I miss our Green Markets, under the beautiful Port Jackson figs at Davis Park, West End. I miss the stall I dubbed ‘the crystal cave hippies’ with their gorgeous carrots, silverbeet and occasional broadbeans, all handed over with long-fingered purple sparkly nails and a smile. I miss the Islander man with his root vegetables, and the banana guy and his young, bewildered son. I miss the lovely old Greek couple who bickered even as they tipped home-grown and sun-ripened tomatoes into our shopping bag. I miss the happy hippy organic folk, who chirped away at me as I collected our weekly groceries and who invariably gave me an extra peach, or some cherries, or a handful of snow peas.
I miss the smell of chai, simmering away. I miss watching all the satisfied people sat under trees eating their scrumptious breakfast of scrambled eggs on rye with tomato chutney and rocket, or French toast with berry compote . I miss the people whom I bought free-range eggs from: I thought they were a cult, with their matching t-shirts and singsong sales pitch.
I miss the abundance of sprightly flowers, which I frequently bought to spruce up our house.
I miss my fellow market-goers: the regulars,like me, for whom it was their weekly shop; the gasping newcomers darting their heads right to left, and back again; the cyclists wobbling away with their fresh prizes. I don’t miss the people who insisted on taking their dogs shopping with them. Or the little girl who stuffed a Paris Hilton type dog into her shopping bag. I don’t like dogs all that much, but that’s no way to treat a sentient animal. I miss the buskers and the young children boogying away in front of the one-man band (I don’t miss the one-man band cacophony, although I admire his energy). I particularly miss the woman with her husky voice who channelled Janis Joplin, off key and out of harmony, but -oh!- the gusto.
The vegetables in England are droopier. They have travelled a long way to be here. (I wonder if I am droopier – I too have travelled a long way to be here.) I had expected that, because of England’s colder clime, fruit and vege would last longer. But they do not. Broccoli goes yellow after a week, and the stem gets all bendy. Carrots flop.
We try to source locally, but it is difficult because fewer things can grow locally, and the market does not support them. We have to be willing to give away half of our weekend to buy local food.
I am learning what is seasonal; in Brisbane you rarely have to worry about what is seasonal (no seasons, you see). I’ve been delighting in fruit and vegetables that prefer cold: broadbeans, blueberries, okra; and the joys of strawberries and cherries as we hurtle through summer. I’m eager to see what autumn brings, and what we will eat in the fallow months of winter.
I have eaten many more potatoes here, in the last six months, than I have my entire life. Rather too many of them have been in the form of chips.
And I am slowly forming my impressions of the people at the local farmers’ market. They are less characterful, so far, then the Green Market folk – but that may be because I know them less well. Before long, I’m sure they’ll all have epithets, and I hope some of them will start to recognise me.