Blowin’ In: To Market, To Market

By Sue Mangan

Cherries bring with them a certain frivolity,
a carefree joy like hearing the far-off laughter of a child at play.
Their appearance in deepest summer
comes when life is often at its most untroubled.
A bag of cherries is a bag of happiness.
(An excerpt from Ripe by Nigel Slater)

Monday morning proved to be most auspicious. My favorite loaf of bakery-crafted sourdough bread waited patiently by the toaster, while I groggily set the kettle to boil.

Suddenly, an image of cherry jam passed by my mind’s eye. The robins were singing in the trees and lily of the valley permeated the garden air. Who wouldn’t be thinking of cherry jam at dawn in June?

With fingers crossed, I rifled around the refrigerator shelves dismayed by my collection of half-full jars of thick-cut marmalade and Christmas spiced jelly, strawberry preserves and black currant confiture. Seemingly, my appetite for sticky-tart cherry jam would go unsated; unless of course, to my most profound delight, that was indeed a jar of cherry jam hiding behind the bag of dried apricots? Yes, dear reader, sometimes the universe is on your side.

When I was a girl, summer meant stacks of mystery novels and melting orange popsicles. Summer meant trips to the Lincoln Park Zoo and precious weeks of vacation rambling around my Uncle Pat’s Missouri dairy farm. June brought stalks of rhubarb boiled with strawberries, and July brought cherries.

Growing up in Chicago, I loved visiting all the neighborhood markets. My mother and grandmother had their preferred spots for deli meat and hard Italian cheeses, olives and oranges, crusty homemade bread and strawberry tarts.

On days when my mother was not working as a nurse at the hospital, she and I would grocery shop at three different stores. From a young age, I became slightly obsessed with markets, especially local shops where the produce is piled in eye-catching displays, and vats of briny olives sit beside glass cases filled with prosciutto and spicy cured salumi.

When my mother was working, Grandma Rose and I walked to our favorite markets. It was a treat to stop by the Princess Bakery for donuts and thick, Sicilian style pizza bread; but what I most enjoyed was the fruit: bags of cherries in July and fresh figs in early autumn.

With pastry-chef precision, Grandma Rose taught me how to select the juiciest Bing cherries – dark red and plump. On the way home, Grandma and I would pluck the cherries from their stems and eat them straight from the bag. It was a wonder that any of these ruby jewels found their way into Grandma’s lemon Bundt cakes or vanilla biscotti.

Farmer’s Market
Part of the beauty of summer is the blooming of farmer’s markets. Entire weekends can be devoted to market hopping. When my mother and dad moved to Crooked Lake, they soon discovered the best shops for savory bean salad and homemade peach pie.

On Saturday mornings, mom and I would wander around the town’s farmer’s markets and delight in the watermelons and delicate bouquets of field flowers for sale. Our favorite stand was the honey vendor: Dalrymple. With honey as unique as its name, Dalrymple honey is the best I have ever sampled.

A self-proclaimed connoisseur of honey, I have tasted nectar from the Cotswold’s in the English countryside and honey procured from bees that have supped on Alpine flowers.

Cheese Stand in Borough Market, London

One of my favorite markets is the award-winning, third-generation Kelly’s of Newport Artisan Butchers in Newport, County Mayo, Ireland. The glass meat case is pristine and encompasses the whole of the entryway. Giant lamb chops the size of Fionn Mac Cumhaill rest aside ropes of homemade Irish bangers.

Even patrons who follow a vegan lifestyle can find interesting products at Kelly’s. While Kelly’s is known throughout Ireland for their quality artisan-crafted meats, puddings, and sausages, I was delighted, upon my last visit, to see plant-based puddings and sausages.

The product did not disappoint and was equally as delicious as Kelly’s traditional meat offerings. Kelly’s also houses a wonderful selection of European wines, Irish cheeses, jams, and local honey.

Located at the heart of charming Newport, Kelly’s Butchers is steps away from the Greenway cycling and fitness path. On your summer holiday to Ireland, be sure to include Newport as part of your stay. Pick up a selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses, a bottle of French wine, and enjoy a memorable picnic along the Greenway or at the park that overlooks Newport’s iconic Seven Arches Bridge and the Black Oak River.

For a few precious months, summer serenades us with simple pleasures. Step lively through fields of clover and enjoy the gifts of the season in markets near and far.

Memories of sunny blueberries and vine-ripened tomatoes will sustain us through the cold months to come. So, dust off your favorite straw basket and visit a market or two. Once emptied, that jar of delicious cherry jam you found at the farm stand will make an enchanting vase for a handful of freshly picked autumn blooms.

*Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at [email protected]

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