Saturday, July 28, 2012

East Oxford Farmers Market

I have another long-delayed post scheduled for today about food in Rome, but I thought I'd interrupt the queue to tell you about the foodie excursion I took this morning.

My dorm room in Oxford came equipped with a mini fridge, so I've been able to eat a little more cheaply (in other words, PBJs for lunch every day). Actually, I did this without a fridge last summer in London - peanut butter and jelly both keep well enough on a shelf at room temperature. The bread, though, tends to go moldy after about three days. I wasted a lot of bread. But now that I have a lovely little fridge, the bread has lasted and I've been able to keep some milk for my morning granola!

My London dorm should be even better - it's supposed to have shared kitchen facilities. I am really looking forward to this - while veggie dishes are far easier to come by in the UK than they were in Rome, there still aren't enough veggies for me. To put things in perspective, Jeff and I spent two months trying to consume three or four heads of lettuce in a week (besides the rest of our farm share). That amounts to a ton of produce. Our weekly menu revolves around veggies. But since I've been away, my diet has revolved around starches (though beans have made some inroads, since I've been in the UK - lots of falafel and hummus).

So, as you might imagine, the idea of a farmers market makes me giddy with joy right now. When I found the website for the market in East Oxford, just half a mile from my dorm, I jumped at the opportunity. It would make more sense, of course, to wait until I actually arrive in London to buy my veg, but I would have to rely on the grocery store rather than local organic farmers (London's farmers market scene is rather good, too, but there's nothing in my area until at least Thursday - and while the supermarkets do a great job stocking local products, I prefer to avoid the middle man when at all possible). So first thing this morning, I trotted over to the market to stock my little fridge!

The market was a bit crazy. There was only one produce stand, so the area around it was quite crowded. After observing the chaos for a few minutes, I realized that the system was this: take a number, take a box, fill your box with the produce you want, then hang in the background and wait until your number is called. Most of the chaos was caused by the people hanging around the background - the room wasn't very big, so it was impossible not to be in someone's way.

I took my number and popped over to one of the bread stands to pick up a whole-grain loaf and a cute little hedgehog bun (close-up below). I then eyed up the other stands - some baked goods, including French macarons (I passed, because I found great macarons at a cheaper price yesterday), a few stalls with prepared foods, some meat vendors and some craft stalls. I wasn't interested in anything else, so I honed in on the veg. I grabbed some salad and stir-fry ingredients. I couldn't take any greens (though the spinach and chard were so tempting) because I was doubtful they'd survive my journey to London tomorrow. But I did get salad fixings (which may also be dipped in hummus!): cucumber, broccoli, a bell pepper and carrots. I liked the look of the broad beans, so I grabbed a bunch along with some onions and tomatoes, perhaps for a little veggie saute. I also got some zucchini because I couldn't help myself.

We'll see how this goes. If my produce survives the trek to London intact, and if I have access to the cooking equipment I require, I may try and post a recipe. Until then, back to the regularly scheduled line-up of travel posts!