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November 2, 2009

I must apologise for the snapshot of real life which follows – absolutely against the usual imaginary policy, but I couldn’t quite contain myself. As a newcomer to Bristol, I have been starting to explore the food culture of the city, albeit in short episodes between shifts in the kitchen. It being the first sunday of the month, I went to the Slow Food Market on Corn Street. I arrived a little after the peak, due in part to the rain which was lashing the window when I woke up, and in part to sleeping away most of the morning.

Markets such as this are great not just for their food, but for the presence of the producers; nothing quite beats being able to chat to the farmer about his cheese, or the man who pulled the parsnip from the ground. It allows a connection to the food and often, especially where organic producers are concerned, a chance to meet some of the most committed foodies imaginable. I had to resist the temptation to buy a brace of un-plucked Exmoor pheasants; my leaking down sleeping bag is causing enough feathery mess in my friend’s flat without having to pluck supper. I also, mindful of my fragile bank balance, avoided the tempting cuts of local meat. Instead, lured by some free samples, I bought some of Keen’s unpasturised blue cheddar from the father of the cheesemaker. Blue cheddar was a new idea to me, but it works magnificently; the veining is sporadic yet permeates a wonderful dusty acid bite through the cheese, which is smooth in the mouth and with well rounded flavour, but eye-wellingly strong. And, for the quality, a staggeringly low price.

I also bought some vegetables from Radford Mill Farm, some curly kale, beetroot and carrots and, most excitingly, a spaghetti marrow, a type of squash that I’d heard of but never cooked with or eaten. I love asking people how they’d cook a set of ingredients – it’s a brilliant way of learning about a new ingredient or getting a new take on something familiar. The beardy, slightly hippy guy was a little taken back, but I liked his suggestion of a grated vegetable stuffing. I grated a beetroot and a carrot, chopped half an onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of chopped cashews, some peanut butter, passata, ginger and the aforementioned cheese, before baking in the oven with a couple of potatoes, and serving with a simple tomato sauce and curly kale. The stuffing was good, but the squash was amazing. Out of this world amazing. With the raking application of a fork, the juicy flesh of the squash yields spaghetti like tendrils, one of the maddest vegetable textures I’ve ever seen.

I’ve started daydreaming about exploiting its structure in a warm salad: the strings would combine well into a salad, mixed with some leaves, some nuts, some goats cheese and perhaps some beetroot. I’d go and by another right now, but he won’t be there for a month.

Back to dreaming.

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