Farmers’ Market with Many Onions and the Great Carrot Romance

Oh I have been cooking like a *maniac* this weekend.  Curry yesterday, winter fruit salad last night (of which more later), baked gingerbread porridge overnight for breakfast (ditto), and today, purple cauliflower soup, cheese muffins, lentil bolognese (of which *much* more later) and rainbow chard gratin which was totally un-necessary.  And also hormone-mandated chocolate and boysenberry brownies, but those were absolutely not my fault.

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And nor is the fact that as soon as I finished making them I lost all interest in eating them.  Sigh.  Stupid body.

And all this when I have a frighteningly full freezer (it’s the new pantry).  So what did I do this morning?  I went to the market and bought lots and lots and lots of vegetables.  With life stories.  What can I say?  I have no impulse control around weirdly shaped vegetables.

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(And any time I start to develop some, Andrew talks me out of it.  He’s a terrible influence.  Though the carrots really aren’t his fault, I found them all by myself and there was no way I was not going to buy them.)

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Today’s market journey started as they so often do with me attempting to do a proper round of all the stalls before buying anything and then being captured by Rita’s magnificent Italian vegetable stall.

Rita had quite a bit of extended family there today to help her out, including her grand-daughter, who was busily frying up cardoon fritters, recipe book on the stand beside her, and drawing quite a crowd.  So of course we had to grab our cardoons before they all went.

While Andy Warhol is well-known for his paintings of soup cans, few people are aware of the genesis of this genre.  In fact, he started off with more traditional portraits of vegetables, such as this classic work "One Celeriac, Four Potatoes and A Lot Of Broccoli" from his early exhibition "American Farmers' Market". Unfortunately, this early work did not meet with financial success, and Warhol was forced to leave the farmers' markets and live on tins of soup and bottles of coca-cola, which became his new inspiration for still-life portraiture and later silk screening work.

While Andy Warhol is well-known for his paintings of soup cans and American pop culture icons, few people are aware of his earlier forays into art. Warhol in fact started off with more traditional portraits of vegetables, such as this classic work “One Celeriac, Four Potatoes and A Lot Of Broccoli” from his early exhibition “American Farmers’ Market”.
Sadly, this oevre did not meet with financial success, and Warhol was forced to leave the farmers’ markets and live on (much cheaper) tins of soup and bottles of coca-cola.  Ever-resourceful, he turned this setback into a source of inspiration for a new series of still-life portraits and later silk screening work.

Sprouting broccoli are always necessary, because Rita is the only one who sells them, and of course the colourful little peppers cannot be resisted.

This is not, in fact, a starfish.  You can tell by the fact that it has six arms, rather than the five arms of an echinoderm.  In fact, these six-armed pepper-stars are natural predators of the entire echinoderm phyla, who are handicapped by poor numeracy skills, and frequently mistake the carnivorous pepper-star for one of their own, with tragic results.  Well, tragic for the starfish.  The pepper-stars are usually fairly pleased with the outcome.

This is not, in fact, a starfish. You can tell by the fact that it has six arms, rather than the five arms of an echinoderm. In fact, these six-armed pepper-stars are natural predators of the entire echinoderm phyla, who are handicapped by poor numeracy skills, and frequently mistake the carnivorous pepper-star for one of their own, with tragic results.
Well, tragic for the starfish. The pepper-stars are usually fairly pleased with the outcome.

Rita also drew my attention to quail eggs, which I haven’t bought for a while, because I never know what to do with them.  But I’m sort of curious about an egg curry recipe (who on earth puts eggs in curry?) that I found in my new book, and so I thought, why not?

eggs

Purple cauliflower was also a must, especially as this seems to be a variety that actually stays purple when cooked!  It’s clearly an anthocyanin party, too, because when I made it into a soup with lemon juice today, it came out pinkish-mauve.

Really quite alarmingly mauve...

It even matches my top!

And then I figured I’d pick up a couple of bags of onions, because I really am trying to buy as many of my veggies from the markets as possible these days, and onions are something I run out of.  Rita immediately started quizzing me on my onion-cooking habits.  How many did I use?  Why do I always buy these small bags?  It’s not good value!  I should buy a big bag!  She has big bags of onions, just pulled up yesterday, and they will be good for three months.

So I bought onions.  Lots of onions.  I was sufficiently stunned by my new-found onioniness that I left quietly and went to see what other stalls had to offer.

Intimidated by onions.

Intimidated by onions.

A new stall “Only 25 km from Melbourne!  Low food miles!” was a couple of places down from Rita, and had the most beautiful, delicate-looking baby kale I’ve ever seen.  Lovely.  And tiny, thin-skinned lemons, which I pounced on with joy, since I was ogling this lemon pie recipe just yesterday and my own lemons are too thick-skinned for the job.

These lemons are quite thin-skinned, but that is all the more reason why you should be kind to them and not tease them.  How would you like it?

These lemons are quite thin-skinned, but that is all the more reason why you should be kind to them and not tease them. How would you like it?

And she had carrots.  Little carrots.  Sweet carrots.  Friendly carrots.

If a carrot meet a carrot coming through the rye, if a carrot meet a carrot, need a carrot cry?  Every carrot has a carrot, none, I say have I - but all the carrots smile at me a-coming through the rye.

If a carrot meet a carrot coming through the rye, if a carrot meet a carrot, need a carrot cry? Every carrot has a carrot, none, I say have I – but all the carrots smile at me a-coming through the rye.

Very friendly carrots.  (Apparently, they are also singing carrots.)

(insert your own over-the-top romantic carrot dialogue here)

(insert your own over-the-top romantic carrot dialogue here…)

I was charmed by the embracing carrots – as indeed, who would not be? – and we had a lovely chat about free-range carrots and how they grow.  The stallholder admitted that one can’t usually sell too many weirdly-shaped carrots, but she likes to put one or two out there among her bunches, just to add interest.  I heartily approve of this approach.

Carrot wedding photo!   Yes, I really, really like these carrots.  You are surprised?

Carrot wedding photo!
Yes, I really, really like these carrots. You are surprised?

She also had some rather beautiful coriander and very fresh-looking salad greens, both of which made their way into my shopping bags.

No market visit is complete without dropping in on our friends at Wild Dog for some garlic or potatoes – and today, also some very happy, fresh-looking broccoli.  Ally was amused to hear that the photo I took in front of their stall last month for Oxfam’s GROW challenge, with John lurking in the background looking a bit worried about the whole thing, had actually won me an Oxfam curry hamper (of which more later, because I haven’t *seen* the hamper yet, and gloating should probably wait until I know just exactly what I am gloating about.  Though there certainly will be gloating!).

garlic

My freezer is, as previously mentioned, still absolutely stuffed with food, particularly frozen berries, so we drew the line at more berries, bought our traditional trio of limes from Sunny Creek next door, and moved on to look at baby fennel and red onions (because obviously, what I really needed was more onions) from the very green organic veggie stall a few lots down.

rhubarb

Many people are aware that colour-blind spies were sent on special missions in World War II because of their ability to see through camouflage. What is less known is that over time, the enemy learned to detect such spies by planting fields full of alternating rows of fennel and a particularly vicious form of poisonous rhubarb (most forms of rhubarb are poisonous only in the leaves and on ingestion, but varieties bred for military application have a venom so virulent that it can eat through clothing and skin alike in the slightest contact). These fields posed no risk for those who could distinguish between red and green, but many valiant and colour-blind men perished in action in the rhubarb fields of Flanders.

Mushrooms were also necessary, and we were treated to a brief lecture on the subject of Unethical Rival Mushroom Growers which I’m not quite sure what to make of at this point, so I moved on and bought eggs.  Actually, while I rather like our mushroom grower, I’m rather hoping that down the track we might get someone who does wild mushrooms or other varieties, though I’m certainly not complaining about the quality of the mushrooms we do get.

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I kept on meaning to investigate the cheese stall, but instead I got distracted by more vegetables at the colourful vegetable stall – purple and yellow carrots, a small turnip, celery root (I have this soup recipe involving mixed root vegetables and beer) and some wonderfully shiny and glowing rainbow chard.

Under the spreading rainbow chard tree /  Two avocados made their moan: "Alas, though we are shiny green, Our hearts are made of coldest stone! "Alack a day!" (they'd sit and say) "What love can we now share?" Their hopes so crushed, they soon became A guacamole of despair!

Under the spreading rainbow chard
Two avocados made their moan:
“Alas, though we are shiny green,
“Our hearts are made of coldest stone!
“Alack a day!” (they’d sit and say)
“What love can we now share?
“Our hopes are crushed – our lives are soured
“A guacamole of despair!”

Oh dear, I’ve completely lost track of this post.  And I’m not sure that poem was entirely worth it.  Well, clearly I must have moved on from there to the avocado and orange stall, where they were selling amazing bags of mixed citrus fruits and avocados all together, but I showed uncharacteristic restraint and just bought two avocados and two bunches of lovely pink rhubarb, which is definitely fated to go into a crumble with some of the aforementioned frozen berries.

purple

Yep, really lost momentum after the guacamole bit.  This could be something to do with the fact that it’s 11pm and I never did quite catch up on sleep this weekend.  I believe that I then did a final victory lap of the market in which I once again failed to buy either cheese or chocolate cake (clearly I am *not* well), and then headed off to choir, where we did sing beautifully except for the special moment in the anthem where we started off with half the choir singing the anthem and the other singing the offertory (they had been swapped around), which was a very interesting combination, but perhaps a little avant-garde for the audience.

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And then I came home to photograph vegetables and to COOK LIKE A MANIAC.

And so to bed.

(Except not, because if I don’t write down that lentil bolognese recipe now, I will forget it, and that would be a tragedy of the highest order.)

But at least I have enough onions now.

But at least I have enough onions now.

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One year ago: Chocoholic Walk in Melbourne
Two years ago: Excited Catherine Post: Courses and Confectionery!
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