Miss Chef doesn’t get nearly enough credit for all she does as an instructor. She fully believes in supporting local food, and indoctrinates her students into this as a matter of course (no pun intended, but true!). So nearly every major ingredient on her menu is sourced locally. This includes beef, chicken, vegetables, fruits and even grits.
A few of the local farms are big enough, and have enough restaurant sales, that they do weekly deliveries. (Compare that to Sysco or US Foods, which can deliver every day if need be.) However, depending on the season and who’s got what, Miss Chef has to hit the local farmers’ market(s) every Saturday morning.
This means that after four days of getting up at 5:30 for class (she has Friday off), she gets up at 6:30 or 7:00 on Saturday. This also means organizing orders, pickup, payment and invoices for probably ten different vendors. She’s even opened up a separate checking account to manage all this, as she has to pay with her own money up front and be reimbursed by the school.
This morning we had to visit two farmers’ markets—Matthews and the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ market (which is run by the state of North Carolina). We went to Matthews first, because it’s an early market! If you don’t get there before 8:30, you might miss out on half of what’s on offer! Today we got there around 8:00 and were too late for beets.
We did get a dozen eggs from Carl, 10 whole frozen chickens from Milt, a garbage bag’s worth of kale from Pat (who threw in a two free bags of baby arugula), the rest of Sammy’s turnips and a few herbs (oh, and he threw in another bag of arugula!).
Alas, nobody had Swiss chard and as I mentioned, we were too late for beets. So off we went to the Big Market. Two huge sheds full of almost anything you can imagine! The first vendor we stopped at had all the beets and Swiss Chard we could handle. They were crazy busy, but very efficiently run by a small team of young women. Here’s an example of their efficiency:
Though it looks like he’s planning an escape, this little tyke was perfectly happy hemmed in by his giant cooler playpen. He was grinning up a storm, and seemed to enjoy all the bustle around him.
Now, Miss Chef had been complaining lately that she had sort of lost her mojo. She just wasn’t feeling excited about her menu or the new fall ingredients. But she seemed to be coming around, as she kept falling in love with ingredients all over the market. Leeks, purple sweet potatoes, baby bok choy…and then we wandered by a small booth with intriguing Asian ingredients. The energetic young woman invited us to try a bite of sugar cane. “Use it like gum,” she said. We popped a small chunk in our mouths, and when we bit down, a flood of lightly sweet water washed through our mouths.
Once again, Miss Chef fell in love! She bought a four-foot length of sugar cane, along with some kefir lime leaves and some hibiscus buds. Here’s a picture of the buds, with some of the cut-up sugar cane in the background.
I just realized it would be rude of me not to show you the actual cane, so let me go get a photo for you…hang on…
Here it is with a dozing Rosie for fun and perspective (Miss Chef cut about a foot of it off already). (Off the cane, not the dog!)
And here’s a close-up. Everyone thought it was bamboo—including us!
It’s really quite dense, which is logical, since it holds so much water.
Anyway, back at the market…after cruising through both sheds, we had one last stop at the school, to unload a week’s worth of produce for the restaurant there.
Then we finally headed home, because Miss Chef was finally excited about cooking again! Her earlier apathy was distressing for both of us, so you know I’d do anything to help her. Even it it means washing a boatload of dishes.
“I think I’m going to use every pan we have,” she said at one point. “That sounds about right,” I replied. What do we have here? Purple sweet potatoes, red and orange carrots waiting to be glazed with some of our homemade stock, grocery-store bacon, and a mix of potatoes and leeks being prepared for a quiche. Lunch was the sweet potatoes and carrots with some scrambled eggs we’d just gotten from Carl topped with our own chives, and sautéed bok choy. The sacrifices I make…
Oh, and after that, Miss Chef made a cold-season tea with the hibiscus buds, sugar cane and some of the fresh ginger we bought several weeks ago. It’s as good as it sounds!
And after that…she went to work again. On a Saturday night. This time Chef Luca asked me himself if she could work tonight, and promised he only needed her for three hours. This was after he handed me a length of locally-made sopressata sausage from Hickory Nut Gap farm near Asheville. How could I say no??
Besides, with Miss Chef gone, I have more time to post on my blog. You’re welcome.
PS. I had another reason for this post today. I recently got a new phone, one with a camera! I’ve had a very basic clamshell phone for years, and loved it, but the buttons weren’t connecting so well, and texting was a pain. So I finally entered the 21st century and bought a smartphone. Most of the photos above were taken with my new camera phone, and I wanted to see how they compare to my usual pictures. I can say I still prefer those taken by a real camera, so I’ll be taking that with me tomorrow when we go to the Renaissance Festival!
PPS. A quick Rosie update: still no diagnosis, other than a continuing urinary infection. She’s on a second course of antibiotics, and I have completed her switch over to a different brand of food. I don’t know whether it’s the food, the medicine or the drop in temperature lately, but she’s about 300% more Rosie than in previous weeks. And no accidents this week! (knock wood) The vet still would like to know why her urine is so dilute, but so far I’m happy we’ve got a perky girl and no wet spots on the carpet. Another vet visit is on the books once she’s finished her drugs.