I have many soapboxes, but the one I get on the most (at least recently) is about eating locally. Whenever possible, I try to buy local produce and other edible products, eat at local restaurants, and support the local farms. Not only does it help the economy, but it’s also better for you physically, because the farmers generally avoid all the chemicals and hormones and things that you get from the big corporations. Plus, the produce is usually fresher because it takes a much shorter time to get to you 🙂 Also, for you meat lovers, local farms usually pride themselves on being humane: the animals are fed vegetarian diets, they aren’t pumped full of extra hormones, they’re allowed free-range, and are slaughtered ethically. Good for your body and your conscience! I’ve noticed that the taste of anything I get, whether it be produce, cheese, bread, or whatever, is usually stronger, more concentrated, and just more flavorful in general. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than what you find in the nearby Wal-Mart supercenter, but the benefits far outweigh the slight extra cost. Find your local farmer’s market, people! Ok, that’s enough of the soapbox for now…on to the food 🙂
I try to go to the Lynchburg Community Market every week. What’s great about it is that it has stands open Tuesday-Saturday from 10-2, so I can go pretty much whenever I want to. My favorite days, though, are Green Market Wednesdays (every Wednesday in the summer, where they focus on fresh green produce) and Saturdays, when the market is full of vendors and fresh products. There’s usually a local band playing, the bakery is filling the air with the smell of fresh breads, people and small children all gather together to browse and socialize, and, my favorite part, most of the vendors give out free samples 😉 Today was pretty rainy, so I couldn’t take any pictures at the market itself, alas 😦 I’ll try to get some when I go next week. But it was wonderful today. I discovered that if I ever want to eat meat again, several vendors sell local, humanely-farmed proteins for really decent prices. The entrance was full of farmers selling corn, greens, melons, peaches, beans, and even shitake mushrooms! Everything looked so beautiful that it was hard to walk away. Further in, we found some pretty awesome stands for local crafts: woodcarving, handmade jewelry (even hand-crocheted copper wire necklaces, which were gorgeous!), knitted caps, quilts, and other beautiful things. If I’d had extra money, I would have bought some of that jewelry. At any rate, the market is my favorite place to go every week, and I’m already looking forward to next Saturday 🙂
Today was a really great day for finds at the market! I got some garlic-herb Chevre (which is just a fancy name for cheese made from goat’s milk) from one of the local dairy farms. It’s a light, tangy cheese that’s easy to spread, and the herbs add a wonderful savoury dimension that make it a perfect accompaniment for dinner or as an hors d’oeuvere on some crispy bread. I’m going to go off on a little rabbit trail here: I recently discovered that cow’s milk has the annoying tendency to make me sick 😦 I can have cheese in small amounts (thank God – I don’t know what I’d do without my Parmiggiano-Reggiano), but yogurt and other things make my stomach very miserable for hours. Goat’s milk, on the other hand, doesn’t! I’m switching over to goat’s milk for my dairy needs as much as possible, so I’m very happy to see that the farmer’s market carries it. I also got some fresh sweet blackberries (they were huge!) for making my gluten-free salted caramel blackberry brownies, which are almost completely gone now – my roommates can’t stop eating them. One vendor had this amazing peach lavender jam that is absolutely divine – the floral notes of the lavender balance out the sweetness of the peaches. I’ve never had a tastier jam, and I just had to buy a jar of it. I also purchased some local raw honey, since honey is my favorite sweetener (I swapped out half the sugar in my brownie recipe for honey. Good life choice). All-in-all, it was an awesome trip.
We picked up a loaf of fresh, crusty Italian-style bread for tasting purposes – the outside is really crunchy and flaky, in contrast to the really soft inside, which makes it perfect for trying both savory and sweet spreads. I had a piece with the garlic-herb chevre and another piece with that lovely peach-lavender jam, and I couldn’t have been happier.
I hope you all go out and support your local farmer’s markets when possible 🙂 You won’t regret it! Let me know what you find 🙂