Monday, April 19, 2010

Beefaroni with a side of Ruffles.

While I wouldn’t characterize myself as a “foodie” – I used to get most of my cooking tips from watching Bravo’s Top Chef  - I really love fresh, simple, healthy eats. We’ve all heard the common saying that it is better to eat to live than to live to eat, but, honestly, I waver a lot when it comes to that advice. I’ve discovered that the quality of my food choices depends on what’s happening in my life at the time.  

I was having this very conversation with an acquaintance when he turned to me and said he would be having his own healthy dinner later that night. I asked him what he’d be making. He said - with a completely straight face - “beefaroni with a side of Ruffles.”  He pointed out his meal had two vegetables: potatoes and tomatoes. I didn’t argue. 

What I will argue is that having a farmer’s market nearby really does make a difference in how I eat, and I’ve been lucky to have one near me in almost every city in which I’ve lived. I first stumbled upon tofu at Ithaca’s outdoor farmer’s market and it was at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market in Atlanta that I discovered how tasty squid can be. 

Living in Portland has elevated my palate to yet another level, and I attribute much of that to having so many farmer’s markets nearby. On any given day, I’m cooking up bok choi, tai soy, and chard in ways I didn’t think possible before. This past week I biked to the farmer’s market by my house just to have tamales for lunch and listen to some live music. The tamales tasted fresh and gooey and cost $3.

My new town has more than 40 markets, and the largest is the Portland Farmer’s Market which draws anywhere from 13 to 16 thousand people each Saturday.  

I recently took my first trip there with my friend Dave who’s a consultant with the market. The experience was nothing short of food overload. There were massive amounts of fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses all coming from local farms. The market was crowded with people walking around with bags full of produce. For my part, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast burrito, courtesy of Dave.

I truly believe buying local and eating local keeps us healthy and more connected to our communities and each other. But healthy is as healthy does, and who knows, maybe “beefaroni with a side of Ruffles” would be a big hit at any given Portland farmer’s market, just as long as the potatoes and tomatoes come from a local organic farmer. 

(please click play to watch video)

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