Here comes a statement that will shock and amaze everyone reading; I love the weekends! I get to spend time away from work with my family and friends, doing what I want, when I want. And I love a routine. I don't mean a routine like Fred Astaire and Danny Kaye soft shoeing across the stage while singing "White Christmas" (even though I very much love that kind of routine). I love waking up on a Saturday and settling into my favorite routine, the Saturday morning farmer's market.
I know what you are thinking. This fat jerk is about to go on like some pretentious douche telling me how everything I buy needs to come from local vendors. This hipster dillweed wants me to wake up early so I can sweat my balls off in 700% humidity just to pay twice the price for an eggplant, and I don't even like eggplant. There is no way I'm listening to this patchouli oil wearing, latte drinking, stocking cap wearing in the summer, granola eating, only vinyl music buying hack about his stupid-ass farmer's market. That is what you are thinking, right?
Well, you're right. I am going to tell you about the joys of the farmer's market because it is the best. But before I get started you should know I'm only 1/2 hipster douche. I do purchase lots of music on vinyl (I'm sure I'll have a record store blog in the future) and I do frequent the Saturday morning farmer's market. I don't use patchouli oil because I don't want to smell like a chicken factory in the summer after a rain storm (all of my friends that went to James Madison University or lived in Harrisonburg, VA know what I'm talking about). Patchouli oil actually smells worse than body odor, so I'll go ahead and at least grab a quick rinse from time to time. I don't wear a stocking cap in the summer because the heat and humidity already make me look like Forest Whitaker in, well, every movie featuring Forest Whitaker so I don't need to keep in any more warmth in the summer. I don't eat granola. I don't actually have a sarcastic remark regarding granola. It is a perfectly healthy cereal that I just don't particularly like. And I don't drink latte's. I drink coffee with one cream and one sugar. If I wanted hot milk I would just share a bottle with my 15 month old daughter. But I do love me a farmer's market.
Every Saturday possible, Rizzo, Cece, and I head over to Lake Anne in Reston, VA for our farmer's market adventure. It is important to fuel up before "hitting the market" (that is what I call going to the farmer's market) (I've never called going to the farmer's market "hitting the market" but now I will). Only the best fuel will do so we make our way to the Lake Anne Coffee House. This is a nice little place with lots of outdoor seating to enjoy before hitting the market (yep, I'm going to say it all the time now). Before you start shouting, "Haha, I told you this hippie was going to tell us how awesome he is starting with his locally grown, organic, gluten free, carb free, taste free bagel and his locally grown, organic, gluten free, carb free, taste free coffee", you should know that these are not the droids you're looking for. My meal consists of sausage, egg, and cheese on an English muffin with a medium coffee. Rizzo has ham, egg, and cheese on a croissant. Cece has a sausage patty and a banana. The coffee is Folger's Crystals, at best. The sausage was purchased from the discount bin at Wal-Mart, where it was bundled with Snake Eyes and Con-Air to make it a Nicolas Cage special for only $4.99. The eggs have been reconstituted from powder and lake water, so at least the water is local. I'm guessing the substance on top of our breakfast sandwiches is really "cheese style food". The baked goods are the best Wonder Bread has to offer. And the banana, well, it's a banana. Point being is even though this place is locally owned and operated, it is far from a hipster hangout. We get our breakfast here because we can park the minivan (shut up, minivans are awesome), get breakfast, and hit the market without ever moving the car.
After our delicious and nutritious meal, we hit the market with the first stop almost always being the Meat Guy. I love the Valentine's Country Bakery and Meats. I call him the Meat Guy because I don't like to remember names and it is easier for me to remember that we get meat from the Meat Guy. As I'm sure you have guessed, all his meat is grass fed, free range, and fresh. Before I became a fan of the farmer's market I thought all meat was created equal and it was the person cooking the meat that would make it delicious. Boy, was I wrong. There is nothing quite as tasty as waking up on a Sunday morning and sliding Meat Guy's sausage in your mouth. His steaks are thick, juicy, and full of flavor. Meat Guy's lamb is tender and moist. His burger patties are large and delicious. No seasoning is required for any of Meat Guy's products. Just cook up the meat and let the gloriousness slide down your throat.
You say you are a vegetarian? Fear not, because Meat Guy also brings some delicious pies for desert. Apple, cherry, and blueberry are always available with other berries mixed in for good measure. Meat lovers and vegetarians alike won't be able to resist burying their face in the cherry pie. We always make sure to pick up a pie from the Meat Guy whenever my father-in-law comes to town. He loves to eat pie and always raves about the wonderful flavor of a Meat Guy pie.
After our sacks are filled by the Meat Guy, it is time to explore the rest of the market for the best locally grown fruits and vegetables. Before I continue, you should know that Rizzo and I have an interesting meal planning system. Each week, we decide what we will be having for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and then that is what we eat every day for that week. That means whatever we have for lunch on Monday will be exactly the same as what we have on Friday. Some may find it too boring but we find it easy to shop for and easy to plan. Anyway, we continue hitting the market to find the best fruits and vegetables for that week. One of the best vegetable vendors is Hutt Produce. The vegetable guy always has full, plump tomatoes and fresh, firm zucchini. I think Rizzo may like it because the guys that run the stand are younger (by farmer's market standards) and I'm convinced they hit on her constantly while I'm pushing Cece around in the stroller. That doesn't bother me as long as I get the bigger zucchini when we get home.
The family strolls the rest of the market, sampling the fruits, squeezing the vegetables, and even grabbing an occasional spoonful of ice cream. We may even get second breakfast from Empananda Lady if we are feeling really crazy. It is always sad when all of our reusable, hemp shopping bags have been filled and we must depart from this mystical garden of eden. But, just like Christmas, we know that farmer's market day will come again. At least until November, when the farmer's market is closed for the winter, doesn't open up again until May, and we have to resort to extreme measure for our meat and produce needs like, gasp, Harris Teeter. It's okay because its cold in the winter and you know what happens to meat in the cold.
P.S. I'm very happy to report (not directly as I'm not a reporter but I am someone who can easily provide information as a fourth or fifth source without checking any of the original sources at the risk of providing the wrong information but not caring and never retracting anything I write because it is a blog, even though most people accept it as a fact no matter what is written. Yay internet!) that more and more people that rely on SNAP (what used to be referred to as food stamps) are using those funds to purchase healthy, locally grown products at farmer's markets. As reported by Food & Wine:
Since President Obama took office, the USDA has prioritized increasing access for SNAP participants to roadside farm stands, farmers' markets and direct purchases from local farmers. According to their numbers, that initiative has been a success. The number of farmers accepting SNAP grew from just 753 in 2008 to over 6,400 today—an eightfold increase. That shift resulted in a 600 percent increase in spending at these farmers' markets and other locations, totaling $18.8 million in the 2014 fiscal year.
I make lots of jokes but I do honestly believe that having fresh food from local sources can vastly improve the health of everyone. Using SNAP funds to buy a few pounds of beef from Meat Guy or a couple ears of corn from the dudes that flirt with Rizzo is a far superior use of government dollars than using SNAP funds to buy Doritos, Coca-Cola, and Bagel Bites from the local supermarket.
P.P.S. For full disclosure, I should note that the Lake Anne Coffee House was sold in July 2015. An article on restonnow.com indicates that the new owners plan a top-to-bottom renovation of the location and also have plans to overhaul the existing menu with locally roasted coffee and high quality baked goods. Soon I'll be able to get my locally grown yogurt (I'm pretty sure you grow yogurt) mixed with hand picked granola and on-site roasted coffee like I've always wanted.