I am, obviously, not a farmer. I know little to nothing about farming, but I do know that the best food I have ever eaten comes from a smelly barn-like structure about a five minute drive from The Mom’s house.
Growing up, we generally looked forward to the Saturday morning trip to the market. The supermarket was fun, but in a different way. In recent years, one can always find an article in a newspaper bemoaning the fact that children these days don’t know where their food comes from. We were not those children. We knew exactly where our food came from. And who was making it, too.
It wasn’t until I moved over here to the UK that I fully understood how lucky we were to have the market. Because, after my first experience with a supermarket here (Asda, to be precise, which is the UK version of Wal-Mart) I learned first-hand why most people had little to no interest in food. The Asda I went to would’ve put even the hungriest person off food, and in fairness, I was close to being that person, having just flown eight hours and driven a further six, with nothing to eat in the intervening hours.
I was used to fruit and veg that tasted like fruit and veg. Produce that was massive, bursting with flavour, the sort of stuff that made even the fussiest of eaters cave and eat their broccoli, or peppers, or apples, or whatever it was.
Every summer, when I visit The Mom, she insists on a trip to the market. It’s not always a perfunctory shopping trip, she really does love the whole idea of it. She’s like a kid in a candy-shop, if left to her own devices she will come home with one of everything on offer. Just because it looks so good.
Time was, though, when she wouldn’t darken that market’s door for any amount of money. It was deemed too clean, too fancy, just plain old wrong.
The old-old market was grimy, filthy, and exactly as one would’ve wanted it to be. The false sterility of a supermarket was nowhere to be seen. The floor was cement, covered in a thick paste of mud and cow shit. It smelled strong, of old cheese, manure, meat; it smelled of life in a very honest way. The newer market, the one that’s just burned down, was more gussied-up in a way, sure, it still smelled but not as strongly, and they made an effort to keep the manure to a bare minimum.
But, the old-old market gave up the ghost some years ago, and all the vendors we liked moved to the newer one. There are very few shopping experiences where I’ll actually voluntarily make small chat with the person selling me something, but at the market I will talk, freely.
This most recent visit, when The Mom took me so I could stock up on maple syrup, I got to chatting with Mr Martin who has been the man making my maple syrup since forever. Here in Britain, on some of my food, there’s a little note saying such and such farmer at this and that farm grew the thing I’m about to eat. It’s a nice touch, but it schmecks of advertising. Mr Martin, on the other hand, is actually just a nice Mennonite man who works hard and makes maple syrup. Authenticity is strong at the market.
It was awful to hear the news of the recent fire, and quite frankly, I’m surprised I was the one who had to tell The Mom. But I suppose that’s what social media is best at, getting the word out and fast. I think by the time The Mom had learned of the tragedy, they’d already started a special fund to help rebuild the market. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it’s rebuilt before the end of the month.
You just don’t get that with supermarkets. But that’s one of the things that makes the market great. People aren’t just going to sit around, thinking about how they can really take advantage of the opportunity (a false one in my book) to make the market better, change it, bring it into the future or whatever. Nope, they’re just going to build the barn-like structure back up as soon as possible and get back to work.
Which means that when I’m home for Christmas, we can go stock up on maple syrup and other essentials.