Summer is the perfect time to slow down, change routine and try some different things -- and not only when you're on vacation. Mealtime is a great time to break the habit of junk-food takeout, or chemical-laden food-like substances purchased at big-box retailers and chain superstores. I'm a big fan of the French/Italian approach to food: natural, local, higher quality in smaller amounts, eaten slowly and with complete attention (i.e. not sitting at your desk or watching TV.)
The typical American lifestyle can make it tougher to buy and prepare quality, natural, local food than if, say, you live in a small village in Provence. However, it turns out that even in American suburbs -- neither in farm country nor high-density population centers sporting abundant farmers markets and niche grocers -- we can experience the joys of local food.
Here in Framingham, there's a farmer's market from 12:30 to 5:30 on Thursdays. Not exactly convenient for people who work 9-to-5 jobs, but several us decided to use our lunch break last Thursday to do a "field trip" to the market. I was delighted to see the eight or so stands pretty crowded (although less enthused about the lines, since we had to get back to work), and some of the produce was inspiring. I picked up some locally grown (outdoor variety done in the greenhouse) tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce, along with some other goodies.
We also made a quick stop at B&R Artisan Bread, which I've recommended before. (Seriously, if you think that "bread" is the stuff you buy in plastic bags from a supermaket shelf that's been manufactured someplace far away and trucked in, if you live in the Framingham area, you owe yourself a trip to B&R. It was only after they opened that I understood why my European friends couldn't eat the the stuff I bought prepackaged at Stop & Shop.)
The next day, we took another "field trip," this time down to Waverly Market. I'd read raves about it on This is Framingham but had never actually gone to, since the hours (closed evenings and Sundays) rule out much of my grocery shopping time. It was much larger than I expected; and the array of offerings -- Italian and homemade pastas, cold cuts, cheese, olive oils, vinegars -- made me wonder how I could possibly have lived in Framingham so long and not made it over there sooner! I bought more tomatoes -- how could I resist the hand-lettered sign above them that boasted, "Tomatoes that taste like tomatoes!" as well as some artisan dried Italian pasta, and soft mozzarella cheese.
I made pasta with diced tomatoes, mozzarella and freshly picked basil from our garden, along with salad & homemade dressing (oil, vinegar, chopped garlic). The salad had sweet locally grown lettuce, cucumbers and basil. Along with a glass of (non-local) Tuscan wine, it was a simple but satisfying meal that truly pleased the senses and a perfect way to kick off a summer weekend, preparing me for a slower, relaxed pace. What -- and how -- we eat matters. "Low-fat," chemical/corn-syrup-filled crap isn't the answer.