Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Farmers Markets of the Southern Hemisphere

At the moment I'm back in Auckland, drinking a North Island cabernet and watching a documentary about a supermarathon through the Moroccan desert. Not bad for a Tuesday evening. Things I've learned so far: 1) there are people crazy enough to run 156 miles through the Sahara; 2) you can actually do that and not die; and 3) they wear really funny shoe covers to keep the sand out. Not too much exciting has happened since I last wrote - finished up in Australia, came back to Auckland, got back to work. So here's a post about something else.

Canberra's a city without much going on. It's not interesting, like New York or Boston; it's not terrible, like Syracuse. (No offense, Andrew.) It just kind of is. They built it a hundred years ago to be the capital and it seems it's yet to grow a soul. (Disclaimer: Everyone at the university was wonderful. A bland city doesn't mean bland people.) But the farmers market - daaamn. Appropriately known as Epic after the exhibition grounds where it's held. Place is huge. Di took me there on Saturday before I left for Bali. It's probably a good thing I was leaving town the next day, or I would have bought the place out. It sure doesn't hurt things to live in a climate where you can sell local olives alongside the honey, oranges, and lamb. And Australian truffles? (The fungus kind, as well as the chocolate kind.) Unfortunately no free samples there. If I'd had the chance I would've gotten a few of those kalamatas, a loaf of bread, some salami and tomatoes and one of those fruit tarts  and had myself a picnic. As is, the samples made a nice brunch. We picked up some sausages for dinner and a pile of produce. Later one Di poached a pile of quinces we'd bought - fantastic.

In Bali, a farmers market is just called a market. And I didn't go to a real one (not this trip, anyway), but I did go to the night market for cheap dinner. I can't vouch for the produce, but the soursop juice and nasi campur were great. Anyway, moving on.

For a big city, Auckland's downtown market at Britomart is pretty tiny. About the size of the Wooster Square market in New Haven, which, frankly, is pretty tiny. But what it's got is good. I came home Thursday night to a totally empty fridge, so Saturday I headed out there to restock. What Britomart's best for is breakfast - it is the middle of winter after all - and for the second time I got an apricot pastry worth shlepping up and down that hill for. Butter is a beautiful thing. Another stall was selling Argentinian empanadas. Given that the dough bore a striking resemblance to a wonton wrapper I'm not sure any real Argentinian would recognize them, but the filling was tasty. A fresh loaf of sourdough from the same place, two kinds of hummus, spinach and arugula, a bulb of fennel, broccoli, a lemon, a dozen pullet eggs, bagel chips, some apples, and a bag of kiwis. I love that you can buy kiwis at the market here. Not bad for the middle of winter.

And lastly, Sunday morning was 'the French market' at La Cigale, a French gourmet store about a mile from here. The place was packed. We're living off a dorm-sized fridge in our apartment here so there was literally nowhere left to put anything perishable, but brunch was definitely on the itinerary. True to the French theme I got a slice of leek tart (and paid an arm and a leg for it), a fresh orange/lemon/pineapple/ginger juice, and a feijoa macaron. The baked goods and sausages here looked pretty damn good too, but as I said, space is at a premium. In the produce tent I got a bag of basil (which thoroughly died within 24 hours, despite that it was still in dirt), a bunch of tomatoes, and a pair of casimaroa, advertized as 'vanilla ice cream fruit'. Turns out they're a close relative of my old favorite the soursop. Fresh sage and thyme with purchase, which made for a lovely pasta sauce last night. Alongside the usual suspects they were selling kaffir lime leaves, grapefruits the size of your fist (which seems to be the size grapefruits come in around here), chilis, purple carrots, and a small, lumpy root with slightly translucent red skin that was advertized as just 'yams', but which looked nothing like any yams I've ever seen. (Wikipedia says they're an Andean crop known as 'oca', which get called yams around here.) Next time I'm coming here with an empty fridge and trying some.

And now I'm craving another apricot pastry. Damn. Anyway on Thursday I leave ridiculously early to go to Fiordland, which should make for an eventful and photogenic weekend. Here's hoping for good weather and penguins.

1 comment:

  1. Tim & I just discovered how awful Syracuse actually is... geesh! It's like a super-sad Hartford!