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All week, the folks of Beaver Brook, a stretch of rural woodland in upstate New York, are cooking up a Farmer's Market feast -- without electricity or running water.
Today: Cassie and the folks at Beaver Brook stock up at the market. This is their second Big Feast post -- check out their first, A Weekend in the Woods.
The Farmer's Market near Beaver Brook takes place every Saturday morning in town, on the slope of a low, green field behind a grocery store. It's a small, loyal affair, attended by just a handful of vendors, and decorated brightly with all the usuals: produce and fruits, crusty breads, meat, homemade jams, and various cheeses, trucked in from distances away that range anywhere between a stone's throw and a couple dozen miles. (That is to say, it's about as fresh as fresh can get.) We see the same people every time we go there, and I don't just mean the vendors. The pint-sized community of regular shoppers lends itself to easy familiarity, and we're used to crossing paths with the same smiles, same outfits, and same pets week after week. We like it that way.
This particular Saturday, we approach the market with only the faintest outline of a plan, a vagueness abetted by our grocery list, which is more tongue-in-cheek than blueprint for an actual meal. Bullet points include: "Lovage? This may be a stretch", "Peach/Rhubarb? Just putting it out there", and "Oh! Cheeses. Right? For snacks." For the record, this is way better than having a "real" grocery list.
Fruit of Your Choosing.
We always get fruit first, which is stupid because it's fragile and will crush easily, but we like to snack on it as we browse. A little bit of fruit juice at the bottom of the bags, we think, is a fair trade off for early access. Today, we stock up on cartons of white cherries and blueberries, the latter covering our lips with vividly purple, bruise-like stains as eat them. Passersby give us knowing smiles.
The emphasis on the s is purposeful. At Beaver Brook, as in most places, a loaf of fresh bread will get killed in a matter of minutes. Therefore, it's important to purchase in multiples — especially when the loaves in question are of the crusty, flour-dusted quality that these are. After a lot of debate, we settle on a sesame-crusted baguette, a whole wheat round, and then, our favorite, a craggy, sour-ish specimen studded with hunks of olives and walnuts. This is also the table where freshly made fruit tarts will beckon from beneath seductive coatings of syrup and powdered sugar. We only give in like half the time.
One of the premiere joys of Market shopping is uncertainty. Since we're never entirely sure what will be available, our ability to merge hopeful suggestion (hence, the question mark) with edible reality is a testament to the pleasant synchronicity of our group. I know that Grace is after veggies for grilling, so when there's nary an asparagus to be found, we simply go with the next best thing: fresh zucchini, plus a bundle of greens, some radishes, and garlic scapes for good measure.
This is the definitive, no jokes allowed. All of our meals are based around, for lack of a better phrase, at least one gratutious slab of heavy protein. We'll get whatever's on hand, but bonus points for meats that absorb maximum flavor while minimal attention is paid to them. Usually, that means a tough hunk of beef that can be slow-cooked into submission throughout the course of a day, but right now we're after chicken. "How much to feed us?" we ask the man at the counter, who eyes us skeptically before way underestimating our ability to eat things. "Maybe a few pounds of parts?" We laugh uproariously, then buy an entire bird.
Afterwards, bag bulging and essentials covered, we're free to wander at whim. What looks good? Freshly churned butter? Homemade Greek yogurt from a nearby farm? Check, check. Both will end up as key ingredients in our final meal, we just don't know it yet.
Now back to the Brook — we already feel like we've been away for too long!
Le Creuset has generously offered to reward our Big Feasters for all their hard work, and as our fifth Big Feast, Cassie and the folks at Beaver Book will win, in the color of their choice (flame, cherry, cassis, fennel, Caribbean, dune, Dijon, or Marseille): an 11-Inch Iron Handle Skillet, a Square Skinny Grill Pan, and a 3-Quart Saucier Pan. Pitch us your Big Feast at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win up to $500 in Le Creuset booty.