Saturday, August 30, 2014

Farmers' Market Supper

I have written before about how frustrating it is shopping for groceries in the the city where I live, but I don't think I have written about the farmers' market. We have an excellent farmers' market here, every Saturday morning from May through to October. Many of the best vegetables can be obtained from farmers from the various Hutterite colonies who market their wares at the farmers' market. There are also places to buy organic meats and vegetables, homemade baking and jam, local honey, free run eggs, and locally made cheese. Of course there are lots of crafts as well. 

This morning, I zipped around to all of my favourite merchants and filled my basket with all kinds of lovely vegetables, peaches and plums from British Columbia, and multigrain bread and walnut stollen from the Hungarian bakery stall. This evening, the supper that I cooked was almost entirely from the farmers' market purchases. 

I made pork chops with a sauce of sundried tomatoes, old fashioned brown seedy mustard, onions, and rosemary from my garden. The pork chops were from a local organic pork producer, and the mustard was made locally too. We had corn on the cob from a local farm (spectacular! So juicy and sweet) and tender young green beans from one of the Hutterite farms. I made a tomato salad with red, orange, and yellow cocktail tomatoes from the local organic vegetable farm, seasoned with garlic, chives (from my garden), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and topped off with locally made cheese curds. We also had the Hungarian multigrain bread. Yum! It was simple fare, but because it was fresh and local, it all tasted fantastic.

This brings me to my garden. I am happy to report that my new little backyard plot is doing well. The raspberries seem to have thrived, even though they have been somewhat overshadowed by the giant marigolds that I planted to add some colour this first year while everything was getting established. Similarly, the strawberry plant are large and healthy, and the rhubarb plant is huge! I had not intended to harvest any rhubarb the first year, but in fact it has grown so well that we've recently had a rhubarb crisp and a rhubarb upside-down cake. 

For the most part, the vegetable garden is not such a success story, however. All of the herbs, except the basil have thrived, and the oregano blossoms seem to be a favourite of the bees. The tomatoes are tall and healthy. We ate the first two tomatoes last week, but most of the tomatoes are still quite small and green. Some of the Japanese eggplants are now large enough to eat, and I think the carrots will be okay. But nothing else grew well. The Swiss chard and beet greens have been destroyed by leaf miners, and the beets have not formed proper roots. The peas were very spindly and scarcely produced, and while the vines of the scarlet runner beans are tall with many flowers, no beans have formed. The jalapeƱo and habanero pepper plants are very small and haven't fruited. The broccoli, spinach and lettuce did not grow at all. 

Here is the garden as it looked this morning. The vegetable garden is in the foreground and the fruit garden is behind. It looks great but hasn't produced much. Thank goodness for the farmers' market!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hair That Smells Like Food

Today I opened a new bottle of shampoo. I took a sniff before lathering it on my hair. Mmm. Butter and brown sugar. It smelled delicious, like a butter tart, or warm caramel sauce on moist fudge cake, or perhaps bread pudding fresh from the oven. My shampoo smelled good enough to eat.

Now, I have to begin by explaining that I have a thing about the way shampoo smells. When I was a small child and my mom washed my hair, I used to cry and complain, and beg her not to put the stinky shampoo on my hair. I hated the highly perfumed drugstore shampoo we had at home. My mom probably thought I was making a big fuss about nothing, although she did shop around to find another shampoo that I would not insist was "too stinky."

As a child, I suffered frequent headaches. My parents attributed them to reading too much and having eyestrain. (I did read a lot: a book a day throughout my middle childhood and early teens, including in bed in low light conditions when I was supposed to be sleeping.) Also, starting as an infant, and from time-to-time right up to the present, I sometimes get a rash on my skin caused by eczema.

It wasn't until I was an adult that I finally made the correlation between my headaches and perfume, and decades later before I ever heard the terms "scent sensitivity" or "multiple chemical sensitivities." Luckily for me, I seem to have just a mild version of it. If I am stuck in a room beside a highly perfumed man or woman, I am fine if I am few feet away or if I am only near them for a couple of minutes. (I do find that men's scented products like shower gel, deodorant, and aftershave are often much worse than women's products.) I use laundry detergent without added scents or dyes, unscented moisturizer, and unscented deodorant that does not have aluminum in it. I never use perfume, cosmetics or hair dye, which suits me fine as I have always seen myself as more of a "natural woman" than fitting the media-constructed type of airbrushed femininity.

Also, not all types of perfumed products bother me. I have found a brand of shower gel that has a range of light scents that does not cause headaches or skin rashes. It works for me so I consistently buy that brand. And with shampoo, well, I am that woman at the hair salon who always opens the bottle of shampoo and conditioner and sniffs before buying them, and who always declines hairspray. Products that smell like fruit, coconut, vanilla, aloe, herbs, pine, and some kinds of flowers (but not lilac, lily, or lavender) all seem to be fine. I usually can tell just by sniffing.

So this brings us back to hair that smells like food. Somehow, it seems odd, culturally, for people to be walking around with hair that smells like pina colada, lip gloss that smells like vanilla latte, or sunscreen that smells of coconut cream pie. This strange preoccupation with products that smell like food extends to candles, soap, and markers (felt pens). In an era when our food is becoming less and less like real food, our personal products are becoming more like food. If my hair smells like dessert all day, is that scent going to work on my subconscious so that I will be more likely to order a piece of cheesecake or head to the drive-through for an iced chai latte? Is the proliferation of products that smell like sugary foods contributing in some small way to the epidemic of obesity?

I am sure that the marketing departments know exactly which scents will tempt us to buy a particular product, and that the chemists are busy cooking up new concoctions to attract the nose. The strong florals and musks popular 40-50 years ago gave way to herbal combinations in the 70's and 80's, and now the trend is towards the smells of tropical fruits, chocolate, sugar, and vanilla.

Edible hair. At least it doesn't give me a headache.