When I was Alice’s age, my grandparents introduced me to the
weekly market behind Kingston’s City Hall. I loved poking around in
the warm glow under the orange awnings, sniffing fuzzy peaches, and
choosing long stalks of bright gladioli to take home with quart
baskets of waxed beans, loaves of fresh-baked bread, and bushels of
cucumbers for pickling.

I still love the weekly market bustle, and I’m excited to share
this experience with my girls. It’s important that they learn that
everything doesn’t come wrapped in plastic on supermarket shelves.
And it’s good to put a face on the folks who grow or make our
food.

Marketing out-of-doors makes an adventure out of our weekly
grocery shopping. It’s fun to people watch, and we often run into
someone we know, which still amazes me in a city the size of
Toronto.

Our local farmers’ market is finally up and running for the
summer. On Saturday, Jeff and I loaded the girls into the wagon and
trundled over to our local civic centre to see what was on
offer.

One of the best things about any farmers’ market is the chance
to taste-test-nearly every stall has something to try.
Four-year-old Alice loves to chat up the vendors, and is
particularly adept at scoring free snacks wherever she goes. This
week she sampled morsels of Italian sausage on toothpicks (she had
three), a perfectly ripe strawberry, and about half of the back
bacon sandwich that was meant for my breakfast. She even charmed
one of the vendors out of a free Honeycrisp apple. She’s
enthusiastic to try whatever they have to offer-I wish I had this
kind of success getting her to try foods at home.

Alice is a good little shopper, too. Together we hunted for
perfect peppers, inspecting them for blemishes and choosing just
the right one. I put her in charge of paying the vendors and
collecting the change-it pleased her to no end to have such an
important job.

Clara was content to ride in the wagon and guard our purchases.
It wasn’t long before she was buried beneath a pile of
produce-ruby-red stalks of rhubarb, a tangle of scapes, peppers,
and apples. I also picked up a dozen brown eggs, and Jeff fell for
the fabulous Italian sausage. I’m kicking myself for passing up the
piles of grubby new potatoes, but with such bounty, it’s too easy
to bring home more than I need, or can reasonably cook in a
week.

The only disappointment of this week’s trip was the absence of
the Mennonite maple syrup booth. Last summer, Alice and I shared a
weekly treat of their fresh-from-the-fryer apple fritters doused in
homemade maple syrup-a delicious bargain at just $2 a bowl. I hear
they’ll be there next week. We consoled ourselves with a shared
back-bacon sandwich, although Jeff and the girls ate so much of it,
I’m thinking of buying two on our next trip. There’s only so much
I’m willing to share.

Blake Eligh is a food lover, writer and cookbook editor. She
lives in Toronto with her husband, and a pair of half-pint sous
chefs who can’t quite reach the stove without a stool.