Bragging on My Favorites: Farmer’s Market Spoils

I will be the first to admit that I have a bit of an obsessive personality. Whenever I get hooked on something it becomes, by law, the best thing ever. I guess I’m a bit of a tramp stamp. There’s an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” titled just that, “The Tramp Stamp”. I follow the show in a sort of haphazard way meaning that when it first came out I bought the first two box sets and then promptly stopped watching it. I did the same thing with The Big Bang Theory but that had something to do with my TV husband, Sheldon Cooper, getting a girlfriend…but I digress. My father however, is the complete opposite. Whenever I liked “How I Met Your Mother” he was completely disinterested and now, when I could care less, this is all he watches….well that and he has a horrible fixation with “The Voice”. This pattern of behavior is very typical between both my parents and me. When I like something (such as Maroon 5), it’s considered “devil teenage music (or television or clothes or food)”. Years down the road when I’m completely over this phase they often call me up and say, “Katie, oh my goodness have you heard that new singer Adam Levine? He’s wonderful!” It’s a very strange phenomenon. So when I voyaged back home to New Orleans recently to visit my parents for a couple of weeks, my father decided he was going to try to convert me back to watching “How I Met Your Mother” by giving me a crash course in the last 5 seasons and then marathoning the 8th season for the entirety of a 12 hour period. I’m a television purist. I’m the kind of person that needs to start a show from the very beginning or I won’t watch it. So this was something of a torturous event for me. Apparently Lily and Marshall had a child…Barney is marrying Robin. What? Oh my gosh…too much for me to take in. The only thing I remembered from this marathon was Marshall being a stamp tramp, meaning he puts his stamp of approval on virtually everything he experiences, which eventually lands him in trouble. I’d like to think that this is because of Marshall’s kind hearted nature that just wants to like everything and everyone. That’s exactly how I am. You will learn this as you read this blog. I will RARELY say that I dislike something. I have this ridiculous ability to see the good qualities in almost anything. In this situation however, I’d like you to try to see past this quirk of mine. I have been absolutely dying to put my serious seal of approval on the new(ish) Lafayette Farmer’s and Artisan’s Market at the Horse Farm.

I could go on for pages about the work that the Environmentalist Club, known as SPEAK, at UL Lafayette has done to save the Horse Farm and all of the amazing things our city has done with that property. For a long while around Lafayette, you might have seen posters and banners hanging about sporting the message “Save the Horse Farm”. The Horse Farm is a stretch of green space at the center of town that houses some ancient oaks and an old barn. For years locals have viewed this as a piece of history, a sacred space in our town. For a little while it was threatened by developers that wanted to build a shopping strip on that land because of its prime location. But SPEAK and other groups rallied for years to keep that land a public green space and their efforts paid off. Eariler this year the farmer’s market opened up on site and I can honestly say, job well done. This market grows and grows every time I get the chance to make it out there and more and more local businesses keep popping up, finally getting their chance to showcase their talents. It operates every Saturday with live music, food, art shows, vendors…even the Lafayette Food Trucks come out to play! You might see a group or two of people playing frisbee by the oaks. This little market supplies our city with more benefits and commerce than any stupid strip mall ever could. Every time I go, I get to meet someone new; another local artist, farmer or restaurant trying blaze their own trail.

I’m going to use this entry to brag on a few of the people I met this past visit. The first new person I ran into was a cute little lady with dredlocks, an adorable sundress and a very pregnant belly. She goes by the name “Pacha Mama” and she grows her own herbs and spices, crafts homemade soaps, infusions and teas. Dear reader, you will come to know me as one of the biggest tea fanatics you’ll ever meet, so her products really appealed to me. One of the things I admire the most about a person is their passion. You could see how passionate she was about her craft as she opened each plastic baggie to allow us to get a good whiff of each herbal blend. She was able to give me all the health benefits, minerals, and vitamins that each tea provided and helped me ultimately choose her “High-C” blend, rich in vitamin C to help with my expected winter illnesses. I brewed my first mug just yesterday and the hibiscus flowers made for a deep rich red tea hinted with cinnamon that didn’t need an ounce of sugar or any other additive. It was perfect. Upon opening my tea ball strainer, the contents which had once been dry were visible re-hydrated flowers and leaves full of beautiful reds, yellows and greens. If you pry open a Lipton tea bag after it has been brewed, you’re probably going to see brown mush. A little baggie of her tea cost me $5 but it only takes about a teaspoon for an entire mug. I will most definitely be paying her another visit.

20131123-024617.jpg

My second new friend is a local citrus orchard called Dupuis Citrus Grove hailing from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, a small neighboring town. Not many may know this but Louisiana has quite the citrus industry. We have an entire town named after our favorite citrus fruit, the Satsuma, a small tangerine-like fruit with a characteristically easy to peel exterior and a much-sweeter-than-an-orange interior. The sections tend to not be as tough either. With the winter upon us, I was wondering when I’d start to see satsumas and their citrus family members making an appearance at our local market. Now, I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I know a good satsuma when I taste one. My father grew his own satsumas our whole lives and my childhood is marked by gathering the fruit in my skirt and feasting on them throughout the colder months. (That sounds oddly 1800s antebellum of me…sorry about that.) Sometimes depending on where you get your satsumas from, they are bitter and tough. So I was really hoping for a good quality satsuma vendor at the market and the Dupuis Citrus Grove did not disappoint. I was given 3 pounds of Satsumas (it’s been about a week and I’m still working on them) for $4 and 5 Meyer lemons for $1. She threw in a little lagniappe. I’ve never tried Meyer lemons before so don’t be surprised if you see a little lemon curd or lemonade experimentation going on in the coming entries.

Lastly, I’d like to highlight a consistent favorite of mine, not a new friend, but an old one that never disappoints. Up to Grow Good Farms specializes in heirloom fruits and vegetables, no GMOs, no pesticides, the whole package. I haven’t had as much experience with these guys as some have. They come from Cottonport, a place I had no idea existed until about 4 minutes ago. But it looks like it’s a good ways North of Lafayette and although they always have something for me to buy, from the looks of their Tumblr they are quite a bit more active in other markets probably closer to home. I had actually never tasted a proper bell pepper until I met Mr. Paul Lyles and his wife Ms. Nicole. I had never seen such beautifully unique heirloom watermelons nor had I ever purchased heirloom tomatoes in my life. I feel like these people have opened up my world to what produce is REALLY supposed to taste like and feel like. They are often my first stop at the market and it totally helps that Mr. Paul is the nicest person alive and always gives me one or two extra of whatever I’m buying. He takes good care of his patrons. I am going to include a link to each of these vendors pages in hopes that you will make new friends as I have.

20131123-024838.jpg

The photo above showcases my market spoils and also the new wok that my sister bought for me for my birthday. I am now 24 years of age as of last Sunday and of course the two-day celebration was centered around food. I am eager to be the best 24 year old I can be and post many new entries for your reading pleasure. Next episode I will be showing you what I made with those heirloom green tomatoes from Up to Grow Good, so until then!

Up to Grow Good:
Facebook
Tumblr

Dupuis Citrus Grove:
They don’t have a website or Facebook page to my knowledge, but this link gives some information about their location and hours of operation: http://la.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/business/486537-dupuid-citrus-grove

Pacha Mama:
Pacha Mama doesn’t have a Facebook page or website to my knowledge, but I will do some investigating and update this entry next time I see her.

Lafayette Farmer’s and Artisan’s Market at the Horse Farm:
Facebook
Website

Cheers,
Katie

Advertisements

The Creation Story

Welcome, Interwebs Traveler, to my humble blog.
    My name is Katie. In my most basic form, I am a 20-something-year-old with many fancies, one of them being anything gastronomic. I am too young to be epicurean, but in much too deep to be a casual foodie. I suppose I fall somewhere in the middle. I was reared in a food family hailing from the culinary epicenter of the United States, the great and resilient city of New Orleans. I was raised on crawfish boils in the spring, snowballs in the summer, Saints football in the fall and gumbo in the winter. I guess you can say I have a little bit of swamp blood in me, and there ain’t no shame in that. Everyone knows that if you’re raised in Louisiana, you were born to eat. My family get-togethers were always centered around a meal and the children in my family were raised around the stove. If it wasn’t spiral hams at my grandmother’s, it was homemade hearty casseroles and stews from my mother’s kitchen. My father presented me with the other side of the culinary spectrum at a young age. When I was only still in middle school, my father made a point to bring my younger sister and I to high-end, five-star restaurants. His mission was to show us the finer things in life; to appreciate a good well-crafted meal. Before I was 12 I knew how to hold a wine glass, how I liked my steak and the difference between grades of meat. I had acquired the taste for strong cheeses and an impeccable understanding of flavors before I entered high school. Having supped my way through the likes of Commander’s Palace and other highly acclaimed local restaurants so young, I lost interest in the culinary world for a brief time in high school, and took to obsessing over diets, boys, and entirely too much black eye-liner and clothes. What can I say? It happens. I have always been something of a loner. I keep a few close friends nearby, but I have always found it incredibly trying to get close to people. It’s not that I don’t like people, or that I particularly enjoy being by myself, it’s just that at many times in my life I have found myself alone. Going to college was one of those times.
    

     Being dramatic and 18-years old, I chose a college that was just far enough from my hometown that I could break out and start anew. I moved into a tiny dorm/apartment on campus with a VERY eccentric pro-wrestling enthusiast roommate, who absolutely hated me on sight and spent all of her weekends at her parents’ house. I found myself often depressed and alone with my pantry and refrigerator. I also lived next-door to Quizno’s which had free wifi and supplied me with a delicious bounty of baked sandwiches. I got fat and watched entirely too much television. Somehow I managed to ditch my freshman 15 by walking everywhere. I didn’t have a car and I lived very close to a specialty grocery store that sold gourmet ingredients. I was drawn to Champagne’s like a fly to a bug zapper. I managed to import an art student boyfriend who wore a trilby hat and insisted on growing a monk beard from South Carolina who I met on the Internet. We spent all our time trying to be pretentious food geeks by crafting the likes of stuffed eggplants and exotic Thai soups in my tiny kitchen. We watched A LOT of Food Network, too much for me to comfortably admit and often we tried to re-create the elaborate meals we saw on television. It was chaos. Unbridled chaos. I had never cooked before in my life. I had watched many people do it and I had ordered a meal in many a fine restaurant. Cooking was uncharted territory. By this time I had traded in my grumpy roommate for a peppy blonde named Heather (who was opposite from me in all ways but somehow we meshed really well) and our specialty was destroying the kitchen making red velvet cupcakes. I didn’t really formally learn to cook until my hipster boyfriend left me to drop out of school and go back home. In retrospect, I don’t really know why I got so messed up over it, but I came completely unglued. For an entire summer I forgot to eat. I forgot to watch television. I lost 30 pounds because all I did was go to summer classes, and hole myself up in my dark bedroom listening to Evanescence. Three months later I managed to present myself to the world when the lease expired on my dorm and I moved into my first real apartment.
  

  The plan was for Heather and I to move in together, but extraneous circumstances left the entire apartment to me. At first this was terribly unsettling but I didn’t mind it after awhile. I got really health conscious after I became terribly aware of my single status on Facebook. I’ve always struggled with weight my entire life due to hormone-related complications. My endocrinologist was breathing down my neck encouraging me to learn to eat right and at that point I started to take things into my own hands. Living alone left me with a lot of free time and a lot of moments to listen to my own brain think. And if you suffer with depression like I do, your brain can think some pretty nasty things. I needed a hobby. I started looking through recipes, ones that weren’t so challenging and chaotic and I began strategically teaching myself techniques. Most of the basics were inborn in me. Something about coming from a food family will do that to you. But a lot of things I learned from watching chefs on television, YouTube tutorials and asking a lot of questions. I became really invested in learning how to cook. Cooking was one of those rewarding things that I didn’t have to answer to anybody about. I was the only one eating my food so if it tasted good to me it was a success. I burned a lot of things. Mostly my hands and other appendages. I cut myself, I dumped a lot of things on the floor and I somehow managed to adhere a pizza to the inside of my oven. Don’t ask. I didn’t have the fanciest and best equipment. I didn’t have the biggest and the best kitchen. My meals at first were basic and uneventful. But I was addicted. I was addicted to the smells and the colors and most of all the way my mind went silent when I cooked. For the first time in my life I had found something that made the thoughts freeze like water. I was more comfortable burning the shit out of myself trying to take a chicken out of the oven than I ever was doing anything else.
    

     Perhaps it’s the strategic step by step motions of cooking, the mental checklist that plays out in your head as you’re preparing a meal. It forces you to think clearly, to mentally put your ducks in a row. It’s challenging. Physically and strategically. I knew at that point that this was something that I could live for. By the time I started talking to my current boyfriend, my culinary repertoire had been coming along nicely. Our first date we had coffee before class, and then I asked him over for dinner that night. It’s funny because when cooking for a new beau I could have pulled out all the stops and made something completely extravagant. But I didn’t. I didn’t make anything that I saw on television or in magazines. I made a simple baked chicken that I had watched my mother make when I was a child. It was a spur of the moment kind of recipe that I remember she threw together one night after a late choir practice at church. I remembered that I had tasted nothing so buttery and delicious in my life than that chicken and so strangely enough, I decided to make that. I made homemade mashed potatoes though. I was kind of pleased as punch about that. I dressed them with a simple side of green peas and left it simply at that. That night he took his shoes off at the door and pretty much hasn’t left in almost 3 years. I was lucky that my boyfriend loved food as much as I did. We’re not the kind of fatties that would be content with eating large quantities of Burger King just because we like the taste. Although I’m not even going to try and deny that we haven’t done that before. Food is a passion. Cooking, the preparation, the ritual of bread-breaking is what I am really after. Through this relationship, my culinary love has become so much more well-rounded.
    

     The way I see it food is so much more than a necessity. It’s a chance to make a memory. It’s the chance to tell stories and have communion with other people. It’s the very fabric that binds us all together at the seams. Food is a culture. It’s the adventure in finding the most local, farm fresh ingredients, the intricacy of beer-brewing, the pomp and pleasure of fine-dining, the community that happens over a bubbling pot of gumbo and the thrill of finding new and exciting places to taste. It’s creativity at its most practical. At some point I downgraded to a smaller much more economical apartment but I gained a roommate that I absolutely can’t get enough of no matter how hard times get. He and I spend entirely too much time stirring up trouble in the kitchen, taste-testing, discussing, writing, blogging, grocery hunting, restaurant hopping and now pod-casting about food. And we’re not really sorry about that. The way I see it, if I can bring even the smallest of smiles to someone’s face by creating a meal for them or with them, or even inspiring them to do the same in their own lives, I’ve done something great. I’ve had food blogs before that I lost sight of and felt hindered my vision. I bring this blog to you now with the intention of entertaining, inspiring and teaching. Everyone has their little piece of something to share with the world. This just so happens to be mine.