Lamb on Monday, gammon on Tuesday, pork chops on Wednesday, mutton stew on Thursday…that’s one of the pleasures of rearing your own meat. But woman wasn’t bred to live on meat alone. No matter what leafy green veg is served alongside, you know that variety should be spicing your life, and the market will provide.
Market day has always been the time when livestock and produce get converted into cash, when farmers change out of their boiler suits, sell their wares, buy what they need and catch up on the happenings of the previous week.
Tuesday is my market day. Dan the fishmonger is always there with his quips, recipe suggestions, flirt mode turned on high, a grin for all. His painted signs are things of beauty and utility. Every last fish, crustacean and mollusc on display is caught in the South West. This week’s crop of lovelies included sprats, mackerel, lemon sole, grey mullet, conger eel, prawns, mussels and skate wings. Brain food for me on Tuesdays then, served with the first of the year’s purple sprouting.
Then there are the guys who started off selling a bit of artisan bread and quickly became known for creating every kind of fishcake imaginable. You couldn’t make better at home, and the queues are long, chatty and determined, sharing lunch preferences – coriander and cod, pollock with mozzarella and basil, or salmon and dill?
My little bit of cheese paradise only appears on market day; it’s a fairy tale cheese shop, awaking to display its wares for one special day a week. The tiny space can just about fit in three shoppers weighed down with bags of veg and suet balls for the birds; you discuss what’s new, who made that gorgeous salty blue ewe’s milk cheese, that round of lemony goat.
This isn’t a farmer’s market as we’ve come to expect in recent times, it’s simply one that farmers use when they come to town to have their hair cut, buy some new boots or a cap and meet friends in the cafe for a mug of tea, a hot bacon sandwich, and share the news. But it also has food of real quality – fresh, artisan, local as it gets, and such a range of things that you can source your whole meal: chicken or sardines, carrots or pumpkins, thyme and saffron, cakes and fruit pies, cream (clotted if you like), the cheese board and oatcakes, apple juice, and Lindy’s hand cream smelling of roses to sooth the hands after the washing up.
The whole experience is to be enjoyed against the backdrop cacophony of the poultry auction. Checking out the old garden and woodworking tools you amble ever closer to the ear-splitting crowing, quacking, and bellowing of the auctioneer and his lots.
Close to Christmas there’s also the deadstock sale, all the seasonal fowl – ducks, turkeys and geese – laid out in long rows, tagged with their provenance, some dressed ready for the oven, others merely plucked for the brave. And a mass of holly and mistletoe sit in berried heaps to be auctioned off at the end of the day; you can seal the deal with a kiss.
Published in The Landsman December/January 2011 Issue 23