Farmers’ Market signs, from the rag-tag to the calligraphed, are popping up along curbs and in rotary gardens like dandelions. For those of you who dismiss these pleas to purchase local produce as an inconvenient path to dinner, I’d like to underline the best part of a Farmers’ Market, the virtue that extends beyond the dusty park or parking lot in which they often plant their tents.
Community, community, community. Almost more than the nutritional assets of fresh, local food, community ranks higher than freshly picked rhubarb when it comes to what a local Farmers’ Market offers. It’s a place to bump into neighbors and friends. In an age when it’s possible to remain for weeks at a time at our desks, stocking refrigerator and pantry online through sites like Pea Pod, chance meetings are becoming rare. Unscheduled interaction isn’t extinct yet, but places for unplanned, therefore unrehearsed meetings that might accidentally brighten one’s day – or, yes, sadden it – are disappearing. I don’t need to remind anyone in Rockport that lines like this: “I saw Mary at the IGA this morning; I didn’t realize her mother had passed away…” – just aren’t said anymore. We have no IGA to which to run for a quart of milk. Of course, there’s Ace Hardware, Rite-Aid, and the Transfer Station in which to learn where your neighbor’s son is heading to college next year, but, without a grocery store, Rockport can subtract one venue for that kind of fluffy – “nice weather today” - conversation that may seem unimportant but that ultimately keeps the circuitry in a community alive.
And when a Farmers’ Market is in the heart of a city or town, its energy often spills into the surrounding streets, boosting traffic, creating a hum that can reenergize a quiet economy. When you go to your local farmers’ market, you learn that the woman down the street bakes delicious Anadama Bread, or the guy you see at the bank on Monday mornings is actually a cattle farmer, and, yes, here is is grass-fed beef for sale right here!
Here’s just one great local food you can purchase at the Rockport and Cape Ann farmers’ markets: Of all the local goodness we have on Cape Ann – lobster, wild blueberries in Dogtown, Lanesville Nisu – one of our best kept secrets is Trupiano’s Sausage. Mike Ciaramitaro purchased the recipe years ago when he took over Trupiano’s Meat Market. The Meat Market is long gone, but Ciaramitaro simply cannot retire; his sausage is that good. The fresh, light character of the meat is the first, hot, crumbly taste you get when you lift a Trupiano’s sausage off a grill; the seasonings are a light touch, meant only to gently flavor. So many boutique sausages today emphasize everything except the sausage – feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, pesto – with a little cheap pork added in. Trupiano’s tastes like the good, old fashion kind of sausage.
The Cave on Main St. sells Trupiano’s Sausage, as does the Lanesville Package store, but, being the local food treasure that it is, Trupiano’s Sausage is available at the Rockport Farmers’ Market this Saturday morning. Trupiano’s is also available at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market Thursday afternoons.
This Saturday morning the Rockport Farmers’ Market will be featuring Fudge Everything chocolate sauce, coffee and lattes, Heath’s Tea Room scones and teas, Seabiscuit Bakery baked goods, Paul Franklin’s amazing guacamole and salsas, Rachel Potts’ too pretty to eat Vintage Greens, The Grant Family Farm, and First Light Farm, and – THE PESTO IS BACK!!!!! Paolo Laboa of Pride’s Osteria fame will be making pesto for sale only at the Rockport Farmers’ Market!
Here is a classic Umbrian recipe from the Italian cookbook author Julia Della Croce; it’s so simple it sounds impossible, but the results are delicious. Of course, Mike Ciaramitaro would rather you saute a bunch of peppers and onions, and pile them over his freshly grilled sausage, and tuck all into a warmed hotdog roll.
Sausages and Grapes from Julia Della Croce
8 sweet Italian pork sausages
1/2 cup water
3/4 pound seedless black or red grapes, stripped from their stems
- In a cast iron skillet or heavy saute pan put the sausages and water. Bring to medium heat, and cook until the water has evaporated, about 12 minutes.
- Add the grapes, and reduce heat to medium low. Prick the sausages with a sharp fork or knife occasionally to keep them from bursting. Cook for about 20 minutes, turning the sausages occasionally, until the sausages are brown all over and cooked through. Toss the grapes as you go. The pan will get very dry, but don’t worry about that. The grapes will begin to shrivel a bit, and the sausages release just enough liquid.
- When the sausages are golden brown, pile them onto a platter, and pour the grapes around all. Serve with warm, crusty bread as an appetizer, or a light dinner.