By Lauren Bravo
In preparation for Love Your Local Market fortnight, which kicks off on 14 May, we’ve been thinking about all the reasons there are to buy your bread and groceries in the great outdoors.
Prices might not be as low as they are in supermarkets, but you can’t quibble with the freshness or the range of the bread – and artisan loaves tends to last for longer than their supermarket equivalents too, so you’ll waste less. Markets also offer plenty of opportunities to bag a good deal, especially if you go towards the end of the day or try your hand at haggling.
Then there’s the atmosphere. Even if you can’t guarantee traders will be singing and high-kicking their way through a rendition of “Who Will Buy” from Oliver! (we’ve asked, sorry), it’s hard to deny the charms of market life.
Getting up close and personal with your bread makes for a much more satisfying weekly shop, and the opportunity to taste before you buy means there’s no need to be afraid of branching out beyond your usual white or brown. If you’ve never tried olive sourdough, or need tips on which toppings go best with a slice of rye and pumpernickel, bread-loving stallholders are on hand to enlighten you. They may even inspire you to get baking at home, and that’s the dream. It’s never as hard as you think, especially if you start with Jamie’s simple bread recipe.
Our markets manager Tara agrees that you can’t underestimate the benefits of personal service. “At a market, you’re often able to talk directly to the producer – this means you can ask questions and find out more about the provenance of your bread,” she says.
“Farmers’ markets are also brilliant for their local communities, bringing people together and providing a meeting place for friends and like-minded foodies,” which, aside from the times you awkwardly bump into the same distant acquaintance in every aisle, you can’t really say about supermarkets.
Not to forget the green kudos either. Buying direct from producers also means you save on all that excess plastic packaging, and your purchases will have racked up far fewer food miles – we can’t promise that will absolve the guilt of having a second Chelsea bun, but it helps.
“Ultimately though, it all comes down to taste,” says Tara. “And whether it’s down to artisanal quality or the fresh air, bread from a market stall just tends to taste better.”
It’s hard to argue with that.