When traveling, the key to unearthing a place’s culture is often found in its food – when you avoid restaurants with menus that even attempt to cater to tourists, sip wine from local grapes and drink beer brewed with local hops. Sometimes, it’s even taking the extra step to visit a market to really live, breath – and eat – the life of the locals.
It’s a habit that can get lost when you’re home. Routines and busy schedules can sometimes prevent us from stopping to appreciate what our own unique places have to offer.
Yesterday, Ina Garten played in the background as Mike, Madeleine and I got ready for a walk to our local farmers market. In the episode she visited one in her area and shared advice that set the tone for our trip: instead of going to a market equipped with a recipe, she lets the ingredients inspire them.
It’s clearly the season of root vegetables here in New England and I couldn’t get beef stew out of my head. I wanted to plan a dinner using only ingredients I could find at the market and for the most part, I did it. There was only one ingredient that led us astray.
Mike had been curious to try a Narragansett Coffee Milk Stout and the opportunity to pour a can into a beef stew seemed like the perfect excuse to finally pick it up. So, we got that critical ingredient elsewhere.
Sticking with my rule of only using ingredients we picked up at the market (sans beer), I decided to forge ahead without a recipe. Attempting to match what I happened to pick up with some random one on the Internet would only set me up for failure. Instead, I just cooked the beef – which I also picked up at the market – threw in some broth, beer, water and of course, an array of vegetables and potatoes, and hoped for the best.
Despite my lack of talent in the kitchen, it all somehow worked out. I loved it and Mike did too unless he’s a really good liar.
Oh, and don’t let that side of beer in the last photo fool you. These tired, locally fed parents were passed out on the couch before nine.