Post #536 The Best Kind of Market

July 5, 2017 at 4:46 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

No, it’s not the one where everything is free.  That market doesn’t exist.  The best kind of market is the large, open air farmer’s market type of market.  Some are better than others, and some aren’t worth going to.  We used to go to one while we lived in Maryland.  When we first started going, it was a veggie stand for a single farm.  They grew and included baked goods, then added lunch items.  They expanded to the point where it was no longer a veggie stand, or even a farmer’s market.  We stopped going.

I’ve been to open air markets all over the world.  Even when I don’t buy anything, it’s a load of fun to wander around, watch people interacting with merchants, and seeing everything on display.  Once I saw a massive pile of shoes, and people were pawing through them.  I finally figured out that it was a hunt to find two matching shoes in the right size.  We’ve found what is likely going to be our favorite market here.

It’s only about 20 minutes away, but then, in this state, nothing is very far away.  We visited once before just after we got here and were impressed, but it was still early in the season.  We’d been to a couple more since then, but preferred this one.  We went this past Saturday to get stuff in prep for the Fourth, and to test out one merchant.  There was a knife sharpening service.  And we have a set of professional quality knives.

So we planned out the morning, getting up at our normal times and taking care of the dogs, etc.  The market didn’t open until 9am, so we had time to kill so we went to one of my favorite diners, but more on that one later.  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, drove to the market, and was still ten minutes early.  The market is pretty stable, the same vendors are usually there week after week, and usually in the same spot.  It’s set up in a park so there’s a combination or cement walking paths and dirt trails.  There’s areas for kids to play, dogs to play, and musicians to play.  We were ten minutes early, and were able to park within  a couple of blocks on a hill in a fairly settled neighborhood.  We passed a few people already on their way to the market.

The first time we went there, we must have copied the address wrong because we ended up nowhere near the place.  We switched from GPS to IPhone and found it with some minor difficulty.  This time, we copied the address right, and got there like we knew what we were doing.  So the day started off right.

We entered the park and followed the path to the market.  We were immediately entranced by the vegetable stand on the left.  It was local, it was fresh, and it was abundant.  Tomatoes so ripe they would split just by looking at them.  But since we were early, no one was selling.  We wandered around to the knife sharpener.

“Hi,” I said.  “I know it’s too early to start working, but can you just accept the knives now and start sharpening in a few minutes?”

There was a younger guy with arms like an athlete, and an older guy with a personality as big as the market itself, and a sense of humor to match.  The older guy said, “Sure!  I’ve been known to start early.”

“Yeah, as often as possible,” the younger guy retorted.  I handed him our knives.  We’d brought everything except the serrated knife because we don’t like that one and want to get rid of it.  There was water drops on them from the water bottles that were in the same bag.

“Sorry,” I said wiping the butcher’s knife on my pant leg quickly.  “There’s water condensation from the water bottles in the bag.  We don’t usually store them in water.”

“It’s okay,” the older guy said while the younger guy said, “We don’t judge.”

The younger guy checked each knife for size and sharpness.  His eyebrows lifted slightly with each knife.  At the end he quoted a price and asked, “Are you a professional chef?  These are good knives.”

I shook my head.  “No, just home cooks, but we like our knives to be high quality so they work better.”

“These are some of the best.  You should see some of the stuff that comes in here.  Some of them look like people have been gardening with them.”

I laughed.  We set a time for pick up and was wandered away.  They sharpeners don’t take credit cards, and since we didn’t bring cash, we had to wait a few minutes for the booth to open where we could buy market tokens, small and large coins worth market currency.  We watched a golden retriever roll in the grass like it was the best thing in the world.   A banjo band was setting up nearby and we listened to them for a little bit.

It was the same as the last time, but this time we took our time, tried samples, joked and laughed with vendors.  We sauntered and enjoyed the weather, the people, the music.  We bought some knick knacks.  We bought some fresh bread.  We bought some veggies.  We bought some salsa.  And I went back for the tomatoes.

It was like they were calling to me.  I wanted to make a caprese salad for dinner that night to go with the super thick cut pork chops we’d bought the day before.  Before we even got to the vendor, we passed a booth selling fresh made cheeses from a local dairy.  They had mozzarella.  We bought a half pound ball of fresh mozzarella, and a half pound of smoked mozzarella.  I like smoky flavor, but not on my cheese.  Partner/Spouse likes smoked anything, except fish.  I already knew how I was going to do this salad.  I walked up to a box of ripe tomatoes and selected two that fit into the palm of my hand like they belonged there.

The proprietor stopped me.  “Oh, those are sold by the boxful.”  she said.  I know my eyebrows went up.

“Okay,”  I set them back and said, “No way I’d ever use that many tomatoes before they spoiled.”

She motioned to another pile where I could select loose ones.  “It’s mostly restaurants that the boxes are for.”

The selection from the loose pile wasn’t as delectable as in the boxes and I’m sure my disappointment showed because she said, “Tell you what, go ahead a grab a couple from that box.  I’ll find some later to fill it again.”

It didn’t take me but 10 seconds to grab the same two I’d had.  I was happy.  We ended up getting a box of cherries (which I’m still eating), the tomatoes, two bunches of radishes, some scallions, and some other veggies.

By that time, the knives were ready.  We wandered back over, spending a little more time and money at a couple of other vendors.  The knives were ready, and after a couple of minutes of friendly banter, they both wished us a pleasant day and invited us to return.

We did a few more things after that, then went home and relaxed and played with the dogs.  All the while, I was thinking about the tomatoes and mozzarella salad.  I couldn’t find fresh basil anywhere so I ended up substituting freeze dried basil.  I doesn’t reconstitute well, but does have that zing of flavor and that’s what it’s about, after all.  I arranged the tomato slices and cheese slices in a full circle on a large circular platter we have.  I filled the middle with sliced onion rings and sprinkled fresh blueberries around.  It was wonderful, but there was a lot left over.

So the next day, I used the leftover caprese salad and made homemade pizza!  It was so good!  Mine was the basic cheese pizza.  Partner/Spouse had fresh onion and sausage pizza.  It was all so good and so fresh.

You’ll be hearing about our forays to this market a lot, I think, especially as the seasons change and different produce is available.

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