Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food….

We’ve been waiting for the Wentworth Greenhouses to kick off the Winter Farmers’ Market because we were in the market for fresh cut Brussels sprouts for our Thanksgiving table. The Thanksgiving menu has been planned. We’ve pre-ordered our turkey, our Edwards Virginia ham is on the way, and now we need our vegetables. We’ve come to the right place……

I was startled by the first person I encountered as I crossed the parking lot. He was a jolly old fella who laughed when I asked for his photo. The Christmas Season was definitely not on my mind today…. but, hey, St. Nick must celebrate Thanksgiving, too.  He had a big bag of produce that he carefully loaded into his sleigh…. errr….trunk.

Farmers’ Markets are still somewhat new to me. At the entrance, I surveyed the marketplace. The scene reminded me a little of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The area was packed with hustle, bustle, buying and selling, but there was a big difference here. There were no agitated, impatient, loud folks in this room. Shoppers of all ages, adults and children, sampled wares, stood patiently in line, mingled, laughed and chatted with the growers. Sights, earthy aromas, and textures permeated the throughout. Everyone was having fun.

No, I did not sample the raw goat milk but I couldn’t pass up the goat milk soap!

The sign with the pastas listed such amazing flavors as herb pappardelle, spinach fettuccine, garlic scapes linguine, lemon basil linguine, potato chives casarecci, squid ink spaghettini and more. I would like to sample them all.

So after mingling, sampling, buying, connecting with the growers and admiring their wares for over an hour, we purchased our fresh Brussels sprouts and made our way to the car.  Thank you to Wentworth Greenhouses and Seacoast Eat Local for providing fresh from the farms for local folks and a day’s entertainment…. of foods, crafts and rooms full of festive Christmas plants and adornments. I swooned over the glorious winterberry (Ilex verticillata), my favorite holiday trimming.

What is it about Virginia?

What is it about Virginia? Just like the newspaper columnist and author Guy Friddell wrote in his witty book of that title, Virginia is timeless. Some things never change. Virginians look forward to visiting with each other around a groaning board featuring foods of the season. In the spring, it’s shad, in the summer, it’s Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs, and in the fall, it’s oysters pulled from local waters.

When an invitation arrived for a Richmond oyster roast with family and friends, how could I resist a quick trip south? At the airport, I stepped onto Virginia soil under sunny skies and 70° weather to meet friends who volunteered transportation… but Virginia transportation is never from point A to point B.  Good Virginia hospitality always involves stopping for nourishment and a short driving tour and a friendly catch-up on news from high school to the present. The Art of Visiting is still a strong Virginia tradition.

A few strings of lights over the driveway, a couple of fire pits, scattered chairs, grills, Rappahannock River oysters and a groaning board full of sides and desserts and you have yourself a Virginia Gathering.

However, Virginians can’t live on oysters and sides alone. Oyster roasts need to be accompanied by a soup, traditionally clam chowder or our family favorite, Brunswick Stew, Edwards Ham biscuits, cornbread and then then the complement of appetizers, sides and desserts.

The trip to the Old Dominion gave me a moment to reconnect and reflect and unwind before jetting back to our newly adopted state, New Hampshire…. a state full of adventures and discoveries and an abundance of new friends to meet.