Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Hundred Dollar Diet

I stopped by the Farmers' Market on the lawn of Pacific Central Station, a magnet for people making an effort to follow the Hundred Mile Diet. I bought an organic Macintosh apple to snack on as I walked home. It was $1.09, an expensive apple it seemed to me. I bit into it, expecting it to taste especially delicious. It tasted like a perfectly ordinary Macintosh apple.

This wasn’t the first time I had been to the Farmers' Market since it set up shop Wednesday evenings in front of the Pacific Central train and bus station, across from the busy Main St. Skytrain station. I had bought corn on the cob there in August. Cobs ran as high as $1.25, depending on the vendor. One vendor offered organic corn for $10 a dozen, or $1 each. I bought a couple of non-organic cobs for 75 cents each from a young Indo-Canadian farmer who had come in from Abbotsford. I liked him because he had his back to me and wasn’t putting pressure on people to buy.

The salsa saleswoman at Momma Nellie’s never missed an opportunity to make eye contact and chat up a potential customer, explaining over and over that she makes the salsa at home in her kitchen then loads it into the trunk of her car and sells it at outdoor markets. She sold me a jar, for $8. I can get a jar of Paul Newman’s salsa out of his cold dead hands for $4.19 at Buy-Low up the street, less when it’s on sale, which it often is. But like the woman said, hers is “fresh”. She gives you little samples and tells you to take note of the crunch in the vegetables. I did. I heard the crunch.

I was on the hundred dollar diet.

"Farmers on 57th”, billed as being “a half acre organic market garden tended by 3 young growers”, was offering bunches of kale for $2 each. I buy kale for $1.18 at Buy Low, but it isn’t organic, and it’s from California.

Shalefield Gardens from Lindell Beach, a lakefront village on Cultus Lake east of Vancouver, had a table at the market selling organic Swiss chard for $2 a bunch. But the bunches were smaller than those I get weekly at Buy Low where it’s also organic but only $1.68. The bad news of course that it’s from California.

Bean Boy was selling assorted spreads, such as Spicy Black Bean or Humous with Curry. The seller explained that his beans were soaked for 16 hours, and cooked in a stainless steel pressure cooker. He charged $5.50 for 200 grams and $9.50 for 400 grams. He was offering samples on small pieces of taco chips.

Hazelmere Valley Beanery was selling Fair Trade Coffee, 3 1bs. for $30.

The Forstbauer Family Farm in Chilliwack had organic raised beef on sale, regularly $11/lb, now $9/1b. And they had certified organic eggs. They had notices up like, “free range”, “organic feed”, “grass feed”.

Nature’s Best Meat had “Range Raised Bison”. You could buy it ground. You could buy it as burger patties. And even as pet food.

A benefit to shopping at a Farmers' Market is that you can talk to the people who grow your food. “You are what you eat. Meet your maker”, is the slogan on the Farmers Market website. A friend strolling with me at the market in August enjoyed schmoozing with the farmers. She talked to a woman selling bacon produced with minimal nitrates. “We use only the smallest amount,” the saleswoman emphasized. My friend brought home the bacon. I later asked her how much she had paid for it. She would say only that it was “expensive”, adding that it was worth it to her. It would be worth it to me too, due to the strong link between colon cancer and nitrates.

A vendor called “Thai Princess” was selling stir fry sauces, vegetarian. Samples in tiny cups were offered to people walking past. I tried two samples, one coconut, one peanut. Both tasty. A 325 ml container of the sauce was selling for $8, three containers for $20.

Golden West Farms in Summerland in the Okanagan was doing a brisk business selling “fresh-picked” organic cherries for $3.49 lb. I bought a small bag. Some of them were a little soft, possibly because it was the end of the season.

At Bad Girl Chocolates, you could get a chocolate bar for $4.

At Knead Some Dough, $5 would get you a loaf of Kamut bread — Kamut is becoming popular since so many people are discovering they have wheat allergies — or multigrain bread.

Blackberry Hill had “cinamun buns, cakes, muffins, squares.” They had a Chocolate & Zucchinni loaf for $5.

I came across a vendor with some of the biggest mushrooms I’d ever seen. His assortment included Shitake and Oyster. A bag of Oyster mushrooms was $10.

At the Farmers' Market, you will find most of the foods, but not the junk, you would find in a supermarket: cheese, honey, low-sugar granola. Even sunflowers, 2 bunches for $5.

There was a jewelry table too.

Even a little politics. ”Hope in the Shadows”, a book with stories and photos from people on the Downtown Eastside was on sale. A portion of the revenue goes to Pivot Legal Society which has worked on such issues as legalizing the sex trade.

There were activities to keep children occupied too: a free bubble blowing machine, a crafts table. And there was a guy playing guitar and singing.

Now that it's fall -- the market runs until Oct. 21 -- there are fewer vendors. The "no spray" blueberries -- 10 lbs for $25 at the Beckmann Family Farm -- have disappeared , and a few small pumpkins have appeared. The rain too has appeared.

I walk by the market every Wednesday on my way home, so I’ll no doubt stop again to pick up a few things, maybe some low-nitrate bacon to make toasted tomato, lettuce, and bacon sandwiches. The hundred mile diet is becoming more convenient.