When I was growing up in Singapore, I never really questioned where the food I ate came from.
I barely went to the supermarket, if at all, and was extremely fortunate given that the refrigerator was somehow always full thanks to my mum, who made sure we never lacked anything.
Vegetables came packaged in styrofoam plates and plastic wrap; orange juice was always in a carton, and fruits came in netted bags.
To me, it was normal that the food I was eating came packaged like that.
I mean, I knew that they grew from plants and trees in farms far away (and I had a mango tree in my backyard on which fleshy, sweet mangoes grew), but I’d never felt a connection to the farmers who produced the foods, nor did I see a necessity to feel connected to them.
Food was a means to survival for me at that point of time, and because I didn’t cook back then, it never occurred to me to be interested in how the fruits, vegetables and meats came to being, and the journey they made to finally arrive in my kitchen.
When I began to cook in Buenos Aires, I started going to supermarkets and learnt (from trial and error) how to pick fresh, ripe produce.
I learnt to ask my vegetable grocer for the season’s freshest produce, and made friends with the guy at the meat shop – so he would recommend which cut of meat was best on that very day.
It was possibly the closest I’d come to knowing where my food came from.
As I started being more interested in real foods, and a need to eat less processed foods started manifesting, a tingling to connect – with those who harvested the produce I ate, as well as a desire to know those who raised the animals whose meat I eat – slowly arose.
I’d heard of farmers markets before, from blogs and newspapers, and knew that they were plentiful and on the rise in the US.
When we were still living in Buenos Aires, I would often wish I had the luxury of a weekly farmer’s market near enough to visit often.
Now that we’re here in DC for the next few months, I was determined to visit farmer’s markets and get plenty of their farm-fresh produce.
Last Tuesday, Juan and I decided to use the remaining free days he had before starting his internship to visit Capitol Hill, the neighborhood in East DC that we hadn’t yet explored.
While the highlight of Capitol Hill should really have been the Capitol and other buildings related to the US government and administration, what really struck my fancy and enthusiasm was Eastern Market, where fresh produce, and handmade arts and crafts are available.
The Fresh Tuesday Farmer’s Market is held weekly each Tuesday from 3pm to 7pm, and we were treated with farmers showing off their goods.
Sweet, white nectarines; juicy Asian pears; summer squash; goat cheese and more – were all for sale.
I adored talking to the farmers themselves, some of whom had driven for around three hours from their farms in Philadelphia to be at the market.
These farmers were literally bringing their freshest produce with them and displaying them at the farmer’s shed for us to buy.
I loved biting into summer’s ripe, sensual peaches; tasting a spoonful of homemade goat’s milk caramel (which does have a distinct goat milk taste combined with the sweetness of typical caramel), drinking mint lemonade one of the farmers offered me and observing the little children play with the baby goats that were standing around in a makeshift pen.
I loved looking at the vibrant colors of the fresh flowers for sale.
I wanted to buy all of those sunflowers, roses, lilies and all the different varieties of flowers whose names I had no idea of.
The delicious smells coming from the indoor bakery were also driving us crazy… the fragrance was just too amazing.
I realised that shopping for groceries really gets me excited.
Maybe not everyone can understand this, but it’s true… thank God Juan loves grocery shopping as well!
It was all so real, so fresh.
SO DARN BEAUTIFUL.
Nothing came pre-packaged or already cut-up in plastic boxes. Nope.
Everything came straight from the farmers’ trucks which had come directly from their farms.
I mean, I love Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for their convenience, but a farmer’s market, where you can meet the farmers directly, is a whole new experience.
And this my friends, is the reason why I’m going to be visiting farmer’s markets regularly.
And that’s why you should too.