The highlights from the trip are many. Sublime meals, foraging our own lunch, actually learning how to taste and describe wines, and learning from other fascinating writers and editors. Today I'm going to bring you our rainy morning excursion to the Penticton Farmers' Market.
I was eagerly awaiting our trip to the market after a particularly splendid and gloriously special meal on our first night of the workshop. Catered by Joy Road Catering the meal featured some spectacular food - lamb, a ridiculously good Santa Rose plum tart, and the most phenomenal green beans ever to have grown. I couldn't stop talking about the beans for days. Simply steamed and tossed with pickled cipollini onions they were the pure definition of fresh and tasted like the colour green. When I found out that I could buy them from a vendor at the market I repeatedly told my fellow participants that any and all beans were mine, and only mine. I'm sure it did little to ingratiate me to them, but I needed those beans.
When we arrived for breakfast the rain was looming. And by the time we finished there was quite the downpour drenching the streets. A few brave souls that actually thought to bring umbrellas started the walk while the rest of us remained behind, waiting for our short bus. By the time we reached the market and got underway the anxiety was creeping in. Coffees in hand and introductions made we ventured down Main Street to visit the stalls.
Vans and trucks parked behind white awnings. Some vendors without tents with drops of water glistening on the squash and apples. Water dripping off the hats of grizzled men committed to their product. Two simple blocks of vendors selling their own veggies, garlic, herbs, sausage, coffee, and baking. Nothing fancy, little in the way of crafts, and more organic produce in one section that the largest Planet Organic in the country.
With the Similkameen Valley as part of the catchment for the market the number of organic producers was a significant portion of the vendors. The Similkameen Valley has a disproportionately large number of organic producers. I made the observation that there were more organic vendors than conventional in the market. It was a refreshing change.
It was also refreshing to know that of the vendors we stopped at we were actually meeting the producers. They could tell us everything about each particular tomatoe or apple. Their hands were dirty from picking that morning, their trucks low on gas from the trip into town. This one tomatoe guy from Naramata knew the name of each and everyone one of his probably 20 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes. He told us about the complex pen pal relationships he and other growers have to exchange and save seeds. He entertained a curious four year old with trick tomatoes and dancing gourds. And when I went to pay I finally noticed his classic scale. How cool is this?
But what about those green beans? At every stall I thought, "this is it!" We met lovely farmers and oohed and aahed over persian cucumbers, tiny tomatoes, and juicy pears. Finally, finally we got to Gabi's stall. I pored over her pretty baskets of cute little veggies, desperate for those beans. Someone grabbed the last bunch of cipollini onions while my eyes wandered over every basket and bag in the intense desire for those tender strings of green. It may have been the rain, but I think I cried a little when told that the beans were sold out.
Sigh. My heart was marginally mended when Julie shared with me one quarter of the last plum tart from Joy Road Catering's stall. The tart they saved just for her. We joked about our tears of joy having calories that weekend, but mine at that moment was just a little bit sad.
I would be remiss if I did not thank Jennifer Cockrall-King for organizing such a fabulous workshop. Wow, this Food Girl rocks! She organized a tremendous slate of events, with meals that can hardly be described by my words. She brought together a fantastic and diverse group of people that were teasing each other and sharing glasses by the end of the weekend.
I also have to thank our host that morning, Mathew Batey, the executive chef at Mission Hill Winery. More on him to come.