Fresh Ingredients

Yesterday, we visited the local Farmer’s Market to buy ingredients for our cooking class! We walked from the cooking school in the French Quarter through the Central Business district. The small congregation of white topped canopies looked like a fleet of sailing ships on a concrete sea. Under them, tables overflowed with vegetables, fruits, flowers, meats, cheeses- vibrant, fresh, and tenderly stacked in bins and boxes. In contrast to the relatively quiet, sleepy streets we walked to get there, the Farmer’s Market was lively and bustling.

We split into groups and shopped for the dishes we would prepare in class. My group was responsible for making potato salad. The people running the stand explained to us that the eggs we bought were from chicken grown on a local farm, free of cages, and were laid two days ago. Unlike the bleached white eggs you buy from grocery stores, these eggs were shades of soft, natural browns and tans. We told them that we were looking for celery, and they didn’t have that, but they had a similar plant called Lovage. They tore off a leaf, “Try it!” I popped in my mouth and it tasted just like celery (but a bit stronger). Pleasantly surprised, we reached for our money to buy the eggs and Lovage, but they insisted we have them for free. So sweet!

We have learned that New Orleans culture is inextricably tied to a strong sense of place. Shopping for local ingredients helped us see that first hand. The cuisine is tied to food that is available and fresh. As the seasons change, so do the dishes on people’s tables. As the strawberries were irresistibly bright and fragrant, we incorporated them into a dessert. This type of cooking and eating embraces the complexity of the local culture, and brings it to the table for us to experience it together.

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