To Market, To Market

Bob Fenn and I at Milwaukee Public Market; foggy sunrise 043I can tell it’s almost spring, though continuing snowfalls are no indication that this is so. But these days, the birdsong is all about spring, the sandhill cranes and red-tailed hawks are returning, and the inner time-keeper that heralds earth’s green abundance is causing me to shift from soup-making to craving salads and fruits and icy teas.

This is the time of year I countdown the days to the opening of farmers’ markets, in our local communities and in Madison, where the largest outdoor producer-only farmers’ market in the U.S. will open on April 20th. My own garden’s vegetables and fruits, local CSA’s’ offerings, and all these glorious farmers’ markets…such lovely, healthy bounty, and it’s almost here, near enough to smell!

Bob Fenn and I at Milwaukee Public Market; foggy sunrise 042 - CopyThe first 20 years of my adulthood were spent in Milwaukee, which is not a huge city, but at a population of 600,000 or so, the largest in the state. And since it’s the home to several universities and colleges as well as (still) many ethnic communities, shopping for produce, spices, and groceries was always a possible adventure.  In the early 70’s, the first “health food” stores brought the additional availability of whole wheat and other grains still absent from grocery store shelves. We could prepare and eat healthy meals, and fairly cheaply.

Bob Fenn and I at Milwaukee Public Market; foggy sunrise 040 - CopyThen I married Phillip and moved to the “country.” I couldn’t adjust to the scarcity of fresh produce and lack of ethnic foods and spices. I drove 40 minutes to Madison to find healthy ingredients. I remember an older teacher sitting beside me in the staff lunchroom and commenting on the “funny-food” I brought for my lunches (probably something with garlic and spinach). It all brought home to me that a move of 50 miles had brought me back to the wretched dietary habits of the 1950’s and 60’s: better eating through chemicals, processing, excessive sugars and fats, and meat, meat and more meat. It really made the newness of the community and our marriage all the more challenging not to be able to cook, bake, and eat foods that fed our spirits as well as our bodies.

Bob Fenn and I at Milwaukee Public Market; foggy sunrise 044The Farmers’ Market in Madison, and growing and preserving as much food as we could, helped a lot every summer. And, as the years have passed, an increasing awareness of the health benefits derived from fresh, organic foods and ingredients, as well as a shift towards greater variety and sophistication in tastes, has altered the local food landscape for the better. Several community farmers’ markets are close and affordable, and also provide wonderful opportunities to connect with friends and hear updates on everyone’s stories.

And when the cold winds do blow and shut down access to fresh garden produce, local groceries now stock organic choices. A few years ago, a woman opened a wonderful bulk goods store in our area, working with local and Midwest Amish and Mennonite suppliers. A short, beautiful ride in the country and I can stock up on inexpensive organic grains and spices that keep our meals varied and healthy all winter. I’d never tried some of these before (spelt; kamut; rye berries) and have enjoyed experimenting with new recipes.

Bob Fenn and I at Milwaukee Public Market; foggy sunrise 041 - Copy

This week I met with a friend at the indoor Milwaukee Public Market, a place I’ve enjoyed visiting since it opened in 2005. While not the most affordable place to shop, it’s a wonderful resource for specialty “treats,” people-watching, and to pay homage to the history of Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Years ago, when I worked downtown, I’d walk to the Third Ward over lunch break just to watch men unload crates and crates of fresh produce and fruits. It’s always good for my spirit to be back in Milwaukee and to share a meal with a friend, but now it’s also good to come back and cook up a healthy meal from ingredients I can buy here, at home.

My friend Bob, and I, at The Milwaukee Public Market
My friend Bob, and I, at The Milwaukee Public Market

Time to bake some whole-grain organic soda bread for our St. Patrick’s celebrations…Joy to your first day of spring! May it bring a season of fresh and blessed health to your mind, body, and spirit, and may there be enough green in your pocket, on your plate and outside your window to make your life rich and your spirit merry!


21 thoughts on “To Market, To Market

  1. What a lovely uplifting post.I feel as happy as a hobbit after reading that and could almost smell those colourful flowers and tasty looking cheeses.
    I’d love to see the markets in person they sound like a hive of activity and a riot of colour, a great place for a veggie like me, to shop. I was always accused of eating funny food too, but hey….we’re just ahead of our time! Lol

    Now…….down to business….I’m rather excited about this sentence….”sandhill cranes and red-tailed hawks will return soon” REALLY???? Oh WOW! Lots for me to look forward to then, I do hope you keep your eyes peeled and your camera close!!! yes!

    Happy St Patrick’s day to you too….and I hope Spring isn’t far behind.. xxxxx


    1. You bet; I’ll catch the cranes and possibly the hawk, if I can…I often get so lost in watching I forget to photograph! They’re both so beautiful. If you ever visit this part of the world, be sure to let me know! The Madison Farmer’s Market is a wonder! Thanks, for visiting, Snow Bird!


  2. Oh….yes… SO distracted by the hawks and cranes I forgot to say how nice it was seeing your pic. You are lovely, and have a face that is sweet and bursting with humour….and love. Just as I imagined you, strangely. xxxxx


    1. Thank you…I do love to laugh! It’s funny to see people’s appearance if you’ve just heard their voice or read their words, isn’t it? You create an image an then…well, I’m glad I didn’t disappoint!


  3. I so understand where you are coming from Kitty! Whenever I move around I do so with a map laid out in front of me and my computer to lead me to a place close enough to a healthfood store I can eat and live life from!!! It is an absolute MUST! No ifs ands or buts. Thankfully as you say times are changing and organic food is more widely available! Thank Goodness. I am getting ready to plant seeds indoors and get ready for spring and the coming of planting season. Yay!!!! I’ve got to have good food. Thanks for sharing and it was lovely seeing your smiling face again. Be well my friend. Enjoy spring and the coming warmth and of course all of your 4 leggeds. Blessings to you all…..VK


  4. Be well, too, hopeful angel, and my blessings to your sweet seeds. Yes, I think the fact the availability of healthier food is widening means greater care for the earth can’t be far behind! That’s my prayer…Thanks for visiting and sharing, as always, VK.


  5. Wonderful post, Kitty; it has been a long journey from the eating standards of the 50’s and 60’s to the wealth of choices we now have. I grew up on an organic farm and leaving to go to school and into the world was a nutritional shock; now I live in a choice-laden local foods movement; what a pleasant surprise. And like you, I’m beginning to crave fresh vegetables instead of hearty soups – always a welcome change! Thanks for another wonderful set of insights into the way we live and think.


    1. You grew up on an organic farm? Wow! Where? How interesting, Lynn! I’m hopeful that with healthier food–which must be in response to consumer demand–we’ll have
      more people working towards a healthier earth, too! I would love to hear more about growing up on an organic farm: it would be like growing up in the secret garden, for me! Peace to your week’s end and thank you so much for visiting; you always gift me with the blessing of your words.


      1. Kitty, I’ve spent most of my life in Western Pennsylvania, either in the countryside or in the city of Pittsburgh. When I was 13, in the 1960’s, my parents bought a small family farm (30 acres of rolling hills, apple orchards, pine forests, and fertile bottom land) in order to pursue organic gardening on a large scale. Our rows of vegetables were 50′ long; my brother and I worked in the garden from 6 A.M. to noon every day, then were free to pursue our own interests. We took a family trip to Emmaus to visit the Rodale headquarters; my father had a large collection of Organic Gardening magazines and the farm was his grand experiment in living organically. We had a compost pit that was 10′ by 15′ and mowed the fields to provide hay for mulch. Sometimes we had chickens and ducks, and always lots of cats and dogs. It was an amazing life; I learned to garden there as well as make jelly, can tomatoes and preserve food in a variety of ways. The highlight of the year was the big apple butter party in October, when friends gathered to help us make massive amounts of apple butter, a party that lasted from early morning until late night, with lots of music jam sessions to provide entertainment. My oldest brother still lives on some of the property and I was married there in a grove of plum trees. It was truly a wonderful way to grow up 🙂


        1. So you’re the one who was given the charmed life I fantasized about! 🙂 Lynn, it is so lovely to hear even a bit of this story: I longed for all the joy of the gardening and music and beauty, but had just bits enough of these things to know I would have more, someday. Of course, hard work and sacrifices were also part of these joys, too, I’m sure…We just watched The Real Dirt on Farmer John and were so moved by the struggles and evolution in that particular farmer’s life…in the end, were your parents fulfilled with these choices? (Not to pry where I have no right, but to live out the Whole Earth Catalog in W. PA…did families and friends support or scratch their heads…?) What a book, or many, you have here! Thank you so much for the images and ideas you’ve provided!


          1. My parents were school teachers at the time, Kitty, so it was a great balance with summers free to work in the garden and two out of the three kids home to help out. They never sold any of the produce; most things grew with great abundance, so after we picked and stored what we needed, friends who were short of cash were invited to come and pick as much food as they wanted.

            Friends and relatives loved coming to the farm; we had lots of picnics and parties and always a plethora of jazz musicians ready to play together at the drop of a hat. It was an odd mix of “rural cool.”

            Much of Western PA is still rich in small farm communities; the local food movement has taken hold here and I think there are a lot of small growers that do fairly well. We have our choice of local vegetables and fruits, grass fed beef and dairy, organic chicken and eggs, and so forth. Too many recent MacMansion developments have ruined some of the apple orchards but there is still a strong rural presence throughout the area, rubbing shoulders with the city and towns.

            I think I need to dig up some photos and make some posts about this 🙂


  6. your story here reminds me of similar experience when I went to live in the country for a while, back in the early 70s. I had imagined that the food would be most natural, close to where it grew… but it turned out differently. I’m so glad for you that you now have the sort of food you like best, close to home. Some really charming pictures here, and I most enjoyed the one of you and your friend together.


    1. It is a lovely shift occurring, back to our roots in ways that are literal and metaphorical…people seem to be more aware of dangers inherent in GMO’s and pesticides…a good shift that I hope transfers to care of the earth and of the hungry…it seems what’s good for the body is also good for the spirit. 🙂 Thank you for visiting and sharing! Yes, it was good to be with a friend and enjoy the market.


  7. Oh Kitty, how lovely to see a picture of you here! You look wonderful! And I’m so glad to hear that you’re able to get your hands on such a wide variety of organic and healthy produce close by. The store is just brimming with goodness! Enjoy the fruits of the good earth. I would love to know some of your favourite recipes! Sharon


    1. Thank you, Sharon! I’ll have to share some recipes…with the warning that I’m one of those bakers and cooks who deviates a lot from the actual recipe! 🙂 So kind of you to visit!


      1. That sounds just perfect because I am one of those bakers and cooks too 😀 I can’t seem to follow instructions very well especially if it involves micro measurements or else it all fails! My recipes are usually a pinch, a dash, a dribble, a sprinkle, a handful, taste as you go. Maybe that’s why I suck at baking….sigh, I just can’t seem to make my banana bread turn out like banana bread….


        1. I’ve been able, finally, to putz around with changes in baking, but usually only after a few attempts…luckily, my husband is a good sport about eating almost everything and not complaining! For cooking soups and etc., I usually read several recipes and then combine ideas and add a few spices…you, too? 🙂


          1. You know what – that sounds just about right to me too Kitty! 😀 And I love soups. My favourite being butternut squash or pumpkin and some Chinese herbal soups which my husband has slowly learnt to like over the years. I think cooking should be easy and enjoyable to make – and still be heartily appreciated by those eating it! I admire pastry chefs for all their artistic skills and impeccable adherence to timing and measurements but I guess my style is just more rustic, simple, down to earth food. What’s your favourite spice? I guess mine would have to be turmeric! These days I’m learning Persian. My husband is half-Persian and that has opened up a whole new world of culinary wonders for me. What’s your favourite foods?


  8. I love turmeric; I guess whatever spice is most in season is my favorite, but I use a lot of dill, mixed curries, and rosemary all year…when my basil is planted every year, I swoon. Lavender, though it’s considered a “flower,” is a favorite and although it’s a bulb, I use a LOT of garlic. In the fall and winter, I bake everything I can think of that will let my home smell like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice… cardamon is wonderful, too…I guess you can tell I’m a spice girl. 🙂 Pumpkin and squash soups, veggie soups, and pea soup are probably my favorites, but I have three of four cookbooks that focus solely on soup, so there’s no stopping me once I get going. 🙂 We eat a great deal of salad and fresh fruit, too, if we can find organic when our gardens and fruit trees are dormant…I also love lobster and salmon, but we don’t eat other meat, and very little dairy. (Wisconsin is known for its cheeses, so we do indulge, once in a while, in very good cheese…)

    I would love to hear more about Persian food: Please point me towards your favorite recipes if you ever have the time!

    It is good to have a Malaysian friend in Finland. I am blessed! This reminds me again what a gift the internet can be! 🙂


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