I’ve been to some pretty vibey Farmers Markets in my time. The type grabs you just as you turn the corner and drags you away from that Caramel Cream Macchiato and has you giddy with the sights and smells of all things fresh from out of the ground, hand made and passionately put together.
And then there’s Chichester Farmers Market. A Market that comes across as almost apologising for attempting to sell you real food. What??? Buy something and take it home to cook?? Staid looking stalls peppered on East Street and North Street, narrowly avoiding the doorways of retail shops, some barely visible if you were to look down the street from the Cross. Some of the stalls you could hardly even see their banner, or worse, there wasn’t even one. No identity, nothing eye-catching that would make them discernible, noticeable and memorable. Some of the stall keepers actually looked like they drew the short straw when it came to who’s turn it was to deal with the natives at the Farmers Market.
Obviously, there were exceptions to the rule. There was the Mud Food People with beautifully crafted pies piled up high. The Picnic & Hamper People with their beautifully laid out wicker baskets of delicious and well priced sweet tarts. The sausage man!!! How I love the sausage man. During last year’s Chichester Food Fare, I spent a wee while chatting to him about my interest in taxidermy after finding out that he is one of the few remaining taxidermists left.
I’ve always felt, in my own humble opinion, that the stalls need to be closer together. They need to come forward more to the middle of the streets. That, I think would create a livelier atmosphere. Maybe then the sourpuss faced passers-by could avoid racing pass, looking like they were so worried that they might catch the eye of a stall keeper. If the stalls were to be moved toward the middle, food hostile natives could just avoid the stalls altogether and inch their way down the street with their backs against the outside shop wall just so they could make sure that they are not ambushed by some taster olive.
I think Market shopping requires quite a different set of retail skills. You actually have to interact with each other and I do wonder if that is why there is an air of being dragged kicking and screaming with the Chichester Farmers Market. We just don’t know how to shop that way anymore. Whilst the Farmers Market may be outdoors, it doesn’t have the feel of a Market. It’s terribly quiet, the stall keepers can be cagey (dare I say that with a small few, you do walk away feeling like they’ve done you a favour by selling you their wares!) and noone really is pushing the boat out as far as challenging the palate with more innovative flavours and varieties.
What small businesses like this need to remember is that the public needs persuading and educating. The vast majority is not used to this type of retail therapy. This is a time of pre packed, pre-cut, partially prepared or part baked food – so so far away removed from its original form. The public needs to be enticed into wanting to try new flavours. That fresh food does not to be scary. That this neurotic food hostility and ambivalence towards cooked from scratch food is just downright pathetic.
And damaging to the health of our children.
These guys, however, seem to be on the right track.
Tuppenny Barn Organic is based in Southbourne and has been going since 2005. I saw them a few weeks back and was pleased to find them on Twitter. I often do a Twitter search on businesses operating in Chichester which caught my eye, if only to find out how they are utilising social media in getting their business more known locally. Tuppenny Barn Organic is using Twitter for more than just a one way free advertising service. They are actually interacting with their community. They also have a very well thought out website which serves more than just to put forward what they do as a business, but also what they a trying to achieve together with the local community as a social enterprise. Plans are underway to establish an education resource centre and the farm is already opening its doors to organised visits from schools.
And how did I know this? Because the woman running the stall told me about it. She was selling me the vision behind the suggestible turnip and the cosmic calendula. Their stall caught my eye. It was beautifully laid out. The arrangement was made for visual impact, rather than trying to cram as much produce on the table as possible. They made rhubarb look sexy and butternut squashes look deliciously obscene.
I actually bought some rhubarb. Not because I particularly wanted them for anything, I just thought they looked beautiful. When I got home, I decided against doing the typical rhubarb crumble and found this recipe.
So, there are a few things you guys need to know about this recipe. It was moist, tart, not overly sweet but you gotta love rhubarb. You are not going to be able to hide your rhubarb animosity under a mound of buttery sweet crumble with this one. It is definitely rhubarb through and through. If you think cooked rhubarb is just mutant sweet stewed celery, then step away from the recipe.
And like many of the recipes I share with you on here, it really isn’t as complicated as it looks. Just mere process. Don’t be disappointed after roasting the rhubarb to find that the rhubarb haven’t really caramelised with the sugar. I don’t think you can really caramelised rhubarb without turning them into hollow tubes of crispy nothingness. I also didn’t have any tins of ready made custard so made some with the egg yolks I had leftover from making lemon chiffon cake. I don’t think it affected the result and it certainly made a very lovely, rustic looking cake.
Say hello to me if you see me at the next Farmers Market. I’ll the that crazy haired woman wrestling with a baby on my hip.
(All photos of the Farmers Market are by Nadia Stephens)