What’s your vision of a good old home-cooked meal? Does it differ from your picture of a gourmet meal? I grew up in a world of great cooks. Oh, they weren’t the kind of chefs you currently see on TV, but they were great cooks. From family dinners to church potlucks, we ate good food.
Our food was good because it was prepared with loving hands. Even the local cafe’s knew their customers and worked hard to meet their needs. When we say grace, we often ask the Lord to bless the hands that prepared our food. Cooking takes time. It takes work. Some enjoy it more than others, and we recognize the effort that goes in to preparing good old home cooked meals.
Our food was good because it was fresh. Produce was often grown in our own gardens. My dad grew many vegetables, along with berries and tree fruits. He even raised honeybees so we always had a supply of clover honey. We knew the farmers that produced our beef and pork. We were really farm to table, even “back in the day.” I believe that’s one key reason that I enjoy buying from my new friends at our local Farmers Market.
Most summer Saturday mornings you could catch us when the market opened, buying fresh fruit and other produce, meat, and flowers for use at our Bed and Breakfast. We often purchased the fresh baked goods for our own use, as well. Our Farmers Market trips were an adventure. I watch the cooking shows and it was fun to challenge myself to “find” foods at the market that I could prepare for our guests that morning. Oh, I planned the main entree and typically knew which meat would accompany it, but it was fun to hit the market to see what was available that week and use it to prepare the accompanying fruit and vegetable courses. Buy fresh, be creative and beat the clock!
As you can see in the video above, choices were abundant and I had a good time shopping the market. Did I have a back up plan? Sure. But I never needed to use one! There was always a wonderful variety of foods available to choose from.
I did face one more challenge at the Farmers Market. I make friends easily, and I hated to pass by vendors without stopping to make a purchase. I appreciate their dedication to being available for me week after week. They’re there on the nice spring days, on the hot sunny summer days and on the days when the storms hit, blowing down their canopies. (That day I waited until after the storm to go shopping!) So… I developed a plan. Unless I was short on time and making a beeline to specific booths that I needed to visit, I always did a little welcome stroll, greeting the vendors, thanking them for being there and perusing each booth to see what was available that particular day. There are distinctions in the items offered and after seeing what was available, my goal was to make my purchases from as many vendors as I could.
Besides having the ability purchase some of the freshest food in town, I also learned from the vendors as I got to know them. From tips about when to trim back your mums to how to make a dipping oil for Artisan bread, you can gain a lot of information from the vendors at the Farmers Market. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’ve found that the vendors at our Jacksonville Farmers Market at Lincoln Square are delighted to share their knowledge and it’s fun learning from them. Who’d have ever thought to serve white gravy with sweet potatoes?
The market is closed for the season, and I won’t be able to go back until April or May, but we had a great partnership and I look forward to next year. I do have one wish for our local Farmer’s Market. I’d like to see a local coffee roaster come in. I don’t even drink coffee, but I’d love to have fresh roasted coffee beans to grind for our guests!
About Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast
Experience a stay in our award-winning Bed & Breakfast located in a magnificently restored 130-year-old mansion in the heart of the historic district. Pampered luxury is our goal, to delight both business and leisure travelers. We offer two upscale guest suites, each with private sitting rooms and private baths. We provide multi-course gourmet breakfasts, 24/7 family-friendly hot and cold beverages and snacks, and cookies and milk at bedtime. Wi-Fi is available throughout our home and each suite has a digital satellite TV and all-season fireplace. We are located just steps away from Illinois College, the Governor Duncan Mansion and Illinois School for the Deaf and our neighborhood is highlighted on one of Jacksonville’s historic walking tours. Escape the standard hotel room and enjoy your own private suite in the finest Jacksonville area lodging.