FEASTING AT THE WINTER FARMERS’ MARKET

Saturday January 8 was the first indoor Dane County Farmers’ Market of 2011, and more excitingly, the first Taste of the Market Breakfast of the New Year.

.. A typical Taste of the Market breakfast is prepared. (photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/69654165@N00/2253786603

As per usual, the serving line threatened to spill out into the 20 degree morning air.  Instead, those at the end of the line cued in a Byzantine wrap-around formation that required a friendly tutorial from the last person in line to the next person to join.  As usual, the wait and the winding were well worth it.

...(Photo credit, Bill Lubing)

The Saturday Farmers’ Market has moved to its Late Winter home – the friendly confines of the Madison Senior Center, 330 W. Mifflin St. in Madison WI.  The Senior Center is centrally located and has a sunny, cozy feel, but more importantly, it has a kitchen where each Saturday morning through April 9, area chefs take turns designing and overseeing preparation of a breakfast made entirely of ingredients from the Market.  Volunteers will prepare it and serve it, and 500 lucky people will stand in line, striking up conversations with their line mates, shelling out $7.50 and then carrying a tasty, healthy, local, breakfast to a table squeezed in amongst the market vendors.  What these tables lack in elbow room, they make up in camaraderie.

This is the way breakfast should taste.  This is the way Saturday brunch should feel.  This is nutrition and community and local economy all supporting each other.

Judy Hageman of Snug Haven Farm started the breakfast almost a decade ago, and she still oversees it.  The Taste of the Market Breakfast began like many good things do from a little idea that took root and grew.

“There was a commercial kitchen at the senior center,” Judy remembers.  “I would make my daughter some pancakes and sausage there on market day.  When I brought out her plate of food, people started asking for some.  A light bulb went off.  I went to the Market Board with the idea that a breakfast would be a great education tool, and our winter market committee said, ‘Let’s go for it!’”

Judy admitted that no one really had any idea how to organize the project, but she got a lot of help.  Local food writer Teresa Allen , local food gurus Ben and Jonny Hunter from Underground Catering and regional food champion Odessa Piper helped, among others.

..Tory Miller at the helm. (photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/kev_walsh/2336527712 )

When Odessa sold her restaurant, l’Etoile to Tory Miller  he started bringing kids into the kitchen.

The breakfast is produced by volunteers, from the chefs to the dishwashers.  The volunteers do get a complimentary breakfast, but they get much more.  “Our farmers come into the kitchen and talk about how they raise their bison or their broccoli.  They are talking to people who may have no idea how to raise a chicken and who may never even have been to a farm.  But these people are learning how to work with real food,” Judy says.

Real food indeed!  Here is the lowdown on last Saturday’s feast prepared by chefs David McKercher and Tory Miller with help from the REAP Food Group AmeriCorps volunteers and DCFM farmers and community. The menu included:

..My plate last Saturday. Lucky me!

Breakfast is served from 8:30 to the first 500 who arrive.  Serving usually lasts till about 11:00 a.m., but it depends on how fast the serving line moves.

...How sweet it is. (Photo credit, Bill Lubing)

You can sign up for a newsletter with each week’s vendors and the breakfast menu here http://www.dcfm.org/newslet.asp

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Ruth Miller at ferngulley@mhc.net.

See you at the market!

I’d like to know if other farmers markets have a breakfast like this.  If you know of any, give a holler!

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2 replies

  1. Looks great, Denise. I suppose the taste was satisfactory as well. Here in the South–still a much maligned reason (many times not entirely unjustified) we have superb cooks and superb produce, but with the “desire to get ahead,” have lost much over the years. Maybe now we can concentrate on quality.

    My wife and I put up wild grape jelly each year. fig preserves, and so far . . . that’s it. But it’s a start in the right direction.

  2. Thanks, John.

    Yes, I think I didn’t emphasize how good the market breakfasts taste. Amazingly good, considering the somewhat spontaneous way they are prepared in a borrowed kitchen by volunteers.
    But as you know from your wild grape jelly and fig preserves, naturally good materials can produce some truly satisfying food.

    There is a difference, isn’t there, between getting ahead and getting it right.

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