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Archive for the ‘farmers markets’ Category

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Winter is coming. Seems obvious and though I’m having a hard time truly accepting this fact, I came face-to-face with the inevitable. It snowed on Halloween. Oh joy. It was a light dusting in the morning followed by that particularly awful mix of cold slightly frozen rain, huge traffic delays and everyone generally acting like an idiot. At the end of my two hour commute home I saw a few determined trick-or-treaters on the streets. Good for you kids, good for you. I hope you took home loads of treats for simply braving that mess.

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A farm turned my weekend around. Really. I was in the far western reaches of the Chicago suburbs last weekend for a wedding and thought I’d visit a nearby orchard bright and early Saturday morning. I’d pick some apples, maybe grab a few cider donuts and head home to make a pie or two. Instead, what I found was my personal vision of hell. The signs in caps and excess exclamation points should have tipped me off that this would not be one of the bucolic orchard experiences I’ve had in the past. PUMPKIN PATCH!!! APPLE PICKING!!! CORN MAZE!!! God help me.

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As usual, I’m late to the party.  I learned about Ottolenghi, the eponymous London restaurant founded by Yotom Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, from the owner of small bed and breakfast in the Dordogne Valley long, long after everyone else.  I had to go all the way to France to learn about a couple of Israeli cooks who own a lovely food shop in London.  Yet somehow, that seems fitting.  By the time I got up to speed, their second cookbook Plenty had been published and their third, Jerusalem, was on the way.  They cooked in a manner I could instantly relate to – vegetable heavy and calling on the familiar yet exotic flavors of the Mediterranean, Italy and North Africa with a good does of California. I liked it.  A lot.

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In Chicago, we eagerly await that first outdoor farmers market as the unofficial start of spring. While other parts of the country have been sunny and bright for weeks, even months, we’re often still plagued with bouts of late season chills, overnight frosts and torrential downpours. That first market is often rainy and generally not the beautiful sunny day of our dreams. BUT it does serve as a harbinger of better things to come, of berries and stone fruits, of tomatoes and peppers, of things other than the root vegetables and onions that have sustained us through another gray, dreary winter. And we know that those first few markets will contain the beautiful stalks of green and purple asparagus and maybe other highly seasonal finds like ramps and green garlic. And we know that close on their heels will follow rhubarb and then their fat red partners in crime, strawberries, for a fleeting but delicious few weeks. And that folks, is what keeps our hopes alive.

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There’s a lot of things that we know we should do and likely don’t.  Exercise.  Volunteer more.  Hydrate.  Eat more leafy green vegetables.  Stop watching crap reality TV.  It doesn’t always work out how we want it.  Let’s take those leafy green vegetables, for example.  They’re typically low in calories and fat, high in dietary fiber, iron and calcium, and very high in phytochemicals such as vitamin C, carotenoids, lutein and folic acid.  We know this.  Doesn’t mean they make it on the table.  (OK, I’ll admit I don’t know what a carotenoid or lutein is but it must be good for me.)

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Sometimes I do some nutty things.  I can be impulsive, free spirited and completely off the wall.  Sometimes – OK, often – these things turn into the most wonderful situations.  Last week, after a great AIWF wine tasting event at The Elysian Hotel, I logged onto Twitter.  I discover the most fascinating things on twitter – cool events, the latest food news and scoop, great blog updates, breaking news.  I realize it’s not for everyone but I find it most interesting.  Pick a favorite topic and I bet there are folks with things to say about it – famous people, regular people, writers, pals – all with 140 characters to say something interesting.  Some are better at it than others.  In fact, I wrote about Rick Bayless’ recipe tweets on a previous post.  Fascinating.

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Fall.  Autumn.  Whatever it’s called, it’s my favorite time of year.  Growing up in Arizona, we didn’t have much of a fall season.  In fact, I think Arizona has only two seasons that don’t necessarily correspond with the traditional winter, spring, summer, fall. (Side note:  how do you not sing James Taylor right there?)  In Phoenix it’s simply  hot and hotter so when I moved to the Midwest, this seasonal thing was a bit of an adjustment.  Seasons?  Winter??  What the hell?  I was never dressed correctly; either too hot or too cold.  Never had my umbrella at the right time, or the correct footwear.  To my chagrin, I started paying attention to the weather report daily, something I hadn’t done in all my 22 years.  But I adjusted.  Eventually.  Now I look forward to Indian Summers, the tree outside my living room window turning a gorgeous shade of yellow and college football tailgates wearing something other than shorts and a tank top (though daytime football is still very strange to me.)

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