Oh yes. Portland in the summertime, though the way we've been having overcast and "cooler-than-usual" weather, it wouldn't seem like it. But, regardless of the temperature, the local farmer's markets are alive and well. Around our neck of the woods, they happen every Sunday. We make sure we're around so we can take advantage of the goodies brought to us from local farms and co-ops.
When the sun is out, you can smell it from a few blocks away - the basil and other herbs warming in the sun...the sound of people conversing on which stand to buy tomatoes from and as always, some folk guitarist singin' and strummin'. It is what Portland thrives on in the summertime. It's our time to indulge in the best tasting and most fresh produce of the year. Direct trade from farmer to consumer.
It generally is not cheap, but it's not really supposed to be. In order for our farmer's to make a living, they deserve to charge what they charge. They work hard so we can cook and eat. It is our honor to pay them fair prices for their hard labor and worries. From what I hear, the produce this year has suffered because of odd weather patterns in the PNW -- so our hearts go out to the farmers who suffered their usual plentiful yields and our hope is that we can take care of them somehow.
My wife and I went this past Sunday and picked up some beautiful and tasty goods. Here are a few pictures but please, don't get too jealous. :)
I always feel a great sadness as the markets come to a close and we are left to hunker down for the colder season. It is how the world works, though. It is worth it for me to not eat something all year until I know it's just right. Once you've tasted the way a certain fruit or veggie tastes in its prime, it's really hard to ever want to it again until its season comes. I think that's the way it's supposed to be.
We generally try to buy some meat from farmer's markets, but this past weekend our funds were not as sufficient, so maybe next time. They offer lots and lots of free ranged animals - granted, they are pricey, but for the peace of mind, it is worth it and as always, tastes so much better.
I encourage you, if you have markets in your area, to HIT. THAT. UP.
Support your local economy, and they will support you. It's as simple as that.
I remember when the Food Network was in its early days and all people ever wanted to watch was Emeril Lagasse. It was the Oreos in the freezer and his passion for Southern style cuisine that pulled me in.
I mean, the guy keeps sleeves of frozen Oreos. *Swoon* My herooo.. But Emeril had this saying,
"Pork fat rules." [..and the crowd goes wild!]
And at the time, I brushed it off. "Yes," I thought, "..fat is bad...very bad." Pork? Who eats pork? I mean, I like pork chops okay... Oh, ham too? I forgot and was ignorant where those pink bits between my slices of Bunny bread came from.
Society told me that pork was kind of gross. Many cultures and religions forbid you to eat it...and understandably so. It is a dirty animal - wallerin' around in the mud all day, eating God knows what. [I have a buddy who wants to feed a pig strictly hazelnuts, to butcher of course. Though I'm pretty sure he's kidding. I think.]
I know, I know. Animal cruelty. The thing is, I rarely buy pork these days unless I know where it came from. I go to a local grocery store that purchases all their pork from a farm in Washington state, which is not too far from us here in Portland.
So, as I've grown into learning the culinary aspects and the various respects of food, pork is becoming my favorite meat. This is nothing new to millions of others who love the pig because of its versatility. I mean, you have pork chops, belly, loin, shoulder and all the other odd and tasty bits that I've yet to get my hands for the sake of grossing out my friends.
All I need to say is one word... The one word that will slowly pull you into the wonderful world of all things pork.
Oh yes. Crispy. Salty. Cured and smoked. The perfect ratio of fat and meat. And as we should know where most meat comes from on an animal - bacon comes from cured (and perhaps smoked) pork belly.
Also, if you take the belly of the pig and roll it up like a sleeping bag, [gross analogy, I know] you have pancetta. That delicious and often "too fatty for me" but buttery and delicate slice of cured belly. Great with cheese, bread and wine. The same goes for dry-cured hind pig leg, as most of the world calls Prosciutto. (Which can run you really expensive...but is also where ham comes from..) Definitely not something a person eats everyday unless you're just absolutely obsessed or live in a place where it is daily life. Granted, those kinds of lifestyles can be better for you than eating fast food everyday.
I guess you can pick your poison.
I do realize that animal "for food" culture in America is severely messed up. I don't however, buy pork from mega-markets where there is hardly a label stating where the meat is from. If it's not local, it's generally from a place that shoves pigs into small sheds and has them eat, sleep and die in their own shit. And this, is nothing ever to be proud of. Our meat culture is dangerous, and has been for some time. But I hope, we are changing. There's no doubt, one of these days, meat will be more expensive and we will be using less of it.
I ask of you, to buy more local, if you can. If you absolutely can't, try eating less of certain product - or eat something that is more seasonal. Happy animals, treated respectfully and given the space to grow, just taste better. And I also ask of you, vegans and vegetarians, to forgive me. As I have abused animal food culture in the past, I don't generally eat it unless I know where it came from, as I said earlier. Let's work on this for everyone.
As the pig is versatile, it feeds many people of all lands and is rarely wasted. My favorite ways to cook pork are generally low and slow. Pork shoulder or belly is my favorite when it comes to this method. Who doesn't love pulled pork? Or pork tacos?
And there's no doubt Southern culture has an extreme love for this animal. My recent trip to the South contained a lot of pork. Stemmed much from its roots in African American culture and how that influenced Southern cuisine, we find it in most places and very often on our plates. You can get a lot of flavor for decently cheap parts..
So yes, Emeril, I get it now. Pork fat does rule. It brings much to a plate of food and a culture that relies on its versatility and taste.