Fresh Table: Update
I figure while I have a few free minutes, you deserve an update on the Fresh Table Experiment, the one where I’m trying to eat what they apparently call SOLE — sustainable, organic, local, or ethical. Ready for the update? Tuck in your bibs. Sharpen the tines of your fork. Let’s rock.
- I haven’t been to a grocery store in just over a month. I have been to Target, where early on I bought some Archer Farms organic milk and their coffee. This practice will end, I think.
- Was doing the Farmer’s Market twice a week, which is (ha-ha), unsustainable. We have two easy ones locally, but it’s too much work to do both, and since both are relatively near to one another on separate days, it means I’m suffering a needless overlap in vendors. So, instead, I’m just going to hit the bigger, awesomer market on Sunday, and mid-week I’ll hit the “Blooming Glen Food Alley,” which has four places I can hit: Blooming Glen Caterers and Pork Store, Tussock Sedge Farm, Bolton Farm Market (which is a store, not an actual vendor-based farmer’s market), and Pasqualina’s Italian Market.
- Been eating whatever vegetables and fruits are local and in-season. Which means I’ve had to cook a lot of asparagus, yes. I’ve had to deal with the asparagus pee-smell, also yes. But, we’ve had some great spinach, watercress, cilantro, zen greens (a type of mustard green), and lately potatoes and hull peas. Oh, and strawberries. Farm-fresh strawberries are the way to go. Also had strawberry-rhubarb pie for the first time. High-five, strawberry-rhubarb pie. You’re a new favorite.
- I now have milk vendor options. Flint Hill Farms does raw milk. Yes, raw milk is apparently a loaded gun full of crazy bacteria. Then again, go ahead, open a store-bought jar of peanut butter, and wonder, will it punch my guts with salmonella? It might. Raw milk, after a few weeks, hasn’t harmed my wife, and it hasn’t harmed me. It’s legal, it’s certified, and the people at Flint Hill are lovely. Also: Bolton’s has milk (pasteurized) in glass jars, which is satisfying in a weird way to have that clinking, clanking sound.
- An odd thing: while at the Saucon Valley Farmer’s Market, I met Sean and Shannon of Java Queen, a coffee hut in Hellertown. They get their roasted beans from a roaster in Upper Black Eddy, which is coincidentally a guy who happens to be my mother’s first husband. Sean and Shannon are actually related to the first husband. And their coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had, no joke. So, once I’m off the Taget stuff, I’ll buy coffee from them. It’s not locally-grown, obviously; go ahead, try to grow coffee here, it’ll probably taste like someone poured burnt urine into your cup. But, it’s roasted locally, and organically, and it’s a stone’s throw from family (who knew?). (Oh, and my mother is still friendly with the first husband, it’s not like they’re mortal enemies or something.)
- Meat’s not tricky, really. Only tricky part is bouncing from vendor to vendor, store to store. Which expends gas, which increases my carbon footprint, which… well, fuck that, I’m not trying to save the earth. I’m not. That’s not my goal. I’m simply trying to eat better and pump more money into a local economy whenever possible. I’ve found pork and chicken with ease, and I’ve got access to beef but haven’t taken advantage of it, yet. I’ve bought duck. I haven’t bought bison or game meats, but have access to them.
- Now, cost. Is it more expensive? It has been, yes. By almost twice as much, I think. Now, part of that is my fault. In addition to buying produce and meat, we’ve also been dipping into other “farmer’s market” items — locally made jams, jellies, honeys, meads, barbecue sauces, breads, pies, and so forth. If I was really devoted, I’d make all this stuff myself (except me and baking, so far we don’t get along), and that would save me some green. (The stuff is really crazy delicious, though, I’ll add that.) But that’s where price is generally killer. Home-made jam is so far about twice as much as the store-bought stuff, though it’s about three times as tasty, so, worth it? Probably, but not for people on a hard budget. The stuff that matters, though, is actually cheaper. A lot of produce is cheaper at the farmer’s market — asparagus for $2.39/lb. is better than most grocery stores unless a sale is going on, and they trim the woody ends at the market so you’re paying for less weight. Strawberries are a bit pricier, but most other produce is genuinely cheaper. And the pork at the pork store is cheaper than pork at the grocery store, and really, about a hundred times tastier. I’ll have a hard time going back to grocery store meats; pork actually tastes like pork. It’s stupid, but true.
- One exception to this, and it deserves its own bullet point, is chicken. Happy Farm, a local vendor, raises pastured chickens, which is different from “free-range” chickens, because Big Ag has kind of ruined the latter term. They can legally call their chickens “free range” by basically keeping them in a little barn with a dirt floor and then opening up the barn doors to a small meadow, and the chickens don’t go, because the chickens are afraid and stupid. “Free range” legally just means “access to the outdoors.” Pastured, on the other hand, means they’re raised outdoors. Of course, Happy Farm’s pasture-raised chickens are extremely expensive. Chicken breast for $13/lb? Holy fucking fuck. I can buy ol’ Perdue for $2.99/lb on sale. Thankfully, it looks like other local purveyors might have different, lower prices–eggs, however, are awesome when pasture-raised, and while more expensive, are totally worth the small bump in price.
So, that’s that. That’s where we’re at. I’d grade us at a cool 78%, which is a nice C+, and we’re getting better. Food is more enjoyable, and cooking has oddly been less challenging, not more — paradoxical, but there you have it.
All right. Gotta run. Yard sale time.