Saturday, July 11, 2015

Random Rant: Mushy Middles And Day-Old Bread

For as long as I can remember, during the summer and fall months, I've purchased fresh produce and fall pumpkins at local farm stands. Back in the day, they weren't necessarily Farmer's Market events. The first "official" Farmer's Market I visited was in New York over 10 years ago. It was huge and took over 3 hours to walk through. I left with bags of fresh produce and other locally made goods from local farmers and artisans. For a while, it was my Saturday morning go-to.

Since then, I've frequented dozens of Farmer's Markets in various states. At one point, my work schedule was tight and I was tied to my desk for over 100 hours a week. That didn't leave much time to spend in the kitchen. I depended on the Farmer's Markets for homemade breads and other baked goods, jams, and produce I wasn't able to grow in the garden.

In the past few years, life has changed. Gradually, we've taken steps to a processed and preservative free household. Scheduling time in the kitchen is a must. With over 30 years of baking experience under my belt, I'm rather self-sufficient in the baking department. I no longer rely on Farmer's Markets for fresh baked breads and other goodies. However, we still visit Farmer's Markets several times a month to pick up treats like jams, cheeses and locally grown produce.

While I embrace supporting our local farmers, bakeries, dairy farms and artisans, I've noticed a few things in the past couple of years that have...well, rubbed me the wrong way.

1. Homemade versus not-so-homemade. A couple of weeks ago, while out of town for the afternoon, we stopped at a Farmer's Market. One of the vendors was selling a small selection of baked goods. A few of the pastry selections clearly were not homemade. As mentioned, I've been baking for over 30 years. I know the difference between homemade and thaw-n-bake. I don't have a problem with thaw-n-bake pastry. Some are quite delicious. What I do have a problem with is being told they're homemade. Don't lie to me.

2. Price fluctuations. One of the vendors at this out of town Farmer's Markets was also at a Farmer's market we had visited the week before in a neighboring town. We strolled over to her table in hopes she had an item available we had enjoyed the week prior. She did. However, the price had increased by $2. It had everything to do with the location. Sorry. No go.

3. Mushy middles. Every notice when you purchase strawberries at the grocery store, the biggest and best strawberries are always at the top of the container? Once home, you discover, beneath the luring top layer, is a big bunch of disappointment. Well, on occasion, this happens at Farmer's Markets too. I expect it. What I don't expect is to eat through the top layer of gorgeous cherry tomatoes only to be met with mushy, rotted tomatoes in the center and bottom.

4. Day old bread is not fresh bread. I don't care how well you seal, wrap or store homemade bread, the loaves are not nearly as fresh the next day. Bread is one of those items you need to get up in the wee hours of the morning to bake if you're going to sell them later that afternoon. If you bake it the day before and allow it to sit until the following day, it gets stale. Unlike store-bought bread, homemade loaves are not loaded with preservatives and won't stay squishy soft for a week.

5. Limp and wilted vegetables are not desirable. I. Love. Fresh. Vegetables. Whether I gobble 'em up raw, grilled, sauteed or baked, I can't get enough. This is one of the many reasons why I've had a garden (yard or patio), throughout my adult life. I grew up gardening with my Grandpa and we always had a family garden. Although we have a small garden and friends share their harvest, we still purchase fresh vegetables at the Farmer's Markets. What turns me off, though, are limp and wilted vegetables. Why are you charging full price for a bunch of limp carrots or half a head of wilted lettuce?

6. Please cover your baked goods. For the life of me, I can't figure out why vendors leave cupcakes, cookies, pies, and other baked treats displayed without being covered. I'm not going to purchase a pie after I witness a fly or two land on it.

On a side note, I do want to mention, most of these itty bitty gripes are directed at only a handful of vendors we've visited. Most of y'all are doing a stellar job providing the public with scrumptious eats and treats. There is a great deal of hard work and effort going on behind the scenes with prep and labor and it doesn't go unnoticed. A standing ovation for enduring this day after day after day so we can enjoy the final product. 

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