I love going walking through the narrow aisles of the market, both sides of which are lined with rows of fruits and vegetables. I love finding the treasures. Just last week walking through the IIT market I found a guy selling basil – loose, just like that. I asked him how much it would cost and he said I could buy some for however much I wanted. I would go to Nature’s Basket and buy small packages of it when I wanted to make pesto or soup and here was this guy with a huge pile of basil. He also had broccoli and zucchini and colorful peppers – all those things which I would go to the “good store” for right here in the middle of the market. And that’s why I love the market.
Today I’m thinking about our farmer’s markets in the US. Somehow in the land of plenty California we never went to the farmer’s markets but while in grad school both hubby and I loved to frequent the farmer’s market. The one in Cornell was a real adhoc market open only in the summer. Farmers pulled up to this place by a lake in their trucks and actually sold their stuff out of the back of a truck. And if it rained they packed up and left. We always went there for the soups and the bread – the gumbo especially comes to mind. I have never had gumbo except at the Ithaca farmers market and never attempted making it either.I have Alton Brown to thank for that. On an episode of Good Eats he spoke so much about how critical it was how much the flour is browned for gumbo that I am scared of it to this day!
In Columbus the farmer’s market was called North Market and it was housed in an old building in downtown and open all year round. I never really concentrated on the fruits and veggies there but all the meats, the candy, the pastries, the handmade fresh pastas and sauces, the tableware and eating places. Those were the days when as a student I couldn’t afford much and I wasn’t into non-Indian cooking at the time – I only ate it in restaurants. So I didn’t understand the ingredients much. But the variety gave me kick. It was almost a ritual for me to go the market on Saturday and roam around. Then I would eat lunch and walk back. What I did buy there was goat meat – or mutton – for $4.99/lb. I had this friend who would ask me to cook mutton for him – he claimed I did something good to it. I don’t think I did anything extraordinary but I was not going to let an opportunity to cook for someone pass me by! What a pleasure that in this faraway place with a fascination for beef we could eat mutton.
When the hubby visited me we would often eat at the Mediterranean restaurant in the market. He made the most delectable lamb, chicken and eggplant “curries” which we ate with rice. Somehow we stayed away from the hummus and the pita bread since we would eat that anywhere. In fact I always thought that was what Mediterranean cuisine was all about until I met Firdous! But the best part about that was the baklava – a dozen for $9.99. Can you beat that price. And they came in different shapes and sizes and different flavours. We always bought a dozen and gorged on them before the weekend was out.
Another thing I bought at North Market were the Thai curry pastes – red, green and yellow, along with coconut milk, fish sauce and other Thai ingredients. It was in fact a professor at our lab who inspired me to try my hand at Thai food and even told me where I could buy the pastes as an easy shortcut. The recipes were on the back of the cans and all I did was add chicken and veggies and had Thai food at home. I love Thai food but we didn’t have any Thai restaurants around campus. So this was an easy substitute.
Before I sign off, here is a chutney update. I did make the mango chutney and it tastes good except the mango is very stringy and even after its been cooked through the fibers haven’t broken down completely. That’s taking away from the smooth texture that I was looking for. Oh well. I am sure I will still eat all of it by myself!