Wednesday, July 16, 2008
We really are very lucky to live where we do. This time of year in the Northwest means sun, farmer's markets, fresh veggies, and the juiciest berries you've ever tasted! Sorry California, your strawberries just don't stack up.
As I mentioned briefly in yesterday's post, we just returned from the Methow Valley and had an amazing time traveling through the North Cascades, and enjoying nature. We returned late Saturday night, and had a packed day on Sunday. Needless to say, having been gone for a week, our cupboards and refrigerator were bare and I hadn't had a chance to get to the grocery store...we were overdue for a home cooked meal! Commuting daily for work, and usually not arriving to my front door until 6:45 every night makes it hard to grocery shop during the week (especially when my preferred market is Central Market in Poulsbo). So, what is a girl to do? Believe me, there was no way we were going to eat out...again! Lucky me, I work just blocks from the infamous Pike Place Market.
But...I have a confession. I haven't always liked the Pike Place Market (gasp!). I know, I know...how could you not love the diversity of vendors, abundance of fresh fish, locally grown produce and people watching? Well, for starters, I used to despise fish (something #4 has since changed) and then there are the tourists. It is, afterall, aside from the Space Needle, the biggest tourist attraction in Seattle. My idea of shopping for groceries doesn't usually include having to navigate through hordes of picture taking, stroller totting, path blocking, oblivious gawkers (yes, that is a generalization, but not too far from what you'll experience any given day at the Pike Place Market). I think that shopping for an eggplant shouldn't involve weaving my way through 5 layers of people taking pictures of the flagship Starbucks (seriously...it's insane how popular that Starbucks is...and it isn't even big enough to sit down and enjoy your coffee). Ahh, but I digress. Don't get me wrong...I always thought the Pike Place Market was a great place for what it was...a tourist mecca! I appreciated the flower vendors, farmers, and quirky shops...I would obligingly stroll through when visitors came to town...it just wasn't my idea of a place where I would actually shop for my daily grocery needs. Why put up with the hassle and (what I assumed where) inflated prices when I can get it at my local grocery store?
Well, that all changed when I moved to Bainbridge Island and began commuting every day. No longer could I just swing by the store on my way home (the ferry captain and bus driver don't generally accomodate those requests from passengers - go figure!) and by the time I hit the house closing in on 7pm, the last thing I wanted to do was run out to the store for that one tomato, or head of lettuce we were out of. So, about two years ago, on a sunny Wednesday lunch hour I gave in. I decided having a salad with our dinner was important even if it meant I would pay inflated tourist prices and risk my life dodging stollers and suffocation from being squeezed between zillions of onlookers. A salad was worth it. I headed down there expecting to be annoyed, and hoping I could use my amazing crowd darting abilities (really, ask #4, I'm pretty good at getting through a mob) and return with some expensive lettuce and a tomato.
If you've been to the Pike Place Market, you know exactly what I am talking about with the crowds. Head into the enclosed area, and be prepared to move at a snails pace. I made the decision that day to go to one of the first vendors I saw, on the outside sidewalk rather than attempting to manuever the interiour of the market. I also assumed, by doing this I'd be paying even more for my produce. You know, like gas stations...the first one off the freeway exit is always the most expensive. And you know what? I. was. wrong. Their prices were actually cheaper than what I paid at my "regular" grocery market. And, because they weren't "inside" the market, but instead on an open sidewalk, manuevering the crowds wasn't nearly as treacherous as I anticipated...I could breath, there weren't people 4 rows thick in front of me! Really? All this time I've avoided it because it's so crowded and I assumed (I know, NEVER assume) prices were inflated so sometimes we'd go without a tomato or head of lettuce (the horror!) for a couple of days until I could make it to the "regular" grocery store?? Well, from that day forward, no more.
I still do my regular shopping on Sunday mornings up in Poulsbo. But...when we've run out of something fresh, rather than just doing without until the weekend arrives, I grab my canvas bag and take a stroll to the market on my lunch hour -- I've actually become somewhat of a regular at that stand I went to the very first day. They know me, and I know I'm getting fresh, local produce and it is NOT priced for tourists! Looking back, I'm not really sure why I had that notion of their produce being overpriced. It's not like tourists are in the market (no pun intended) for produce. "Hey honey, let's pick up some lettuce, a ruttabega, and some cucumbers and take them back to the hotel room!" Yeah, probably not.
So there you have it...last night we had organic local red leaf lettuce, HUGE green onions, roma tomatos, cucumber, corn on the cobb, and lime with our beer. All this without having to ask the ferry captain to make a pitstop for me at the store!