Flirting with Flavour

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Spring has sprung at the farmers’ market

Living in Scotland, it is not uncommon to witness four distinct seasons in one day.  The past few weeks have exemplified these schizophrenic weather patterns (I say this with much love, of course).  One minute there’s not a cloud in the beautiful blue sky, the next the wind is whipping the trees into complacency and hail is pounding the pavement.  It has become a hazardous pastime to work at my desk with the windows open, enjoying the spring breeze.  Not that there has been much of a spring breeze recently, but when it’s there, it’s important to catch it!

Today, though, St Andrews seems to have put on its dancing shoes and come out to play.  The sun is shining, blue skies for miles – until those clouds roll in – and for what seems like the first time in months the gale forced winds have diminished to a true spring breeze.  I could almost smell summer.  Or was that the pungent smell of an Arbroath Smokie from the farmers’ market?  Or perhaps not the Smokie itself, but the kedgeree prepared as part of a cooking demo by the Fine Food and Dining Society, in which it was the star ingredient.

At home the return of the farmers’ market marks the beginning of summer, here the market runs all year round on the first Saturday of every month.  During the winter, though, it is the bare bones of the vibrant potpourri that it becomes in warmer weather.  There is something irresistibly magnetic and simultaneously rejuvenating about farmers’ markets.  Locals and visitors alike descend, weaving their way from stand to stand between the crowds, foregoing the supermarket for homegrown goodness.  It’s never overly congested, and either way I would never begrudge customers to the local artisans.

They really are artisans.  Whether it be in the way they cultivate their cabbage, tend their herds of buffalo, coax garden-fresh herbs out of the cold Scottish soil, or even crafts more traditionally associated with innovation – blackberry and rosemary vinegar, microbrews of beer, and, my personal favourite, chocolate.

I think this is where a confession is due – I always start my trip to the farmers’ market with an espresso-sized portion of The Cocoa Tree’s caliente hot chocolate.  Today was no exception.  If you have yet to try it, you don’t know what you’re missing.  If it were up to me I’d put you right on the bus to Pittenweem (and go with you, of course!), but if that trek is too far, you can always catch Sophie at her stall next month.

Spring was in the air today.  My flatmate and I could barely contain ourselves with all the new vendors flown in on the warm zephyrs.  Luckily our wallets constrained themselves.  Not before we had done much sampling and buying, though.  We came home with a veritable smorgasbord, which we then laid out for the perfect brunch on the perfect day.

I’ve piqued your interest, have I?  Are you wondering what goodies we were laden with upon our departure?  Well, we picked up a whole duck for Tuesday’s dinner and four Puddledub buffalo, venison, and cranberry burgers for a hearty mid-exam boost-me-up.  As any of my flatmates would tell you, it can be a wee bit difficult to get red meat past my lips (par exemple last Jan-April I was vegan-ish – I cheated with my favourite food, sushi – and have never felt better!).  These burgers are the exception.  When the wafts of moist meat reach my nostrils my mouth invariable starts to water.

My most prized possession leaving this month’s market, though, was the herb lady’s blackberry and rosemary vinegar.  Last summer my parents and I had become accustomed to eating our salads with a simple drizzle of blackberry and ginger balsamic, but try as I might, I have found nothing comparable in the UK.  Until now.  This vinegar is the perfect balance between sweet, from the blackberries, and tart acidity from the vinegar.  The rosemary is almost imperceptible, except for the depth of finish that it lends to the whole taste.  Needless to say it will be making multiple appearances over the next few weeks, drizzled over ice cream, fruit, bread, duck (hence the purchase of another meat I rarely eat), you name it.

It was also the guest of honour amidst our farmer’s-market-outfitted brunch.  To go with the vinegar my flatmate MC and I each picked up a loaf of fresh bread (mine was whole spelt as I’m allergic to wheat).  To go with the bread, some mostardo chutney and sun blushed tomatoes.  To go with the sun blushed tomatoes, fresh rosemary.  It’s a circle, you see.  If you let your tastebuds do with buying, which I often do, it’s never ending – one flavour simply begs to be paired with another and another and another … But that’s the best adventure of all!


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Writing is a verb

It was almost a year and a half ago now, that my mom and I strolled down Rue Mouffetard with our new acquaintance Janice, who had up and left her job in LA as a copywriter to travel the world and pursue her dreams.  Her journey brought her to Paris, where we fatefully met in the Red Wheelbarrow bookstore on Rue St Paul in Le Marais the day before my twenty-first birthday.

As we wandered between vendors selling croissant au beurre, seafood of all varieties, such as scallops both in (coquilles St-Jacques) and out (noix de St Jacques) of their shells, fresh raviolone alle olive, and various fresh fruits and vegetables, I, perhaps inspired by the echoes of Meryl Streep’s portrayel of Julia Child on this same street, put words to thoughts I had harboured thenceforth close to my heart.  “I’d like to start a food blog” I found myself saying.  Janice, who blogged her way through The Artist’s Way and then kept going, replied “to write is a verb.  The only way to do it is to do it and not think about it.”  Those words have rolled around my head for the past 16 months urging me to take action.  This past May I finally picked up my dragging feet and engaged my friends help in choosing a name and theme for my blog.  This was it!  I set about photographing my creations and writing about them to create a backlog for my blog-to-be.  Then interailing happened, graduation happened, home happened and here I am three months later, still not blogging.

I still photographed every meal before it touched my mouth (be it in my kitchen or at a restaurant or café) – not that I wasn’t doing that before.  And as I fell asleep at night I would narrate my vast catalogue of articles that I will write for the New York Times Dining Section someday – of course.

Three days ago I was given a mug with the inscription, “Keep Calm and Carry On Cooking”.   My friends had been pestering me for months (maybe years?) to start a food blog, but if this wasn’t a kick I don’t know what is!  So I’ve decided, this really is it.  That mug has been staring me in the face as I drink my morning chai, a purposeful challenge and reminder that there is no time like the present.

So, here goes.  Every new food is an adventure and story waiting to be told.  I am starting this blog so as to share them with you.  I hope you enjoy!