Friday, April 8, 2011

A different perspective of a farmer's market

I love farmer's markets. They are the only place to buy tomatoes that don't taste like cold tap water. I can buy the exact amount of ingredients I need for a Nicoise salad without having so much leftover that after eating it for lunch and dinner for 2 days I come to hate Nicoise salad. I can hand pick every piece of fruit instead of buying it in a plastic bag, which inevitably contains one hidden piece of quick-to-expire reject fruit. The food is seasonal, there is a great variety (ever tried to buy an artichoke at Supervalue? Good luck.) and there's the social aspect (everybody's better looking at a farmer's market. True story). Shopping at farmer's markets makes me feel more in control of my food and more connected to the process of production, purchase and consumption. It also makes me feel more European but in a less embarrassing way than the addition of 'grand' in my everyday vocabulary.
It is this love of markets that inspired me to start a bakery stall of my own. That was in 2007. The rest is all part of the history of Caryna's Cakes, which I am keeping in my back pocket for another blog post. This Sunday I spent the day selling at Macreddin Village Market in Wicklow. I had my camera with me, a took a few snaps so I could show you what it's like to be on the other side of the table.

Early in the morning 
I play real life Tetris, but with delicate perishable goods fitting into a 2 door hatchback along with a 6 foot table, a 4 foot square gazebo, cake stands, cake boxes and the like. Once the goods are loaded, I aim to get to the market an hour before it opens to setup. Macreddin Village is an hour drive away, which means waking up at 9:25 (unless I'm selling scones, muffins or bread. This necessitates same day baking and early early early wake up), packing the car at 9:30, leaving at 10, arriving at 11 and setting up for 12.The drive is always spectacular so it's hard to stay bleary-eyed for long, no matter how late I was up baking.

Nestled in the Wicklow mountains

some of the stalls are operated by Brooklodge Hotel. Others are producers from the locality. And then there's me.
If you need a hand setting up there are plenty of friendly rugged men to offer their assistance.

Here are a couple of the staff at Macreddin Village who help with the setup of the market and the general running of the place. Impressing dreadlock tail, no?
My Neighbours

Your pitch is more or less on a first come first served basis. However, I choose my pitch using a scientific method called Tradesies. Selling at the markets is especially great because of tradesies. I always bring over and above the amount of cake I think I can sell in hopes of trades.

To my right was pig. I love pig.

To my left was coffee. Important.

I was facing Ciara's Pantry. Pretty jams, chutneys, relishes ans salad dressings

Also facing Peter and Jenny Young of Castlefarm Shop. Love it.

Fist trade of the day was for breakfast

One Pecan Butterscotch Cinnamon bun...
...for a big piece of handmade Castlefarm Shamrock cheese with fennugreek. 

as well as some gorgeous rhubarb
I got the most delicious bottle of balsamic vinegar from Teach Hilda, organic Italian products
Caherhurley Nurseries got an almond & raspberry slice in exchange for an organic Alpine strawberry plant

...which I intend to mind and nurture and grow. Which reminds me... I need to water that plant, don't I?

I acquired a very pink and pretty blackcurrant dressing for Ciara's pantry in exchange for a Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie

The last trade of the day way an almond & raspberry slice... exchange for a delicious organic spit pork sandwich with pear chutney

The Shoppers
Another reason I love selling at the markets is the customers. If you're one of those customers that approaches the stall with trepidation and asks me with a scrunched up nose, "Is that nice?" or "That's very expensive. I could get that in Tesco for 20 cent!" then I'm talking about the other customers. I love customers who appreciate a good piece of cake. Especially those whose eyes widen with excitement as they take in the feast of sweet treats in front of them. One set of customers who especially don't hold back are the children. "CAKE! MOM, LOOK! CAKE! PLEEEEEEASE CAN I GET ONE!!!!?????"
His exact words were "CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!! CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!!"
If we could all revert to that kind of uninhibited excitement about cake it would solve all kinds of adult problems. If you are a parent who brings your child shopping at farmer's markets, I applaud you. If you're one of those parents who doesn't offer to buy the cookie your child just pawed, I'm talking about the other parents.

Children have so much to gain from the shopping experience at farmer's markets. They make the connection with the food they eat and where is comes from. I love it when children ask me questions about the cakes when they are choosing between a vanilla bean cupcake or a gingerbread cookie. Without intending it they are learning and researching in order to make an informed consumer decision. How often do they get to ask the producer directly?
They also learn about paying money in exchange for goods, as in
Parent: "now give the lady the money you're holding".

They learn about budgeting, as in
Child: "How much are the brownies? €2.50? But I have €4." and they uncurl their palm to reveal their 2 coins.

They learn about negotiating, as in
Child: "How much are the brownies? €2.50? But I have €2"

And it teaches them manners, as in (overheard at the Dublin Food Co-op by one particularly clever and innocent child)
Parent: "Now what do you say to the lady?"
Child: "I'm going to eat this."


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1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm everything sounds delicious. I love your Tradesies idea. Farmers markets are great.