Not Settling!

Most of the patrons at the Matthews Farmers Market are regulars, so although I don’t know these people, their faces are familiar. This past Saturday, we ran into one of Haleigh’s teachers while we were there. She’s been shopping the market for three years now. While in line to get my French breed, Poulet Rouge chicken, we had a conversation about buying local. She mentioned a quote and statistic that she had found in a book she’d read called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It’s worth repeating: “If every US Citizen ate just ONE MEAL A WEEK (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 MILLION BARRELS OF OIL every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.” The list of reasons to shift more of my grocery budget to the farmers market just keeps growing.

I’ve never given much thought to the different kinds of chickens and had never heard of a Poulet Rouge until I saw them at the market. (I’ve learned a lot about food at the market.) It was more meaty and moist and much leaner than a store bought chicken. At first I found it odd that it’s unusually long neck was still attached, then I realized that this was probably done to show off it’s pedigree. After roasting, there was hardly any fat left between the perfectly browned and crispy, well seasoned skin (olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, rosemary and basil, a light sprinkle of onion powder, salt and cracked black pepper) and the tender meat. There was noticeably less fat in the pan juices. So this time, instead of discarding the skin, I ate it, along with about a teaspoonful of the pan juices drizzled on top. I can’t recall ever having a better roasted chicken.

Next week I’m going to start a new challenge. I want to buy most of my groceries at the farmers market instead of the grocery store. The foods I’m buying in stores aren’t meeting my expectations. I’m tired of settling for mediocre food. When I do find products that are local, organic and have quality ingredients, I don’t mind paying more, but sometimes stores such as Harris Teeter and especially Earthfare seem to be bordering on price gouging. As for Trader Joes, most of their food traveled more than 2500 miles to get here! I’ve also learned a few things recently that have me questioning their ethics and the practices used to get these products on the shelves at such low prices. If you didn’t know this already, cheap fast food has it’s roots in California. Now that I’ve been shopping there awhile, I’ve noticed that while some things are cheaper, their processed food is still processed food, and although their produce is usually cheaper, it isn’t very fresh. Not surprising considering the time it must take to get this produce harvested from the farms in California, packaged, loaded and shipped to the stores in Charlotte. I’m guessing this takes a week at least.

Everything I eat isn’t, and doesn’t have to be organic and local. I just prefer it that way. I shouldn’t have to settle for the lesser of evils so often – high cost, food from 2500 miles away, questionable ingredients and additives. The food at the farmers market meets our family’s food philosophy. It’s local, seasonal and mostly organic whole food. They have a few bakers, pastured meat, some cheese, produce, mushrooms, eggs, honey, plants,  hand made soaps and even fresh pasta. I will still have to get dairy and seafood from the grocery store, as well as some additional produce that isn’t grown in this region.

The pasta is pretty amazing. It’s made by a local chef using ingredients purchased right from the farmers market. Brian and I tried the ravioli a couple of weeks ago. He used tomatoes, basil, goat cheese and eggplant. It’s expensive… $9 for a pint sized freezer bag. According to the chef, each bag serves two. If you prepare a complete meal with side vegetables or a heartier sauce and maybe a salad, you should leave the meal feeling satisfied, but not full, which isn’t good portion control anyway. I bought two bags to feed our family of five, but ended up cooking both packages for just me and Brian (kids were with my parents). I didn’t have time to make anything more than the lemon basil sauce to toss it in, so one package wouldn’t have been enough this time. Considering this was upscale ravioli containing high quality, local ingredients, it was well worth it.

By the way the soup that I made last week, with homemade chicken stock and seven beans, turned out beautifully. Brian doesn’t usually care for soup, but enjoyed this one. I added small diced butternut squash, onions and celery, chopped garlic and salt and pepper. When the soup was done, I added a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar to the pot. I garnished the bowls of soup with some shredded Italian cheeses, chicken pieces and several cubes of avocado. WOW! The avocado added a creamy richness to the soup. Healthy, hearty, yummy and made with mostly local and organic ingredients.

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About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

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