Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Organic Farmers' Market at the Star Ferry Terminal

With about 100 Government-run wet markets in Hong Kong, traditional street markets sprinkled here and there and outstanding "western style" supermarkets, the average food shopper in Hong Kong is spoiled for choice with 'round-the-clock access to fresh fruits and veg.  Oh, how I envy them!

Hong Kong's official certificate of organic produce
Finding organic, sustainable produce grown locally on the other hand, is a different story.  

Over the years, I've sought them out like a hound and visited two in Kowloon, Mei Foo and Tai Po.  I'd have to say though, that the Star Ferry Terminal Market on Hong Kong Island stands out in my mind as the most engaging, family friendly and by far the easiest to find.  After paying 34¢ each to ride in first class, we jumped on the ferry in Kowloon, snapped a few pics while we bobbed up and down in the harbour, and "poof," we were there.

The market is run every Sunday by LOHAS Square or Lifestyle-Of-Health-And-Sustainability.  Simply put, their mission is to educate people on ways of sustainable living.  Organic farming, networking within the community and recycling being three of many.

About 10 or so certified local organic food vendors were gathered in the centre of the terminal. Around the perimeter, a few other vendors were selling non-food items made from recycled materials.  I bought a charming cat key chain made from recycled fabric.  There was also a soap making demonstration under way. 

While we were wandering around the market munching on carrots and strawberries, I stopped at one of the booths where they were making little lanterns and candy dishes from used red  Lai See packets so of course I had to jump in and give it a try.  

I sat next to an adorable 5-year-old girl and together we followed detailed instructions from the teacher while the little girl's mom generously translated for me.  I made a gold fish.  She made a beautiful candy dish.  Clearly she'd done this before.

A second life for Lai See packets
After trying my hand at that, next to the Lai See booth was another craft booth, this one, Chinese paper cutting or JianzhiThe Jianzhi instructor pulled out samples of the different patterns you could make.  Some of them were incredibly ornate and skilfully done.  After a brief consultation, he suggested I give "Double Happiness" a shot and traced an outline in pencil where I was to cut with my tiny, sharp scissors.  With yet another young girl beside me and Hubby encouraging me from the sidelines, we got down to it.

Like the other Farmers' markets, the vendors here were passionate about the food they grow, offered us samples of their products and were very gracious and patient even though we had no hope of ever conversing with each other. 

But the calm and communal atmosphere of the market and the lovely vendors drew us in and left us with a warm and lasting memory.  And a nice Lai See gold fish.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A Flea by the Sea

Of all the many Vide Greniers (or community boot sales, en anglais), that pop up in the villages and towns near Monaco, the one in Beaulieu sur Mer is one of my favourites.  

I find many of the region's "vides" are just an excuse for vendors to sit in the great outdoors, smoke, and give their overpriced junk some air and sunshine but this one is different.  

To begin the Vide in Beaulieu is larger than most and since the vendors are just regular folk trying to clear out some of their unwanted stuff, the junk is varied, their prices are fair and they always seem happy to negotiate and knock off a euro or two.

Beaulieu is also easy to get to by train or bus, steps from the sea and surrounded by beautiful mountains.  Also my friend Meghan lives there and joins me when she can.  What's not to like?
Who stole my QWERTY?

Even if I don't find anything to buy, I like comparing French flea market junk with the junk I find in Canadian flea markets. It's like visiting a parallel universe:  same idea, different execution.  Like European typewriters whose keys are laid out in a different configuration than those in North America.

The day's treasures.  Total damage: 25.  Pleasure:  priceless
I admit to a little obsession lately with knife rests and I find vide grenier the best place to pick them up since not many people use them any more except moi. At least they don't take up much room - or at least that's what I keep telling hubby.

If you're ever in the region and want to find out where the flea markets are during your visit, I find this site called BrocaBrac a good place to start.

There's another big Vide Grenier coming on May 1 in Menton which is worth the trip.

Let me know if you find anything interesting!

Candy apples made on-site

The annual May 1 Vide Grenier in Menton

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A Break in the Rain

I'm not sure if it's climate change or just a blip but the weather around here lately has been blah.

I enjoy a rainy day now and then but an entire month with rain, wind and storms is a bit much for me.

We moved here 13 years ago to escape this sort of weather.

To make matters worse, we had guests last week who had come all the way from Vancouver Island for a relaxing break under the sun and bright blue skies but instead they were trapped in doors most of the week because of the constant rain.  Poor darlings.
Out in the garden a bright green moss is growing in mounds on our paths, on the lawn and on our ancient olive trees.

Even stranger is the rubbery, paper thin brown fungus that's  springing up from the ground in big clusters here and there on our normally dry terraces. It looks a bit like the wood ear fungus I often see on Chinese menus.   If it's still there on Monday I think I'll dig up a few clumps and take them to the Pharmacie to see if it's edible.
Early this morning there was a delicious break in the rain so I bolted to the Saturday market in Menton before it started up again.


As you can imagine, the talk of the town was, bien sûr, the relentless rain, how weird it all is and the fact that everyone is looking a little pale from being indoors so much.

Along with the regular vendors who brought some spring goodies like sweet and tender petit pois, asparagus, fava beans, artichokes and fresh goats' milk cheese, there was a brave used book vendor who I imagine was hoping to do a brisk business selling books to people who were looking for some rainy day reading to pass the time while they were trapped indoors for weeks on end.

Well, it worked.  For only €2, I scooped up a fun little book called, "Le Savoir Cuisiner des Femmes d'Aujourd'hui" or "Cooking Knowledge for Today's Woman" and it's the 5th in a set of 6 cook books published in 1959. The first volume covered soups, sauces, hors d’œuvres and entrées, the 2nd was about fish, eggs and cheese, the 3rd covered meats and poultry.  The fourth was about vegetables, pasta and rice and the 6th was drinks, jelly and jam, and confections.  Mine is about desserts, pastry, ice cream and fruit.

I love the introduction that loosely translates as, "not only is dessert important from a health point of view but a menu should be planned, above all, with an agreeable ending."

I'd like to add... "and what could be a better place to pass rainy days in the south of France than in the kitchen baking desserts."

Amen to that.