Le Marche d’été de Val-David/Val David Summer markets
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. It’s a message from a good friend who had left it for me in my Facebook in box. Although it’s fitting, and although I greatly appreciate her care, I have had several of these “today is the first…” days before. I’ve more or less recreated my life about five previous times all before I turned 35. I’ve been quiet lately, the last time I made any major life changes was five years ago, when I moved from Vietnam to Québec, gave birth to my son and then joined the Canadian bureau of a well-respected international NGO, all within the span of 18 months. Eventually, I took over the NGO’s helm, and the job quickly became an extension of myself, the staff I employed were like family, as like myself, we were international orphans, all having left home and family behind, a typical sacrifice in the humanitarian industry. It was a tough-love job; we had no money, little support, required notoriety. Along the way, we suffered dodgy consultants and CEO’s, hired the usual share of humanitarian crap artists and bleeding heart incompetents, yet for most of the time, we did good. In the end, doing good turned into living bad, as I was one more natural disaster or humanitarian catastrophe away from burn out. Little by little the job took over my life, I’d stagger to our little home office, the sleep still not washed from my eyes, checking e-mails from our international offices in Europe, Cote D’Ivoire, Bangladesh making sure that I answered them before they went home to bed. At the end of the working day, I would return from the office exhausted, yet would still be on the computer until late into the night, my Blackberry often tucked into my pillowcase, so that it’s flashing light wouldn’t be seen by my husband.
So yesterday was my last day. I couldn’t sleep, so I do what I do when I can’t sleep – I think of food. At something like one in the morning, images of Saturday’s morning bounty at our sprawling, local farmers market tucked in the foothills of the Laurentides eventually lulled me to sleep.
Val Morin is a small Northern country town, about an hours drive from Montréal. It’s a popular tourist destination, and best known as a break spot for the Petite Train de Nord, a bicycle path that curls around the back roads of the Laurentides from St Adele up to ski town Mont Tremblant. The Summer Market of Val David or Marché d’été de Val David is tucked in the parking lot of a school and local park and invites local farmers and growers from the region to sell their shares from early summer to mid fall, and then is occasionally held indoors at the local primary school during the winter months. When we first bought our cottage out here, (also five years ago), not knowing much about the area, my husband had stumbled on the market by accident, yet knowing it would be an instant hit with his market loving wife, turned around and came back to get me.
It’s midsummer, so the corn’s out, and we buy enough for lunch, and should have bought some more as we later end up eating eight cobs in one sitting. The stall owner also has blue berries, purple and white shallots, and fresh red and white potatoes. Anthony Bourdain swears shallots as a pantry staple, and I can’t agree more; going through a few dozen stalks myself ever week in salads, sautés, with my mid-afternoon charcuterie snack.
The Nuns are expanding. When I first started coming here, they had a simple stall selling fresh goats cheese (from those they would raise at their monastery), some hummus and babaganoush, a couple of slices of Spanokopita. Now they have their own cash machine and a portable oven for their Spano. I always save a spot for a slice, similar to my mum’s own cheese pita (sans spinach), the Nun’s know me by now, and serve me quickly keeping an eye and a nod on the cowering day trippers who want to question the life out of every piece of produce before buying anything.
It’s hot and the boys have moved onto the small park behind the market for a game of soccer with some of the other locals, so I continue on.
Kirlian is a vegan café; a stone throw from the market that specialises in haute vibrational cuisine or high vibrational cuisine, and have also set up a small stall in the market selling smoothies, lemonade and delicious essene bread sandwiches and pizzas. Having done a six months course on vibrational cooking during my pregnancy, both those nine months and the breastfeeding period afterwards were the happiest of my life. Haute vibrational cuisine essentially covers both the way we cook our food, including temperature, methods of cooking, but also the attitude of the cook. Cook happy, eat happy, feel happy. Essentially raw, Kirlian’s menu includes no dairy or wheat. I buy their refreshing raspberry lemonade with chia seeds and continue on.
It’s garlic time, still early in the season, but I’m out of stock, so I buy a tress of 10 for $20 from a good-looking long-haired dude I recognise from last year. He also sells petites pois, which I will shell and make into a purée to accompany eggplant fritters.
Being a farmer’s daughter, growing up, my parents had a 10-foot vegetable garden in our suburban Australian backyard, which supplied our vegetable needs for the better half of a year. We also had chooks, ducks, rabbits, once Dad went even as far as bringing in a goat. These days it’s kind of cool to raise a couple of chooks, even a goose, but back when I was ten and growing up in still race uneasy 70’s Australian, where I was labelled a Wog and my Italian friends “Dago’s”, we were told our chickens “stank”, and I was teased for the prosciutto sandwiches that my mum dutifully packed for my school lunch. Today, the Australian gourmet landscape is up with the best, but back then continental food carried a whole different meaning.
For the average person, farmers markets offer the opportunity to buy fresh, locally produced products, usually at a significantly elevated price than what you get at the supermarket. Sadly, most people can’t afford to do their entire weeks shopping at a farmers market, yet a little does go a long way. Buying from your farmer can have huge impact on the planet and may save us more in the long run. My last two weeks at work were spent helping respond to the recently declared famine in Somalia. Some 12 million people are affected, 250,000 children under five under the brink of starvation. Famine is mostly a rare occurrence these days; or it should be a rare occurrence. Famine occurs when there is a widespread scarcity of food. Famine can be avoided. Famines are also more likely to happen in countries where large-scale agriculture has caused a slow degradation of environmental assets, most notably fertile soil. As three-quarters of the world’s poorest people’s livelihood is dependant on small holder farming, making small holder farmers more productive whether in Somalia or the local farmer selling you that fancy heirloom chard can and does have a long-term impact on the world’s development. Enabling poor populations with the ability to produce their own food, allows them to earn more, improve their health and nutrition and contribute to further economic growth. Enabling the Western farmer to remain in business does similar and also start to tackle the challenges bought on from climate change and a loss of bio-diversity.
When I was almost grown up, my family moved from the suburbs to a 20-acre vegetable farm, so eating grain fed, locally produced, pesticide free fair was not an exception, it was the norm, the way – this is why on market day, on this first day of the rest of my life, not only am I doing good for our planet, going to market is the closest thing to going home.
Petits pois Purée with spicy eggplant patties
This recipe is a knock off of Bal Anderson from Spice Goddess, yet I have added a few of my own twists. A great summer starter
For eggplant patties:
- 2 small or 1 large eggplant
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour (found in most health food stores or Asian supermarkets)
- a teaspoon of each of the following: cumin, paprkia, cardamon
- a pinch of salt, a sniff of pepper
- water, a bit of olive or grapeseed oil
Petits Pois purée
- 2 cups of petits pois
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1/2 cup of yogurt
- 1/2 cup of freshly chopped mint or 1/2 cup freshly chopped coriander
- 1/2 cup water
For eggplant fritters
In mixing bowl, mix the flour, spices, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup water and mix until you achieve a smooth batter.
Heat the oil in a large pan. There is no need to deep fry, just a few tablespoons of oil will do.
Slice the eggplant in thin slices (a fingers thickness) and then gently dip the slices into the batter and fry in hot oil. Fry a few minutes on each side until nicely browned (the chickpea flour has a yellowish colour and this will show up quickly when frying).