So, it’s the weekend before the new school starts (more commonly known as “Labor Day Weekend”, yes) and I’ve gotta admit to being anxious. When I say “anxious”, I actually mean anxiety-ridden. My year ahead will look completely different than previous years, so it’s generally the stress and worry of the unknown that causes the anxiety. But, no worries; I’m working on it.

As part of our “Woohoo, 3-day weekend!” celebration (it’s not really a celebration, don’t get your hopes up), we trekked out to Cooperstown for a morning of farmer marketing and cider milling. Wow, I just made those activities sound quite…active! To be clear, we didn’t mill any cider or market any farmers. I’m not even sure how I’d go about doing such things.

The farmers’ market was even more burgeoning with good things than usual, possibly because we got there by around 9am-ish. From various vendors, we ended up getting a huuuuge 50-cent zucchini (which wins “deal of the day”), 3-count-’em-3 heads of garlic, broccoli; organics from The Farm in Ilion including a basket of baby heirloom tomatoes (for Dave; yuck, tomatoes), HUGE leeks, and purple potatoes; 6 ears of corn from the Amish (we’re saying goodbye to summer…); strawberry jam; and TWO sampler packs from “the British guy” (NOT his vendor name, just what we call him) who sells awesome British pastries. Oh, yes…and the bacon. The. Bacon.

This bacon, my friends, is a marvel. It’s, of course, naturally-raised and we know exactly what it’s fed. It’s not smoked, so it’s necessary to put a little salt and pepper on it while cooking, but it’s in-cred-i-ble. Like, save for Christmas morning good. Yet…I blame the bacon for what came next.

We asked the buoyant, knowledgeable seller of said bacon (as well as other meats, eggs and produce) if she’d have more this autumn, to which she informed us that she wouldn’t have anymore until December since she has “two growing at home and a sow about to give piglets.” I felt Dave (and, to a point, myself) pull back, suddenly a bit surprised, then kindly thank her and go on our way. We briefly discussed the fact that, while we’re aware that it’s treated well and fed proper things, it hadn’t occurred to us that…well…the stuff ever lived. Thinking of piglets being raised specifically to appease our taste buds left us taken off-guard…but not so much as to deter us from seeking out an awesome breakfast at Doubleday Cafe, including bacon and sausage. We’re idiots sometimes. Perhaps “human” is a better description.

After our Cooperstown excursion, I detoured us to the Fly Creek Cider Mill to stock up on some wine and cheese, and anything else that we felt like spoiling ourselves with. To those who have never been to Fly Creek, I’ll digress for a moment: It’s a tradition for many who live in the area to visit the cider mill, particularly during the fall. It’s generally too expensive to consider going there more than once a year. But, my husband and I live dangerously and, at times, just go to feed the ducks (and, now, chickens, geese and various other fowl). It’s an incredible operation that has commercialized itself almost too well, so be forewarned. It’s an awesome place, but not nearly as great as it was when we were children…and could afford the donuts. At least they have free samples throughout the store.

So, after purchasing our wine, cheese, salad dressing, and more (one item’s a gift, shhh), we went to feed the ducks. Is it just me, or is there always always ALWAYS one duck or goose that’s worse off than the rest? One that you try to feed more than the others, that you pity more than you would some humans? Well, today was no exception, and this one seemed to have a bad condition causing its feathers to fall out and leave parts of his skin exposed. Dave also noticed an eye disease. Ick. Poor lil’ guy.

After feeding them as much as my wallet would allow, and thinking to myself how much I’d like to raise chickens for eggs (for the millionth time), we turned and walked, half hugging, towards the car. Casually, yet determined, Dave calmly stated that he’d like to eat less meat. I nodded and agreed. This conversation continued in spurts as we drove the meandering rural roads home, passing countless cows unknowingly feasting in their fields.

Between the Bacon Lady and the helpless little birds, we were of the same mind. Strangely enough, we’d seen documentaries (Food, Inc., in particular) and read enough in the past however-long-we’ve-been-eating-naturally-and-organically to know that meat is an item that we should have been eating in moderation, anyway. But, we’re both meat-and-potato people, borne of meat-and-potato (and cabbage, and pasta – not that Dave would allow cabbage to be cooked in the house…*sigh* Why did I take you for granted, Cabbage, with your buddies, Ham and Carrots? Oh, why? But, it’s the price I pay for a quite happy marriage) people. It’s difficult to break the habit.

So, that being said, we’re not going vegetarian. We’ve been eating “vegetarian” pretty much every week, be it a Meatless Monday or, more likely, Tallow-Free (best I could come up with) Tuesday, but more likely than not, it’s pasta and a salad. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it really shows my lack of ingenuity in the field of culinary arts. I try, and made a meatless Mediterranean Lentil Soup during Irene last Sunday (great day for soup!), which turned out awesome, but I can’t just make soup.

Regardless, I’d call us flexitarians – which is NOT a cop-out, you ignorant people out there (online and in talk shows) who make fun of it! Sorry, whew, I don’t mean to attack folks, but ignorance is my biggest pet peeve. Aside from crappy driving and general rudeness. For those of you who don’t know what the whole flexitarian thing is, it’s GENERALLY (as with all generalizations, there may be individuals who define it differently, hence using the label differently) folks who make a concerted effort to base their diets mostly in grain, vegetables and fruits, with the occasional detour into the land of happy meats. This article describes it pretty well. Even the cookbook author and founder of the famous Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca (at which I have eaten, go me) is no longer a vegetarian. Ha! Nice.

OUR reasons for going flexitarian are both moral and physical/health-related. We don’t want to be the reason for the death of so many innocent animals. Simultaneously, if we’re truly “voting” each time we purchase something, the fact that the meat is raised humanely (and, if at all possible, locally – y’know, it’s hard for them to lie to your face, easy to lie through packaging), we’d like our vote to count. Heck, I believe in that a little moreso than our current democratic process…but I digress! Let’s just say that we’re huge animal people. Three rescued cats being loved and spoiled rotten in our house. Dissolving into a flood of tears when seeing an animal killed on the side of the road. Boiling mad when news stories come through about abused animals. We can’t be ignorant Americans anymore. Our meat COMES from some place and if we’re going to eat it, we’ve got to remember that.

As for the health part, we feel that curbing our meat intake will a) make us consume healthier proteins and b) pump less red meat into our arteries (mostly Dave’s, he’s more susceptible to cholesterol issues and heart disease…gulp). It’s pretty simple.

So, why not go full-blown vegetarian – or even vegan? A few reasons. One is our families. We don’t hope to be the strange “what’re we going to cook for them” people who throw a wrench into holidays and get-togethers. Otherwise, I’d like to go vegetarian, or even vegan, one day. Really. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have a personality change and do it. But, for now, given my (at times) busy-ness and my (at times) laziness and my husband’s (general) aversion to certain new foods (although he’s getting better!), and my general lack of ability to commit completely to a lifestyle change (sigh), this will have to do. I think the fact that we go local as much as we can and otherwise try to purchase less processed items (although I’d like to master tofu…anyone? Sarah? ;-D) means that we’re on the right path.

So, that being said, I’d LOVE it if anyone here has great vegetarian recipes or valuable links they could share – just hit comment and let ‘er rip! The more the merrier.

On a side note, our breakfasts at Doubleday today consisted of eggs, french toast, home fries (Dave’s personal favorite), meat of our choice (bacon/sausage) and coffee and ran us around 8 or 9 bucks each. Simultaneously, if we’d stopped ourselves and just THOUGHT about what we were putting into our bodies, some vanilla yogurt with granola and berries would have run us $3.50, plus a buck or so for juice or tea. Actually, the place had lots of healthy options we COULD have ordered…

On a second side note (hee hee), YES, I’m suggesting a Wikipedia article. Here are the types of semi-vegetarianism, which kind of amuses me. I’d say that I’d probably like to veer into the realm of pollo-pescetarians, who eat white meat (but no red), one day. Freegans makes me giggle, but actually has some merit – they’re vegan unless it’s free, supporting the low impact, less waste philosophy. I guess we’re headed down that path. If our parents or friends make it for us, we’ll take it! Beggars can’t be choosers, and you don’t want to be a bad guest.

Cooperstown Farmers’ Market – Our First F.M. Adventure of the Year

Although the weather forecast seemed doomed, Dave bouncily suggested that we head to our first farmers’ market of the year – in Cooperstown. With all that enthusiasm, how could I possibly say, “What, no cozy, “stay in and clean” day?” Plus, I already knew that it’s one of the area’s only indoor markets — it’s open every other Saturday throughout the winter, with normal hours the rest of the year. After hearing some great things about it, and with such an eager partner in tow, we left beneath a steady stream of chilly rain.

Flexi-Saturday - image  on https://megactsout.com
Strangely enough, by the time we reached the baseball rhetoric-riddled Main Street, the sun had taken over and our jackets were unnecessary. It made the short walk toward the barn-like structure used for the market incredibly quaint, especially with other locals and travelers meandering their way with grocery store reusable bags and homemade baskets in tow. The vendors were overflowing to outside its doors, which we saw as a good sign.

Compared to the, admittedly, only other farmers’ market I can recall attending, it was kind of sparse. I’m sure the local ones I’ll start attending next week will be teeny-weeny, so I’m not necessarily complaining about it. There were plenty of vendors, several with the same goods (which we LOVE — it makes it easy to compare prices), mostly incredibly friendly and willing to talk. However, several of the goods were pretty irrelevant to us — tie-dyed shorts, anyone? And there were only a couple vegetable vendors, each with few items we could actually choose from.

Having worked on a dairy farm and lived in a quasi-rural area my whole life, I’m not ignorant about the reasons I wasn’t overwhelmed by lush and plentiful goodies at the CFM. I know. We’re still pretty much off-season. And, I knew that when Dave asked me to go, wide-eyed. Mostly, I wanted to see what the place was about, what the farmers and artisans and cheese-makers were like, and whether it truly is worth it to schlep 45 minutes away for locally-grown goods. There arises a paradox: If you’re going to release your fossil fuel into the atmosphere with a 1 1/2 hour round-trip to get organic, locally-grown goods which are good for you and the environment, is it really equaled-out?

Mind you, it was a wonderful drive (other than for the occasional rain shower) and we did get our first-ever free-range multi-colored XL eggs, Amish cheddar cheese (INCREDIBLE!), very well-priced European-style yogurt and some homemade, environmentally-friendly soaps (all well-thought-out and exciting purchases) as well as a side-trip to visit the ducks at the Fly Creek Cider Mill.

And, as far as the quandary is concerned, I say we still hit the ball out of the park (I do spend too much time at Cooperstown! We’d live there if we could! – not for the baseball). While we used up some gas, we got a great overview of what to expect when the yields REALLY start coming in. I foresee perhaps visiting the CFM once a month while supplementing the occasional CSA and local farmers’ markets more regularly, but it’s definitely not only a great resource for healthy, sustainable goodies, but an always-needed excuse to get away for part of a day.

***I realized after I wrote this that I’d taken a bit of a novelistic approach. Perhaps a slightly-more-sophisticated version of Donna Thompson *cringe*? (If you’re local, you know what that means.) Just a thought.***