One of our goals with our new retired life is to eat healthier.
In the past it was always faster and often more convenient to swing by a “drive-up window” and pick up a quick meal. Even though I knew better about nutrition, it was quick and satisfying to grab Quarter Pounder with Cheese, a Baconator, or Extreme Sausage Sandwich. I love a good cheeseburger, et. al, but “everything in moderation” and sometimes I wasn’t moderate in my dining habits. (You would think that after documentaries like “Super Size Me” I would have long ago been avoiding fast foods.) Please don’t think Tracy and I raised the kids on fast food and that we didn’t use healthy foods to prepare meals, but we also took our fair share of “short-cuts” to the “drive-up.”
With a major change in environment and limited access to fast food, Tracy and I wanted to create new eating habits that actually follow the USDA Food Pyramid recommendations we previous ignored if it wasn’t convenient. (But still enjoy an occasional, emphasis on “occasional,” indulgence.)
Tracy and I both love to cook and try new recipes. Now we have a lot of brand new ingredients to explore with our cooking. We want to minimize meat and emphasize vegetables, fruits, and grains. We also wanted to use farm fresh, local foods as much as possible and avoid frozen, canned, and pre-packaged foods. There are no excuses as we now have the time with retirement to enjoy making our meals completely from scratch.
One pleasure has been shopping at the open air market in Place Carnot. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday is market day in Carcassonne. The town square in Place Carnot is full of tables with vegetables, fruits, honey, breads, meats, and flowers. We are now shopping for seasonal and fresh foods, usually directly from and sold by the farmers themselves. (There are also some imports from Spain, Italy, and North Africa also available. The country of origins on all foods are clearly identified.) Colors are often vivid with some shocking differences in foods’ colors that we only used to see in heirloom and heritage produce in the U.S.
I realize I am stating the obvious regarding the local food being is raised for its taste, rather than its ability to be trucked long distances and to last longer on store shelves. There are many new and different flavors to experience. (And new names for old favorites: mushroom are des champignons, potatoes are des pommes de terre, and strawberries as des fraises.) Yes, I already knew about the improved quality of local foods but it’s an evolution for me to experience it on a continuous basis. I never had or took the time to shop farmer’s markets or to garden at home. (I have a “black thumb” when plants are involved. There were only silk plants in my old office.) Previously tt was always a matter of running by the supermarket’s vegetable section or stocking frozen vegetables in the freezer.
The experience of shopping at the open air market is a theater upon itself: all different kinds of people coming and going, the various interactions between buyers and sellers, people looking for the best quality at the best value, friendly “bonjours” and “au revoirs,” and us standing in the middle of it. We are already choosing our favorite vendors. We have our farmer with the freshest and best tasting tomatoes. There is our “Melon Man” who insists we taste a slice of his cantaloupes first before he hand-picks the ripest melons for us. There are the vendors who are exceedingly patient with my limited French when they ask for, “Trois euros cinquante-cinq centimes” (3 euros 55 cents) and make a point to write the amount out on a pad of paper or show me the amount on the calculator.
And the best part is, of course, cooking and eating our bounty then returning to the market do it all again.