In Germany, this was one of the first ways I integrated into regular life in Amberg. I went to the market square several times each week to shop. I had to speak German, and so my food vocabulary grew faster than anything else. It didn’t take long for vendors to start to recognize me, and they were so kind about my weak, apprehensive Deutsch. It felt so good to me to be going about life just like the people around me, buying ingredients for that night’s dinner, discovering food items that were unique to the region.I know that shopping frequently is really unusual (and probably seems crazy to many) in the USA. Most families shop as little as possible, stocking up their cupboards, fridges and freezers. That’s just not what I am used to, and it feels good to me to shop often, planning my meals each day around what looks best.Farmers markets are making a comeback in England. Most areas have had them for about ten years, at the most. Bury St. Edmunds is considered a market town, because they have two markets each week. Unlike the typical markets in the US (or Germany, in my experience) these have a lot more going on than fresh produce. There are people selling pretty much anything you can think of– clothes, books, home repair items, dog beds, fabric and notions, vacuum cleaners… The feeling is definitely different from the sort of country-bliss scene you might expect in a place like Suffolk. The other thing is that most of the produce is not local! Much of it is imported from places like Greece, Turkey, Spain, and even China. And it is cheap– in quality and price. It was fairly easy to pick out the two vendors that were selling mainly local produce, and they are the ones I buy from each week. There is also a really good fish monger, and we try to have a seafood meal once or twice a week.And, at last, we have an organic farm selling at our market! This is a really big deal. Plus, they carry heirloom varieties, and lots of greens– something I have found conspicuously absent here, with the exception of cabbages. Yes, their produce costs more. But it is worth more. I try to buy as much as I possibly can from them, after carefully considering the most economical way to do so. They have the most incredible salad greens right now, which are a tart and peppery blend of arugula, sorrel, mizuna, frisee, miners lettuce, and mustard greens. And they are one of the only ones selling fresh herbs (really surprising, right?) So now I enjoy the busy market days more than ever. It’s a nice time to be out with the rest of the town. English people do tend to keep to themselves, so this is one venue where I can participate in town life, chat with the vendors who all recognize me now, and are happy to see me, amazingly enough! And of course, there are always the flowers… They were four bunches for £5 today, so I brought some home and made this bouquet:
I’m so glad for our market! I consider myself lucky to live in a “market town” here in England, and do not take access to fresh, organic produce for granted.
Do you have access to a market where you live? What is your first memory of shopping at an open market?