of life out of that fennel with proper storage. Of course, the whole point of buying fresh and local is to use what you buy immediately in order to get the most out of it. But I am a flawed human being (yes, I know that's not easy to read..) and I can't always run home from the market and whip up an amazing meal. There are kids to chase and a house to fix, and oh yes, there's that job.

In any case, no use in beating oneself up over droopy fennel. There are newer, fresher things in my immediate future. See you at the market!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

To market! To market! Taste the joy!

The Attleboro Farmers Market opens today, just up the road apiece from my house. I am thrilled to have the chance to shop local without even driving! I've told everyone I know and I hope folks will make the trip into the center of town, to the parking lot of the Attleboro Public Library, to support the many local farmers, artisans and craftspeople who have vendor booths there. You can get the full list at the AFM website. The list of vendors is expected to change weekly, so be sure you make the AFM the first stop on your Saturday errands from now until October.
The market's manager, Heather Porreca, has been an amazing whirlwind of positive energy around town all spring as she and a small crew of dedicated citizens worked to bring the new market to life. I look forward to working with them this summer, to help tell the story of the market and create opportunities for all kinds of learning about food and the local food economy.

You can start learning today at the AFM. Here's how:
When I go to any kind of farmers' market, I make a point of buying something I may not have tried before. I challenge each of you to do the same. Maybe you've never had Brussels Sprouts, or Dinosaur Kale, or even some of the fancier varieties of tomatoes now available. Buy a few. Ask the farmer how to cook it. Or go home and look it up. Try it. Do this every week. You may not love everything, but you will be surprised at how much you will like, and discover by season's end, that your menus at home and your palette have broadened in new ways. You may even feel proud when you mention the fabulous dinner you had last night, with the zebra tomatoes or the banana peppers. There's joy in these subtle changes. Taste it! And then come back to the market and do it again!