Talking to a man about his buffalo

There is no better way to start a Sunday than talking to a man about his buffalo.
That is, in a nutshell, why I love the Newcastle Farmers Markets. Just the idea that, somewhere not that far away, there are buffalo roaming free cheers me up whenever I think about it.
It took me months of thinking about it before I finally set an alarm and made the trek to the markets one Sunday. These days, the alarm goes off every week and rain or shine I make my way over to the showgrounds. I like to get there early, by 8am, because it’s quieter. It’s easier to have the brief, friendly conversations with the sellers when there are less people around. Some days I get up the courage to ask about the buffalo or tell the woman at Pukara how much I love their olive oil. Once, on a day when it rained, I talked to a disgruntled man about the freezing wind and his daffodils.
The markets are all about these tiny acts of bravery. Sharing a thought or trying something new. I’ve discovered all kinds of marvellous things too, because there’s something about the brisk morning air that just makes me want to buy food I have no idea what to do with. A few weeks ago I tried a loquat. We’ve had sausages made from half a dozen different animals at various times (including buffalo). I bought a pomegranate and was reminded that they look so, so much better than they taste (which is like grass). I’ve made mash using potatoes that were deep purple, right to the core, and baked with a variety that were a soft, flushed pink. We discovered stroopwafels, crispy, spicy waffles that are sliced in half and filled with caramel sauce. Now we’re regulars at the waffle stall. Every week the man gives his spiel about the special of the day and every week we buy four plain syrup waffles, to take away.
There’s this idea that farmers markets are cripplingly expensive but, in Newcastle at least, that isn’t the case at all. We buy a lot of our vegetables there these days and most things are a similar price or cheaper to what they would be at the supermarkets. This week I bought a kilo of cherries and three punnets of blueberries and I didn’t return home broke. It’s an indulgence, certainly, but it’s one that I feel I can justify. Where possible, I’m handing my money directly to the person who actually grew the things that I am buying. Not every person at the markets is a grower, some source their produce, but I still feel like I’m cutting out an awful lot of middle men by buying food this way. The apples don’t have stickers on them and there’s no questions as to whether or not the lemons have been waxed. The broccoli is dewy and still a beautiful blue-green. I get better food and the people who sell the food get more money. There is nothing about this business model that I don’t enjoy.
This is another in what is likely to be a series of posts about things that I’m going to miss. Our house is littered with cardboard boxes ready to be filled. I keep on thinking about the things that I’ll be leaving behind when we drive interstate. I Googled farmers markets in Melbourne the other day and discovered that most of them happen once a month. I mean, they do have that big arse market in the middle of town, but I can’t help thinking that the market we have here is something special and that my Sundays will be a little less joyful without them.

Next week Aunty Alexwill once again be holding court. So if you’ve got a question about life, love or the pursuit of happiness, or you want advice on what to do when someone gives you a 10kg bag of breadcrumbs, send an email to ask.aunty.alex{at} or tweet me.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year