Saturday, April 26, 2008


It's a funny thing about grocery shopping. I don't know about you, but it's never been my favorite thing. The florescent lighting, the scary food products that I can't identify, the stressed out people, the strange magazine headlines at the checkout. I don't know what exactly it is, but I have always gone into a state of terminal overload the moment I enter a big store. The bigger it is, the worse the overload. I think partly it's my problem with shiny objects. I'm thinking to myself, just get the peanut butter, just get the peanut butter, but then look! there's some cheese over there that I've never seen before, I should go look at that, but then look! that cereal's got a new picture on its box and I should check that out, but then look! what's Brittney gone and done this time? And by the time I've been in the store for five minutes, I have eight things in my basket and none of them is peanut butter, and I'm ready to go home for a nap.

A girl could go broke shopping like that. Or crazy. Or both. (Which could explain something about the 90's, now I come to think about it.)

When we lived in Berkeley, I discovered a store called the Berkeley Bowl. As overwhelming as that store was in many ways, it wasn't quite such a bad experience, I think because (in its first incarnation), it wasn't too big, and the people who worked there had worked there for years and came to know me, and the boxes of stuff weren't quite so shiny as they are in the usual grocery stores (probably because there weren't that many boxes; everything was sold in bulk).

And then we moved here, and I found out that we live a mile away from the longest continuously-running certified farmer's market in the area (I have heard it said that it's the oldest certified farmer's market in California, but I can't find the reference for that right now, and I like to be able to cite sources). And we started going there. A few months later, the employees' unions of the major supermarkets around here went on strike, and we stopped going there. By the time that was over, grocery shopping had changed for us forever. Between the farmer's market, and the local grocery (LGS?), and an occasional visit to Trader Joe's, we're pretty much covered.

And I find I don't mind shopping so much anymore. There is something fundamentally different about shopping outdoors, and about buying food from the people who grow it. A very large portion of the farmer's market is certified (which, in farmer's market parlance, means that the sellers are the producers; there are no middle-people in this process). And the people who come, come every week, rain or shine, summer or winter. While Rick goes even more often that I do (he, too, goes every week, rain or shine, summer or winter; sometimes I get to stay home and have the house all to myself, and as much as I love the market, alone time in the house trumps all), I go often enough that folks recognize me, too (although usually as the wife of the tall guy, and the mother of the incredibly active girls). Where else can you buy chard, and also have the seller tell you that your daughters really do look like you? She also knows that we want the tops on our turnips and carrots, because the guinea pigs eat them, and that Rick will visit her stand twice every week, once to buy veggies, and the second time, on the way out, to buy sweet peas, so they won't wilt before he gets to the car. The teenager who works for her uncle at the apple stand regularly comments on how tall Younger Daughter is getting, and the bread guy holds aside a loaf of multigrain organic, because he knows Rick will want one (which hasn't stopped him from convincing Rick to also try the corn/rye bread, which is delicious).

It sure beats florescent lights, strange foodstuffs, and overload.

Now, I know that this isn't for everyone. Not everyone lives so close to a market. Not everyone has time to go to at least two places to shop during the week. A lot of people hate shopping as much as I did, and will do anything to keep it to one place. But as I said to a dear friend of mine the other week, maybe some of us hate shopping because of where we shop, rather than the other way around. Maybe...

What does all this have to do with fiber, you ask? (This being, after all, in theory a fiber-related blog; but come on, don't we all like food, just a little bit?) Well, I'll tell you. Our market now has a lovely woman who comes and sells her yarn and her roving. She's in the certified section now, because she raises the sheep and llamas whence the wool comes. And she brings her wheel and spins at the market. How cool is that?

Why yes, I did get some fiber when I was at the market today, now that you mention it. (We must support local business, no?)
The stuff on the bottom is from a Jacob. The fleece is white with black splotches, and she's carded them together to get that lovely heathery color. It's tremendously soft. And then, just as a teaser, she handed me that little bit on top, which is from a Wensleydale. I think she's an enabler.

I'm almost done plying the second batch of the wool/tencel blend. Here are the singles.
And plied.
I have my new niddy-noddy, so if I can finish this off tonight, I'll wind it into a skein and wash it to hang to dry.

Gwilim says it's hot, and he's right, so we're grilling tonight. Fresh nopales (must go take the prickers off now; you've got to love having Younger Daughter asking -- loudly -- at the market, "Mama, why can't we eat the pricks?" Sigh...), and tortillas, and tomatillo salsa. Mmm...


Anne said...

Okay, Mom, how'd you answer that one??

I miss the farmers market we used to visit weekly when we lived in Takoma Park. Here, such things don't get going until mid-June, really, and they're nowhere near as big a deal. But we're paying much more attention to buying local these days, so I expect we'll try harder to find one we like.

Yummy roving!

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful that you have such a market nearby, even more a husband willing to go for you. I don't enjoy grocery shopping, or much of any shopping - I feel too much like a deer caught in headlights. but the idea of walking to a local fresh market to pick out the day's menu is very appealing. A friend has lived in parts of the world where that is the daily routine, she loved the freshness, friendliness and spontaneity of deciding that evening's dinner.

Food and spinning -such good companions.

EGunn said...

I love our farmer's market! We stopped going to the grocery store about 9 months ago now, and we love it. Once every month or so is plenty of fluorescent lighting, I think. And it's amazing how much better things taste!

And now yarn at the market. That's an awful lot of temptation! It look lovely, too.

Stell said...

i love shoping at the market, although there are no sweet ladies selling roving, we do have fishmongers and organic venison salami, and tones and tones of vegies and fruit, and even ice cream. The market makes me shop and cook seasonally, a good thing me-thinks. Then there are all the local bakery and chef's stalls, Dutch, Asian and Russian food, and spelt breads, and smoked garlic and mushrooms. It is all so yummy. Fiber - well that would blow my weekly food budget.

twinsetellen said...

I am laughing out loud - mostly at YD's question, but also in delight at the picture of Gwilim.

Your opening paragraph so reminded me of grocery shopping with both of my daughters when they were young. I remember trying to shield them from the headlines on the tabloids when they first started to read (and they started young - how to explain to a 4-year-old that Batboy doesn't really exist, and certainly didn't mate with Pamela Anderson?!). And I remember when YD picked out a pouch of Red Man chewing tobacco for her "treat" because of the shiny red package (no, we didn't indulge her).

I think you hit on the best reason to buy local - the relationships. It's about the trust. In interest of full disclosure, I work for a big food company, and I know how hard we work at food safety and consistency and correct labeling, etc., but I admit that there is no substitute for knowing who grew your food. Or fiber!

Marianne said...

We have a farmer's market but only during the warmer season and just Saturday mornings.... sigh... although last year there was a very nice woman who sold llama fibre, delightful! I would love having a market like yours.
I don't enjoy going to grocery stores, at all, and it's something I have to do with my mom, Sunday mornings... (this is to help her), I try and plan carefully, keeping to the outside walls :^) and getting out ASAP!
The the cost of gasoline getting so high, I will only shop 1 day a week. (well, I've been doing that for years but you know).

Willow said...

We go every week to the farmers market here in Ventura County. It's four miles from our house and a block from our favorite indie coffee place. Yay for farmers markets! That stop along with TJ's does us fine for the week. Sometimes we do an extra run to TJ's, but it's on my way home from work and next to Michael's...

I have always always hated shopping of most any kind, especially groceries, so The Professor does most of it these days.

And that fiber lady---I wonder if she has a friend up here...

Rachel said...

Your description of how Rick shops brought back memories of my father shopping in the open market in Jerusalem, he used to walk up the alley just looking and not buying anything and then on the way down he used to collect all his findings, I was amazed and loved going with him to the market. On a recent visit I took Joe there and I have photos somewhere, I must find and post them.

Bea said...

I'd love to shop at a local grocery store and a farmers market. Our farmers market isn't certified for the most part and is a good 20 or so miles from us? There isn't a local grocery store. Which makes me sad, but there isn't much to be done about that.

Can't wait to see the new yarn :)

Courtney said...

I've always had a strange enjoyment of grocery shopping, most likely because the boyfriend and I used to go at around midnight or 1:00 AM to avoid all the stressed out crowds of people. It's somehow different at night.

Now that I have access to farmer's markets and a Trader Joe's very nearby, I seldom set foot in a Kroger or Publix. It's great. :)