I’m not sure how this became a (late) Sunday evening post, but somehow the weekend got away from me…
I haven’t talked much on this blog about the passion that closely parallels and informs my love of travel. That is my love of food and cooking and my quest to use local ingredients as much as possible when feeding my family. When I’m not blogging you are likely to find me making bread or granola or soup or stew (actually, often these activities are not exclusive, although I have been known to burn things when I’ve gotten too involved in what I’m writing). I spend more time grocery shopping than the average person, which is why I had to swear off taking Teddy along in order for us to have our Friday adventures. This week I did haul him on a foraging expedition.
But I don’t feel too guilty about taking Teddy to Highland Orchards, a farm in Wilmington, Delaware that has been run by the same family for generations. This farm is a true gem – surrounded by suburban sprawl, it sits as it has for hundreds of years, perched on a hill surveying the houses, schools, and roads that have sprung up around it. If you’ve ever read The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, you will understand what I mean.
For Teddy this is a fun outing, not a shopping trip. He views it as a trip to his own personal zoo because we always spend a good amount of time admiring the ducks, bunnies, chickens, and goats (to say nothing of the lone peacock) before we shop. On Friday we also had to stop and explore the large baskets of gourds. Teddy delighted in how tactile they were and their funny shapes, holding up one and declaring that it was a pelican.
The market itself is inside an ancient barn that smells of bread and fruit with a whiff of mildew that is not unpleasant. It is always cold even on the hottest summer day. The selection here is wonderful and includes old fashioned things I never find anywhere else like Jerusalem artichokes (and if you’ve never had one of these, please do. Jamie Oliver will tell you how to cook them). The produce here is not certified organic, but I know from conversations with the owners that much of it probably could be were the requisite paperwork filled out in triplicate and mailed with a large check.
The business is managed by Ruth Linton, with other members of her family helping out. Ruth and I attend church together; she has a daughter who is a little older than Tommy and who sings in the choir with him on Sunday mornings. There is a photo of the two of them taped to the cash register and on Friday Teddy paused as he always does to proudly point out his brother. When Ruth is there she takes time to chat with me about the kids or share what produce is at its peak. And although she and I aren’t exactly neighbors, since I live about a half hour away, I still imagine that this must be what it felt like when one went to the village market to gossip and buy food from familiar people. There were eggs from the chickens we just visited and fresh donuts and pies made by Ruth’s mother. Crimson dahlias from the cutting garden filled mason jars on the counter, two fifty a bunch. There were heirloom tomatoes and huge heads of cauliflower, and at least a half dozen varieties of apples and I had to restrain myself from buying more than I would have time to prepare.
While I made my selections Teddy busily cruised around the barn pushing a small shopping cart into which he had placed a plastic tiger and singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” No one troubled him and not once did he ask me when we would be done – although he did grab a rather large cantaloupe, which I made him put back. When we were finished it was lunch time. We skipped the many nearby chains and went instead to a local lunch spot called Lucky’s Coffee Shop where the décor is decidedly retro and the food satisfyingly basic. Because I believe in dessert like some people believe in Saint John’s Wort or Vitamin C, we shared a piece of banana cream pie that was to die for.
My theme for this week is going to center around food, so you’re going to be hearing more about wonderful places to eat with children in various cities I’ve visited as well as tips for great (and at least somewhat healthy) family eating on the road. You’re probably not surprised to hear that looking for local is the way to go, but I’ll get up on that soapbox later. I hope you come hungry and leave satisfied.