Thursday, 18 April 2013

Farmers' Markets Can Delight & Surprise

There are many varieties of durian.
I have always loved and admired the artistry and arrangements of colourful fruits and vegetables in markets the world over. There is something incredible about pyramids of stacked foods that tickles my fancy. I've seen pyramids of spices in Cairo, pyramids of flower heads in Little India in Singapore, pyramids of tea leaves in New York, and pyramids of fruit and veggies, some of which are delectably strange and intriguing (like durian, dragon fruit and mangosteens) the world over. Artistry & colour. That is what I love.

Over time we have explored many markets as a family, and what our kids love are the edible treats! They love being surprised by the delicious & decadent food items that creative vendors invent and make for their customers.

Sweet Stuff's Mini Cupcakes
Our Southwest Edmonton Market has salty sweet kettle corn by Original Canadian Kettle Corn,  incredible cookies (like potato chip chocolate chip) by Gourmet Girl Cookies, decadent & beautiful cupcakes by Sweet Stuff Cakes, luscious fudge by Phil's Fudge Factory, gluten-free treats (like cinnamon buns) at Celebrate Gluten Free, puff pastries and tea cakes by Raspberry and Cocoa, and mini donuts at The Pink Kernel. These are things that kids all love... and that many an adult gets weak-kneed over for as well! And the best thing about them: you can munch them as you walk the market and browse the stalls of our other vendors.

Chicken Feet
But in other cultures, the things that are regarded as treats can be often quite surprising. In many a Chinatown we have seen pigs ears and chicken feet offered up for sale. And very, very pungently odoured (a.k.a. stinky) durian slices.

In Singapore we saw people lining up for sticky, paper thin, eight inch squares of meat... they shined and glinted and we had NO idea what they were. Finally on our last day, the kids got brave enough to try some... and they turned out to be slices of sweet, carmelized bacon called bak kwa. Our son and daughter thought they were in heaven and kicked themselves for not being brave enough to try them earlier!

We have tried strange-tasting popsicles made of red beans and coconut milk, or jack fruit and bean paste.
Bak Kwa in Singapore

In Thailand we loved the coconut-sweetened sticky rice with red beans, cooked inside bamboo stalks over coals or steamed to perfection, and we took them on hikes with us, peeling them  open when we were hungry.

We have enjoyed a decidedly bizarre version of a snow cone... piled high with shaved ice and colourful syrups making a beautiful rainbow pattern on top... with grass jelly and red beans and corn kernels in the bottom!). That discovery definitely shocked us!

The Singaporean version of a snow cone...
with a very unusual surprise underneath!
Though I love the eye opening nature of many of these treats, and love the exposure that they give us to the unique and unusual aspects of other cultures, there are many treats that are more familiar and satisfying to us... like the elephant ears, which are like large flattened donuts topped with icing sugar, in Portland.... and of course, the treats in our own market.

There are many ways that a farmers' market can delight and surprise you with special and unique treats. Come out and explore the Southwest Edmonton Market. There you will find food trucks that can satisfy many a food craving. And food vendors with treats aplenty! There are sure to be wonderful surprises in store for you there.

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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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