Tuesday, August 19, 2008

So Surprised

It had been a while since I’d been to the Vancouver Farmers Market. It was never my favorite market. But I decided to give it another chance since I was feeling too lazy to drive all the way into Portland, and I’m glad I did. I was so surprised by how it has grown!

My usual approach to farmers market shopping is to do two laps. I walk through the market once to take it all in and see what looks good, and then I do a second round, this time to actually do the buying. The Vancouver market took three passes.

That’s because everything looked so good, I just couldn’t decide. The variety of ethnic snacks was unbelievable. There were Greek, Asian, and German food stands. The gumbo was tempting.

My husband cast his vote for the tamale stand.

The aroma of the paella almost lured me in.

But I just had to go with the Uzbek food, since I happen to be from Uzbekistan.

It was the ambiguous sign that first aroused my curiosity.

But I didn’t really count on anything interesting as I wandered toward it. I most certainly didn’t expect an authentic array of the foods that I had grown up eating. I just couldn’t believe my eyes! The Vancouver Farmers Market has a vendor (Pavel & Family, 360-253-6827) specializing in Uzbek food!

I’m not sure I can really convey in words how unusual this is. I was in complete disbelief, stunned, shocked, so surprised. It’s just that most people would be hard pressed to locate Uzbekistan on a world map, let alone spend some hard earned cash to try the food. I mean, when I tell people I was born is Uzbekistan, they just look at me quizzically. They almost always respond, “Pakistan?” I explain that Uzebkistan’s a country in Central Asia. So they try again, “Afghanistan?” Needless to say, the only place other than Uzbekistan I’ve ever seen Uzbek food is at home.

But I digress. The Uzbek food looked good. Shashlik, skewers of marinated beef and pork, were sizzling on a grill.

I was told that the father of the family of cooks was a welder and made it himself. They had an enormous authentic kettle, called a katol, full of plov, a lamb and rice pilaf.

They proudly explained that they had ordered the katol directly from Uzbekistan and that the shipping had cost $1,500 (ironically, the pot itself was only about $40). They even had an authentic babushka, lending credibility to the entire operation.

I ordered the combination plate, with shashlik, plov, and salad.

A tasty and satisfying lunch for about $7.

With a belly full of comfort food, I was finally ready to do my shopping. I bought some okra, tomatoes, and corn. Then the stone fruit caught my eye.

I’ve had donut and Saturn peaches before but never flat nectarines.

So I had to get some just for the novelty factor.

And then the huckleberries called to me.

The friendly vendor had just picked the wild berries himself at Trout Lake on Mount Adams. They were rare perfection, with jewel-like shiny skin, an intoxicating fragrance, an even more intense flavor, and also a very steep price of $4.50. I bought just one half-pint. On the way home, I agonized over what to do with the huckleberries, would they be destined for fresh eating or a pastry transformation? Concluding that a special treasure deserves a special treatment, I tossed them with a single tablespoon of sugar, divided them between two ramekins, topped them with rolled-out scraps of Pâte Sucrée Tart Crust from the freezer, and baked them into cobblers as soon as I got home.

A dollop of vanilla whipped cream, and my tongue was blissfully happy. What in the world was I thinking when I bought just one half-pint? Now I find myself in the preliminary stages of planning a huckleberry picking expedition. I think I have a new favorite berry, at least for the rest of huckleberry season.

And did I mention, I also have a new favorite farmers market?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin