Photo by Donna
I believe in the necessity and obligation to know the source of the food I buy and to buy hand raised products. This often means paying more for my food. I have to confess that I'm a terrible skinflint and that when I'm at my wonderful North Union Farmer's Market, much as I'm grateful for it and proud of it, there's much I don't buy because I think I can't afford it, such as the mushrooms, the grass fed beef. (I think all writers who become productive primarily out of fear of poverty retain forever a knee-jerk miserlines.)
But on Saturday morning—(rain, happily! seriously cuts down on the crowds, and strollers are rare)—I decided to take my time and buy everything I'd buy at the grocery store. Plus a lot more corn than most people would imagine eating. Six, seven, eight, nine ears is a perfect Saturday morning breakfast as far as I'm concerned (I bought 18 ears for $9). I did not by the five-pound $25 duck. I did not buy potatoes or some of the beautiful greens available (wish I had). And when I totaled it all up, it didn't cost much more than what I'd have spent at the grocery store on a typical visit. For $71 bucks, and a few staples, I think I've got four great meals for four, plus a couple of lunches.
Instead of the whole duck, I bought 6 legs for about $3 a piece—will braise four for dinner on monday and confit two more for a weekday lunch with my amazing wife. I love to be able to buy the farm-raised veal and $11 of loin will cover four people if I stretch it. The farm raised meat I believe is truly important to buy. Next week beef. And of course a couple friends and I are going in for two massive hogs in the fall.
Eggs. I love love love fresh eggs. They cost a buck fifty more than agrichicken eggs? That's $3.50 well spent. The heads of garlic at $1.50? They were a buck last year—how that old hippy gets by selling garlic even at a dollar fifty, I don't know but I'm glad he does because it's the best garlic on earth. The other stuff: cabbages, green beans, zucchini and summer squash, peaches, eggplant, and bell peppers. By the time I had all this stuff my arm was so tired and it was becoming so difficult to fumble through my wallet for cash, I gave up from fatigue and said, no potatoes today, none of that beautiful baby arugula. Sigh.
I think the thing I have to remember is to shop smartly at these markets—the kids don't need that fudge, made by the veal and duck people, Donna and I don't need those gorgeous mushrooms this week (maybe next)—and that paying more for the food isn't really that much more. And of course the quality of the product cannot be beat. What I need most, though, is a shopping cart.