Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Markets and Pies

I live near an exceedingly lovely farmer's market. It's large, has beautiful produce (especially one cute farmer boy who sells really great salad mix, but that's a different story), and lots of free cheese samples. I was really excited to visit it for the first time in a long while a few weekends ago because I've had strawberry-rhubarb pies on my mind for a while and was really hankering for one. But after half an hour of walking around and trying to catch sight of some gorgeous ruby-colored stalks (and a very embarrassing incidence where in my eagerness I mistook some swiss chard for rhubarb...) I only found some sad, de-leafed and pale rhubarb sitting in a tub. I was out of luck.

Or so I thought! It turned out that my parents had bought a strawberry-rhubarb pie independently. Perfect.

It turned out to be the worst strawberry-rhubarb pie I've ever tasted.

Maybe I'm spoiled. Maybe I've only had them lovingly homemade by Helen Chmura and Emily Hager for sunday teas fresh out of the oven, but man, this "farmstand" pie didn't even taste like strawberry or rhubarb. It tasted like... chemicals. A closer look at the filling ingredients list proved my suspicions correct: potassium sorbate AND red #40. What on earth are those things doing in my pie?? The image of an Amish mother slowly pulling pies out of the oven was completely shattered (wait, can they even have ovens in the first place?) and replaced by an evil cackling machine dumping a whole vat of red #40 into each pie. The worst part was that I could feel the pie sitting in my stomach for the next three hours, which was a problem since I ate it at 11pm at night.

Okay, I'm exaggerating its bad qualities, but only a little.

The fact remains that this pie does not belong in a farmer's market. Sure, I may have an idealistic image of farmers markets. But I also understand that the farmers are not cottage industries making everything in small batches. They are not all like Polyface farm where everything produced there is beyond organic, has minimal carbon footprint, and absolutely delicious. Still, seeing ingredients that I would never put in my own food makes me feel cheated. Isn't the point of selling prepared foods from a market (aside from financial ones) to share a little bit of your home, of your unique recipes with other people? Maybe I'm still romanticizing here but I maintain that a huge part of the beauty of farmers markets is lost when I have to start scrutinizing ingredients lists for those long-winded ingredients that are found in my chem textbook. I do enough of that in grocery stores.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Ever since this past winter break, I've been obsessed with putting roasted beets in salad. It only helps that the ruby-red root gets touted as a super food like, all the time. While I'm absolutely fascinated by the wild possibilities of doing things other than roasting them, the simplicity of tossing them into foil, baking and leaving them until they're done and ready to be tossed into a salad can't be... beet. Plus, they make a salad look so good! What's not to love?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Seattle - Pike Place Market

I just got back from a fantastic trip to Seattle and Portland to visit Jimmy. The trip only confirmed my desire to leave the east coast and live in Pacific Northwest. I just loved the feel of the area with its abundance of amazing foods and coffee, the breathtaking scenery, and the laid back, friendly, and often quirky people. On the trip, most of our time was spent eating or in transit between places to eat, with visiting non-food related sites almost as an afterthought. Our excellent guide, Jimmy, herded us to so many restaurants, coffeeshops, and food karts that by the last meal of the trip I could only handle a small bowl of salad. Everywhere we went, whether it was a small Schnitzel kart run by a Czech couple or a crowded Lebanese restaurant that takes the effort to make fresh pita for every table, I got the sense that people were incredibly passionate about the food they prepared and/or served in a very deep way. As a result, the foods we ate were often quite simple, but because of the thought and care that went into them they turned out to be some of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.