Dan had to work this morning at a little community meet-and-greet for a festival that's going on in town. So while he served coffee and smiles, I decided to head into Bern to check out the farmer's market I'd heard about.
In the shadow of the Bundeshaus (basically, Parliament) tents are erected, and Bern's countryside is brought to city steps. Fresh produce, fresh flowers, fresh bread, fresh meat, fresh cheese, are all available in rich abundance and variety.
Walking through the densely packed alleyways between the tents, I felt like I was at some fairy-tale bizarre, I'd often read about. The smells were varied with the scent of fresh bread, honey, and the heavy aroma of soil still clinging to roots. The sound was chaos as people yelled for their friends and spouses to quickly join them and sample this oil, sample this bread, and quickly taste the freshness of this baby carrot.
Grandmothers carefully turned heads of lettuce over in their experienced hands; they examined stalks of albino asparagus, and they put down their CHF 5.00 for a bunch of flowers. All purchases were tucked into baskets that hung from their arms, and they slowly walked together to the meat vendor, where their husbands were gathered smoking pipes and talking about who knows what?
You could tell that people's appetites were being satisfied with the feast of conversation and social togetherness that abounded.
There were three stands I wanted to buy from: a bread vendor, who was just a young girl and had cheeks that were rosy with good health; a cheese vendor, wearing a blue jacket, with lapels decorated with Edelweiss flowers; and a mushroom vendor, who's hands must spend a lot of time in the soil. The variety of mushrooms she offered was staggering, and I immediately imagined using a selection of them for a homemade pizza: sauteing them all together in butter (lots of butter), a splash of olive oil to keep the butter from burning, salt and pepper, and maybe a few red pepper flakes for good measure. Ladling them all onto warm dough that has been dabbed with fresh mozzarella, and voila twenty minutes later it would be a feast.
I felt intimidated though, at this market. I don't speak the jovial Saturday morning dialect that hummed in my ears, and I didn't quite know how to approach these sellers and ask for what I wanted.
When I was admiring the above display, the cheese vendor offered me a piece of mountain cheese, and my danke was met with a warm laugh and a smiling question that I couldn't answer. I offered up a whispered Ich bin am Deutsch lernen, and he smiled and I smiled and then I walked away because he didn't speak English and I didn't know what else to do.
As I walked away, contemplating my dire need of German lessons, I walked straight into another meat vendor's stall, and felt like I just walked into a display from another century.
Oddly, this didn't make me feel queasy like I thought it would. I guess if a person really wants to be in touch with all aspects of their food, this is what buying 'fresh' meat is all about.
I rode the wave of the market all the way back to my bus, which carried me to the local community festival, where I was greeted with a glass of water and a smile.
My handy Swiss translator
I'm going to go back to the market next Saturday with my Swiss translator, and will pick up a few of those earthy fresh vegetables, a loaf of that honey baked bread, a round of that aged mountain cheese, and a medley of mushrooms. And then the Saturday after that, I want to do it again.