Volunteering at my local farmer’s market, working with kids, making food together – things like applesauce, corn salad, pesto and purple dip with broccoli, (sneaking in some nutritional facts and lessons), has been for me, and I think, the kids and their parents, a lot of fun, as well as our weekly get together to share food, new recipes and giggles. Over the course of the summer, I’ve met some good people. People I now consider friends. These people are farmers, producers, other volunteers, kids, parents and market regulars. The farmer’s and producers (as well, of course as my fellow volunteers) are hard working people. The market starts selling at 9 am, we start setting up at 8 am, so I can’t even imagine what time the farmers and producers get up to drive to the market in downtown Toronto from their farms/homes outside the city. And this is not the only market they bring food to. I’ve seen many of them at countless markets throughout the city. So, they’re selling their produce at markets, working their farms, making food, cleaning food, transporting it, displaying it, selling it, doing their book keeping, planning next year’s crops, planting, cultivating and doing a lot more. I wonder – when do they sleep? And when I see these farmers and producers at the market, they’re on. From the minute they get to the market and set up their stalls they’re moving. Barely a second to breathe. Ready to tell you about their produce, sharing recipes, helping you pack that giant squash into your bag and scrambling to get more eggs onto their tables. And always with smiles on their faces.
Even last Sunday, when the weather was miserable, rainy and cold. Although early October, many of us were wearing mittens! Still, we were all out there, at the market we love, standing in the rain, still smiling.
It was slower than usual at the market so I did my shopping early. I went to Highmark Farms to buy purple potatoes, yams, garlic, carrots and hot peppers. As usual, they put extra produce into my basket and didn’t charge me for it. I didn’t ask for it – it’s just what they do. I don’t know about you, but my big supermarket has never done that. I also wanted to purchase mini pumpkins to serve up the purple dip I was making with the kids. Highmark donated those pumpkins. Most of the produce we use when working with the kids is donated by the farmers and producers.
Because the market was slow, I decided to go home and whip up a big pot of squash soup to pass out to all the cold and wet vendors at the market. Home I trundled with all my veggies. I’m the type of person that often doesn’t use recipes. I just decided to use the produce Highmark had just given me, as well as a couple of butternut squashes given to me by my neighbours. Like the squash, I’m pretty sure that a lot of the produce from the market had come out of the ground or was picked, the previous day. This freshness, as I cut into a carrot, made a sound. Sounds odd, but that sound triggered some thinking. I’ve never cut into a supermarket carrot and heard that sound. Where did that carrot from the supermarket come from? Outside of Toronto?, Ontario? Some far off land? Do I have a connection with that supermarket carrot, like I do with the carrot I bought from my friends. How about the beets I wanted to purchase from the supermarket the other day (because I forgot to buy them from the farmer’s market the previous week). I went to 2 supermarkets and their beets were labelled, ‘produce of U.S.A’. Why?, I thought. I passed on those beets. We have perfectly good, if not better beets right here. I’d wait and buy them from our market. I’m thinking though, that I’m going to ask the produce managers at the supermarkets why their beets come from the States. I’m curious.
So, why am I so lucky?
I’m lucky because I was able to experience the sound of my food. Not because I had just remembered that I should be mindful of my food (because I learned that at my meditation class), but because (this is going to sound so ‘out there’) the food spoke to me. It made a sound when I cut into it. A very distinct sounding crunch. A sound of freshness. It made me stop to think about why it made a sound. About where that food came from. Who grew it. When it was picked. How many hands touched it. How it got to my kitchen.
Often I’ve thought about the taste, texture, smell and visual of my food, but this was new. This sound.
Yeah, I’ve heard my food before, when I’ve crunched into an apple or chewed on some fresh almonds, but this was different. Because it made me stop. And wonder. And I have to say, that after all these decades of being alive, that I’m glad that something as simple as a carrot can make me stop and think and experience it in a new way.
So, thank you to the people who bring me the food that makes me think, and enjoy and listen – you make my life richer.