29 July, 2007

The Sunday Market

Yesterday was Sunday. As I often do I went off the the local Farmer's Market on my bicycle with my re-usable cloth bags and a couple of plastic sand pails for tomatoes ( recycled from use in kids' English classes) in the back basket. It's not very far, about a 5-minute drive away. They section off a part of the street near the local Fire House, backed by the tiny town park. There are two rows where local producers set up stands facing the street, most often with awnings overhead to protect from the sun or rain. They get there early. The place is all set-up before 9:00 (the earliest I've ever managed to arrive).

I like this place. The people who bring their goods are usually the farmers themselves, though we have a few re-sellers from the local Farmers' co-operative. I like these people. They are earthy and honest and really quite kind. Often they have a bit of a joke with me, we exchange some smiles, and often over my protests they give me free "service" items. Just because. A service to regular customers, and maybe to people "from away", just to be hospitable.

There's one very kind obasan that I usually go to first. She has the most carefully grown and chosen produce. Her vegetables are always picked at the right time to be delicious; yesterday I got tiny tender eggplants that took only a few moments to grill. She always has all the seasonal things and I can count on her to tell me how to cook something if I need help. She makes black bean pickles to die for -- a little crunchy, sweet with sugar and soy, and often sporting a few sliced hot peppers. Yesterday I spotted them and said "delicious" and she sent me away with a bag that she wouldn't let me pay for. The name for the free present is the English "service". This is one place that truly understands the meaning of that word and what it takes to win customer's hearts.

There is another group with rough manners, missing a few teeth but with open honest faces and big smiles. Yesterday they gave me a discount that I didn't ask for, just for the pleasure of our mutual smiles. They always have good hearty vegetables and fruit, just like themselves. I never miss their table.

Then there is an old Mom and Pop, she bent over and no longer able to stand straight, up front to chat with customers and bag up the purchases, toting up everything on an abacus, but sometimes losing her place and having to start over; he hovering in the background to wait on people shopping from the selection at the back, and to help if need be. She was the first to make me feel welcome at the market when I began as a trepidacious shopper with only 1 or 2 words of Japanese. Though they sell things from the local co-op, I always stop by to buy something from them, mostly for old times' sake, and well-wishing.

From time to time I shop at a flower stand which has a wonderful assortment of colours and shapes in season. I can buy everything from "Bird of Paradise" flowers to New Year's branches laden with red berries and pine boughs so that Christmas seems more real. This time of year I usually don't buy flowers, though, for my rooms are too hot and the flowers die within a single day that I am away from home.

I wish I had a photo. I will try to get one soon, but it seems I always forget my camera in the excitement to go and see what the market holds that week.

I have been there a few times since I started the diet, as a vegetarian, but not trying to buy all my weekly vegetables. This week, inspired by a new favourite site called No Impact Man I have been making efforts to cut down on my impact to the environment. I went yesterday with the goal to get my weekly vegetable supply, rather than at the grocery store where everything is wrapped in plastic. But after a few meals yesterday and today featuring vegetables, I realize that I have fallen far short of the amount I will need to get through the week. I have been eating a lot of grilled vegetables and salads. I am going to run out of tomatoes and eggplants in another day or two. I probably have enough onions and potatoes. Luckily there is a little market in the nearby shopping mall that sells vegetables out of big boxes, so I will be able to fill in there. And I will have a talk with my organic store and ask them to save me vegetables that are not in plastic bags.

Yesterday I got the local coffee store to wrap my coffee beans in recycled newspaper, saving the usual two plastic bags and a twist tie. I intend to make old newspapers my new wrapping paper. And to stop buying newpapers. I have managed to reduce my trash a lot. I only need to put it out once a week and then not a full bag.

The Low Impact lifestyle is addictive. Once you make one change, you start to think of one more you could make. Then suddenly you are thinking about the impact of everything in your life. What's addictive may be that you are thinking and acting for yourself outside of ways that have been automatic since you were a child. It's a great feeling to be doing something, anything, to combat this Global Warming nightmare that worries us all. Getting healthy, aware and unstuck from rote thinking, and unhooked from the Big Business-Consumerist machine are the pay-offs that might just make this way of life more and more attractive to us all.


Sea said...

Hi VegJ!
I've been thinking about low impact living as well, and have been trying to cut down on bag usage when shopping. I'll check out the site you recommended.
I know just what you mean about those delicious pickles- only bad thing is, I poisoned myself a little unintentionally with them when I was first living in Japan- many contain wheat based soy sauce. I had to be really careful about which pickles I bought, and had to stop buying my favorite Chinese style cucumber pickles and settle for the summery ones packed in water and salt. Delicious, though... *sigh*
I'm really homesick for Japan right now... This is the first summer I haven't been in Japan for four years.

Martin J Frid said...

That market sounds like fun. "Food miles" is a big issue, trying to reduce the distance that our dinner travels. One thing I really make a point to ask for is local lemons! Seems silly to get my C Vitamin source from accross the oceans when Japan has a lot of citrus fruits.

Other stuff I don't mind so much if they are imported, like avocados, since they probably don't grow well here.

I don't know if you like tofu, but you might want to try to find locally made tofu, labelled 国産 (Koku-san, which means that the soybeans are farmed in the country).

Sea said...

By the way, I think I already commented on this post, but I wanted to let you know that I invited you to participate in a meme on my site. If you come by Book of Yum you'll see the post about the meme. No worries if you don't feel like participating, but I've been enjoying your blog and wanted to invite you. :)

Have a lovely day,

vegetablej said...

Hi SSeamaiden:

Yeah, I thought of that after I posted. I guess I can tolerate a bit of gluten as I'm not diagnosed as a celiac but _only_ allergic. My story is that wheat gives me severe eczema which I had for most of my life until cutting it out this past year. My hands were practically unusable for much of my life due to being full of cracks and blisters; the itchiness was unbearable. That has cleared if I avoid wheat. Also I had migraine headaches and digestion problems. Sounds more and more like celiac, doesn't it? I'm just thankful to have these things cleared up, so I avoid it as much as I can. I guess the beans were an oversight; takes time to get the hang of getting everything with wheat out of the diet.

By the way I went to your site today (oh the agony; you have too much good food I can't really eat on my diet). I really want to try the corn tortillas, but how to stop at one or two? :)

I am working on the meme, which will be my first!Thanks for thinking of me.

vegetablej said...


I practically live on tofu which I get at my local organic and sometimes regular grocery store. It's useful to have the kanji. Thanks! I'll check for other things made in-country, too.

The big advantage of buying from farmers is that you know everything is made locally. Another good thing is everything is fresher and a lot cheaper than the grocery store.:)

vegetablej said...

I know the feeling of homesickness for a place; in the summer especially I miss the cool temperatures and ocean fogs in the small villages of Nova Scotia where I grew up. And I so long for the smell of pines, you know the smell you get in summer when you walk in the woods over the old pinkish pine needles. And even the taste of "pine gum" which was all we had as young kids.

I was thinking that maybe You might like me to send some things from here. Or maybe you would be up for a package exchange? If you're interested you could email me at the address I left on your blog.

Also, gambatte, ne? :)

Sea said...

Hey there VegJ-
I almost missed this post! Whoops! I'm SS, right? lol. I think it would be fun to do a package exchange.. I'll track down your email address. I am cramming for a reading French exam so will be a bit out of commission for the next week or so, though..
-"SS" ;)