Friday, July 3, 2009

Why I live in a small town

I love living in a small town.

Today we got up and went to Bellville, another (smaller) town about 15 minutes from Brenham. There is a meat market there where we wanted to get some turkey smoked sausage for the 4th as well as a farmers market that we found the other day. It had some great looking fresh fruits and vegetables the first time we stopped in, so we wanted to go back to get some more.

At the meat market, we got some beef smoked sausage (they were out of the turkey sausage we went for), some fresh sausage, some ribs and some great looking bacon. And some jerky. And a cake... The meat looked incredible.

Then we headed over to Greenjeans Produce Market, which is located one block north of another one of our favorite places, Golden Pagoda. Now, in my previous experience with "farmers markets" I've found them a bit disappointing. Many times they get their produce off the same trucks that the grocery stores do. Sometimes you go in one and there's all this rotting fruit laying around drawing flies. So when we first went in to the Greenjeans market earlier in the week, that was my level of expectation. I was surprised to find a nicely air conditioned little store with good looking produce.

The owner told me that they buy locally whenever they can, and I took that with a huge grain of salt. Most people will tell you that, but "local" might mean on this side of the Mississippi. But today's trip really took away my cynicism. As we were browsing around, an older man came in lugging two big boxes full of tomatoes. The owner's wife greeted him by name and said they were glad to see him back because everyone had loved the last batch of tomatoes he had brought in. He sold his tomatoes right then and there and bought a jar of local honey with some of the money he made.

That watermelon on the counter is mine. The owner showed me the right way to look for a good watermelon (thumping means nothing, it turns out), and was even able to tell me where my particular melon came from and when it was picked. The one I chose came from Hempstead and had been picked yesterday.

We paid for our produce (every customer got free cilantro) and headed out the door, amazed at what we had just seen. Outside, a truck pulled up and two men got out and lugged several baskets full of beautiful cantaloupes into the store to sell. Wow. There's still an actual farmers market where actual farmers are selling their produce.

If you're ever driving through Bellville, Texas (15minutes north of Sealy on Highway 36), do yourself a favor. Stop in to either the Bellville meat market or Greeenjeans Produce Market and get a little glimpse of how buying food used to (and still should) be.

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