Funny thing…traveling around the world for a year has made me think about living closer to home. No mum, I don’t mean that I’ll be moving back to my home town. I mean I should visit the market that’s just down the street instead of going to the supermarket. I should go see what the butcher has that’s local instead of buying meat pre-wrapped in styrofoam packages. I should have a veggie garden.
Everywhere we’ve been I’ve seen markets as a large part of everyone’s day. Why do we stock up with a weeks worth of groceries, eat meat that is factory produced, and buy vegetables that are shipped from around the world?
Here, in Vietnam, people eat breakfast at the local Pho stand, go to the market to get lunch ingredients and then go to the market again to get dinner ingredients…now that’s fresh! And that’s what local markets can deliver – the produce likely came out of the ground that morning and the eggs laid within the past few days. Fish in South East Asia was kept in water-filled plastic bins complete with aerating hoses…pick the one you want and take it home. Food tastes better, and is better for us, when it hasn’t been hanging around for weeks.
That’s why everything is so fresh…because it’s offered in the season that it is produced. No red peppers from Chile, no strawberries from California, and no pineapples from Thailand. Local markets deliver what is available right now, where ever they are. In Peru it was potatoes and carrots, in Germany it was radishes and lettuce and in India it was eggplant and cauliflower. When it comes to climate, some countries are certainly more fortunate that others and can produce a wide range of food all year round but seasonality provides a rotating variety of produce and lets us anticipate what the next season will bring.
In markets around the world I saw a dizzying variety of items. There was lots of different produce, many cuts of meat and plenty of fish, but there was also a plethora of other things that one may need. There is usually a stall or two selling spices, cooking oil, rice, flour, and other flavoring ingredients. Often times it was also possible to buy a knife, bowl, pan or rice cooker right there also. And always there is a booth, or two, or three selling ready made meals to enjoy on the low stools and tables nearby or to take home.
My favorite part of the markets I’ve seen is the personal nature of them. The lady behind that pile of greens may not have picked them herself this morning but she likely is related to the person that did. The eggs came from chickens that run around some ones’ yard all day. The people in the market are connected to the food they sell, and the people that buy from the market are connected to the people that produce the food they eat. It’s all personal.
In far away markets ‘local support’ is meaningless…there is no other way of doing business other than locally, but at home going to the market means supporting local businesses, local families and a local economy. I can see the dwindling farmland near where I live – it is becoming impossible to earn a living running a small farm and yet there is a movement toward local products. The tide needs to turn faster before there is no more ‘local’ to enjoy.
Don’t worry, I’m not becoming a hemp-wearing, crunchy granola type who only eats organic produce and chickens that led a ‘happy’ life, but I am going to try to live more locally…support local farmers, find a local butcher, grow my own carrots.