Thursday, September 29, 2011

In which I visit the Saltspring Island Farmer’s Market, encounter the Cheese Twins, and chat with Raffi.


DSC08574 We really are so blessed to live in such close proximity to the Gulf Islands. Why I don’t visit these beauties more often, or indeed why I don’t live there, is sometimes beyond me. It seems like Island life would somehow be smaller and more manageable, more relaxing, less frenetic than city life, with time for an extra cup of tea in the morning. And idyllic, too. This felt especially true as we drove off the ferry at Fulford Harbour last weekend. It was a perfect September day all golden with trees full of ripe apples and a slight nip in the air. As we drove the Fulford-Ganges road I found myself paying close attention to the For Sale signs out front of the old farmhouses and country properties in this beautiful valley. I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking though. It’s not like I’m really the farming type, with my city sensibilities. But for a few brief moments I pictured myself out collecting eggs or wearing dungarees and riding a tractor, or helping the local vet with a difficult delivery. Fortunately, my All Creatures Great and Small moment passed and I was back to enjoying the moment.

We pulled into Ganges, along with everyone else in the world, it seemed, and spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to find somewhere to park. I must admit the shear number of vehicles in Ganges did briefly interfere with my preconceived notions of bucolic bliss, but this, too, passed as I happily reminded myself that we were on island time now and it didn’t really matter anyway.


It didn’t matter to this person either, who couldn’t think straight anyway.

The Saltspring Farmer’s Market is one of the great all-time markets, possibly in the world. And those of you who know me will remember that I do love my markets. I am happy to say that this visit did not disappoint and in fact only served to further deepen my respect for this awesome island and the people who live on it. Ok that’s enough of that.

First up was a delicious little rice ball ensemble filled with roast Burdock Root. It came with strict instructions on how to open it, which Kent ignored and for which he received an admonishing, and a demonstration.


Just beside the Rice Balls was this awesome bowl of felted fruit and veggies, and these super cute owls.  See, this is what you have time for when you live on a Gulf Island. When was the last time you felted a piece of fruit? I thought so.


The great thing about Markets is that usually you just have to think of something you desperately need, and there it is! Case in point, these baby watermelons. I was just thinking to myself that a baby watermelon would really hit the spot when Hey Presto! there was a basket of them! When, I ask you, does this sort of thing happen? Never. At least is doesn’t for me when I have a sudden urgent need for, say, $62000.00, or a night out with Daniel Craig. But I digress.


Anyway I’m sorry they aren’t baby watermelons after all, but no less than the fabled Mexican Sour Gherkin. I kid you not. Let’s just say I don’t think Jolly Rancher will feature Mexican Sour Gherkin as a new flavour any time soon.

By this time I was working up a thirst and happily downed some of this delicious fresh-pressed apple juice from Laughing Apple Farm.


Saltspring is Apple Heaven. There are many folks here who devote their entire lives to growing apples and I was sorry to have been a week early for the Saltspring Island Apple Festival, although this Apple Pie Fudge helped me get over my disappointment.


The produce stalls were at their prime and could barely hold the bounty. I sampled delicious little orange cherry tomatoes, fresh cantaloupe and juicy yellow watermelon and my bag was soon full off tiny little purple runner beans, ground cherries that grow in their own little papery bag, and sweet red strawberries picked that morning.

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While the produce and goods on offer are usually the main reason for a visit to the market, often the farmers and vendors behind the stall are just as enticing. They run the gamut from opinionated to passionate about their product, bored or grumpy, funny, chatty, engaging, or sometimes, as in the case of the Saltspring Island Cheese Co, all of the above! With one of the more popular (if not the most popular) stalls at the market, I guess the two twin brothers who work the counter can afford to be any way they want. My first impression of them was that they looked remarkably similar to the chefs in Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen and I kept expecting them to start demanding things. However, this was clearly not going to happen as they were much too busy slicing samples, chopping off chunks for demanding customers, and explaining the various cheeses on offer. The fact that they both had quite strong lisps and spoke in a quiet singsong voice only added to the fascination. I loved them!


The Cheese Twins…


The samples. They went fast and they had to replace several of them while I was waiting my turn. I appreciate this about these guys. They weren’t cheap with their samples and there were two types of crackers as well. These things are important.


We tried the one on the left – Montana, I believe, and it was delish. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese – mild and hard but sweet. So good.DSC08559 

These Romelias, a surface ripened soft goat cheese, were flying off the shelves. I am partial to the Juliette, similar to Camembert, and also the Blue Juliette. I would post a picture but the combination of delicious cheese and crusty bread on a sunny September day has precluded the possibility of there being anything of which to take a picture…

Never one to neglect dessert, I finished buying up the cheese counter and moved on to the sweets. I meant to buy one of these brownies,


but got distracted by these instead

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We went a bit crazy at this stall, home to many yummy French pastries baked by a bona fide Frenchman. Pear and Almond tart (if i must) and Raspberry Vanilla Somethings (oh alright) went down just fine.

By now our friends Mel and Pepi and Silas along with Mel’s parents were arriving at the harbour to take part in the Working Boats Rendezvous. This required us to spend time on their beautiful converted fishing boat lolling around in the harbour, drinking tea and lying in the hammock, while boats came and went, stories were told, and beers drunk. It’s tough life for these boaters. I feel for them. :) Actually, it is a tough life and the number of days of bliss seems usually to be greatly outnumbered by the days spent sweating over a whining engine, or mopping up hydraulic fluid, or writing out yet another cheque. That’s why these rendezvous are so great. Boaters really help each other out and the camaraderie is in the air. I think it makes it all worthwhile. Mel and Pepi may feel differently but that’s how it seems to those of us on the ground.



You can just see Silas to the right. He offered to ‘push’ me on the hammock and climbed up, got into position, and then said ‘oh you’re heavy’ and got down again. Hilarious.

We al headed back to the market where I encountered Raffi, well known children’s singer, sitting at a table promoting his latest gift to children everywhere, a non-profit society that he has set up devoted to honouring children and childhood around the world. I’ve always loved Raffi even when I had heard Baby Beluga or I Think I must Be Growing (Hey! I can reach the tap now!) so many times I wanted to stick forks in my ears, and this just proved that the guy really is amazing. Like I said, people on Islands have time for the stuff that matters in life.


We wandered the market a bit longer, then headed into the village to check out the shops where there were many great finds, and many not so great finds that would probably be Ok if they didn’t have a bird on them. As Pepi pointed out, it’s hip to “Put a Bird on it”. There is even a skit on Portlandia dedicated to this fact that I have yet to watch, but which sounds hilarious.


Case in point.

One of my first visits to Saltspring Market was about 20 years ago (when I was 5, that’s right). One of the things I remember was this dude with a didgeridoo, and some sort of spinning tube with holes drilled through it. The guy would wander the crowd asking if anyone wanted a psychedelic experience without the drugs. Unsuspecting types such as myself would say yes whereupon the dude would wind up the spinning tube, hold it before your eyes, and have you look toward the sun with your eyes closed while this kaleidoscope-like tube would spin, allowing the sunlight to assail your eyelids in a crazy pattern. All the while, he would play his didgeridoo in your ears. The effect was interesting, if not psychedelic, although that is three minutes I’ll never get back and could well have been spent on, say, world peace, or learning how to silkscreen birds.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I saw the same dude, with the same didgeridoo, and the same little spinny tube, still hitting people up 20 years later. My point that people here have more time is again substantiated! DSC08607

Looks like he has finally discovered a way to control Zombies.

Before dinner we decided to take a drive round the island which was uneventful in itself other than finding a nice little bit of yarn-bombing on a sign at the side of the road. So thoughtful.


We took the last ferry home laden down with cheese and bread, pies and produce. I could happily have stayed for longer.

If I find some time, I’m going to figure out how I can spend more time on Saltspring Island. Perhaps the Cheese Twins need an assistant…

Thanks for reading-



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