October 2010 Archives
My friend Karen joined me for her first visit to the 4-month-old farmers’ market in Topanga Canyon on Friday. I introduced her to the growers, and encouraged her to select produce for the week by loading up my shopping cart with multihued bell peppers, shiny red lipstick peppers, broccoli rabe, shelled tender lima beans, tiny fingerling potatoes, huge Macarthur avocados, lemons and limes, dark purple cherry tomatoes, a salad mix loaded with baby herbs, and end of the summer peaches.
As we walked to our cars, Karen commented that I had bought a lot of vegetables for just two people. I did, and always do. I am so tempted by the just picked produce, I add more and more to my cart, as ideas for how to prepare my finds dance in my head, and our meals are more interesting, and healthier to boot.
When I was growing up, my mother served shrimp for special occasions. They were delightfully sweet and briny, resilient yet fabulously succulent. But years ago, these little sea creatures changed, the flavor disappeared, the texture became mushy, and they were available everywhere, including at inexpensive eateries. Except for giant Pacific and Canadian spot prawns presented at the best restaurants, shrimp were no longer special.
I had read and heard arguments against eating inexpensive shrimp- environmentally unsound farming and fishing methods are employed to produce this low cost product. It wasn’t until a visit to a fish farm in Southeast Asia that I truly grasped the situation. One look at fish swimming listlessly in fetid brown water, and I understood why I had stopped liking shrimp, and recognized the toll on the ecosystem.
During the 4 years I lived in Vermont, I developed a hunger for maple syrup and cool, crisp fall days. Come September, I always experience a deep longing for New England, and couldn’t resist an invitation to visit Nova Scotia in northeastern Canada last week. The weather there satisfied my yearnings, the crenellated coast line was dramatic, and the maple trees were just starting to turn red, purple, and gold. Lobster, mussels, and scallops were abundant, as were just picked blueberries.
We visited a maple factory where I learned that northeast North America is the only region in the world that produces maple syrup. Canada is responsible for 85% of that syrup, and Nova Scotia is one of only four Canadian provinces that are rich in maples. Maple syrup is graded according to its color. Canada, the US, and Vermont each use their own rating system, which can be confusing. For details of the classifications, click on this link and then scroll down to "grades", or for ease keep in mind that the lighter the color the milder in taste, the darker the more intense. One more tidbit I found interesting, the color of the syrup darkens as the harvest progresses, the lightest syrup being the first collected, the darkest coming at the end of the season.