A Canadian’s Thanksgiving in France for Two

Our Thanksgiving Pigeon, with roast carrots, potatoes, and pâté stuffing.

Yes, there were turkeys in the market but I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one for just the two of us. Instead, I decided to try cooking a fowl I had never cooked before… Pigeon.

Actually, it was “Pigeonneau” to be exact, which means “young pigeon.”  The bird was from Bresse, which, when it comes to fowl, has its own “appellation controlleé,” just like certain wines.

French butchers are very proud of how fresh their meat is, and to advertise this fact they leave both the  feet and head on the bird.  I must admit, dealing with a feathered head with its beady little eyes can be a bit disconcerting!

I was amazed at the colour of the meat.  It is so red!  Just as red as beef or ostrich.  I was also surprised at just how big this beast was. This was no rock pigeon that you see flying about the city, it was even larger than the wood pigeons we sometimes see in the forest.  In fact, with a little stretching, this one bird could feed the two of us.  Can you imagine if our city pigeons were this size?  Oh, the mess!

Thank goodness for the Web!  Even though I had never cooked a pigeon before, there were a multitude of sites that were there for me.  I chose to base my cooking on “Great British Chefs.”  So, after cleaning the bird, I butterflied it by opening it along the spine, seasoning it, and then searing it, breast side down, in olive oil. I must admit, in trying to brown the rest of the breast, I may have overdone the area at the top of the breast bone.  It looked charred… and I hadn’t even started roasting it yet!

Knowing that the bird was a little small for two, I made a stuffing based on some leftover pork pâté, adding fried onion, garlic, and celery to breadcrumbs.  We didn’t have any sage, so I used tarragon.

According to “Great British Chefs” the pigeon was only supposed to cook for 8 minutes in the oven, hence I par-boiled my carrots and potatoes ahead of time so they could all roast with the pigeon together.  I stuffed the bird, added the carrots and potatoes to the pan.  After a few minutes, the juices started to caramelize so I added a bit of stock to the bottom.

To add credence to my theory that Bresse pigeonneau are larger than British “squab,” my pigeon was no where near ready in the time frame suggested.  No matter, I just added a little more stock and shoved it back in the oven with a covering of tinfoil.  

When it was finally ready, the poor bird was so dark, it looked a little like it had been struck by lightning.  I tented it with the tinfoil and let it rest for a while while I made the gravy and assembled the other menu items: salad and (since we were in France) ratatouille.

Despite it’s rather blasted appearance, the pigeon was excellent! Not over cooked at all!  We really enjoyed the legs and thighs with their rich but not gamey flavour.  The breast had a bit of a liver-like texture but with gravy it too was great.

My only regret is that I couldn’t find cranberry sauce!

What are you thankful for? I am thankful for being able to explore the world! (With fork at ready!)





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A Canadian Cooks in Hungary

Paprika! My most important purchase at the Grand Market in Budapest

Or: Paprika Anyone?

“Volunteer to create a dinner for 8 people in a kitchen and a country you’ve only been in for a few days? Am I crazy?”

Yes, those thoughts did run through my brain, especially as I struggled with the Hungarian noodles/dumplings.  However, I was blessed with willing helpers and, best of all, a great cleanup crew.  When one woman, who came in just to observe, offered to clean up as I went along I could have kissed her!  Even at the best of times, I tend to use every pot and utensil in the kitchen and when the kitchen is a limited rental one, I had to use everything two or three times over!  

Joy of joys, amongst the mismatched pots and lids of a rental kitchen I found a beautiful Dutch oven.  I don’t even have one of those at home!  Perfect!

The day before the event Jim and I went to the Grand Central Market and bought everything we would need and I made and reduced a stock from chicken bones, sausage rinds, onion bits, and the ends of carrots.  

In the morning I made a list of all the things I could think of that needed doing.  The idea was, if anyone asked what they could do, I would wave the list and they could choose something.

What was the main dish?  Chicken Paprikas.  Rick Steves, that guru of travel writers, said in his book about Budapest, “If you try one Hungarian meal, make it Chicken Paprikas.”  I sure he meant try tasting it, not cooking it but I like to improvise!

The hardest part: Making dumplings with no fancy gadgets.


Ever try to find the ingredients for a recipe in a store where you don’t know the language?  It’s not easy!  Even with the help of my Hungarian/English app translator, there were many things that I couldn’t figure out.  I often got brand names mixed up with ingredient names.  I’m still not sure if the dairy product we found was actually sour cream but it was high in fat and very tasty, so good enough!

So, I can give you an approximation of the recipe but I guarantee that, even if you were in Budapest, you would have difficulty duplicating what I ended up cooking!


Chicken Paprikás with Homemade Dumplings

Chicken Paprikás with Dumplings

1 kilo boneless chicken breast (I bought bone-in and boned them myself so I could use the bones and skin in the stock)

1 tablespoon oil

4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika (never used so much paprika at one time in my life!)

1 large diced onion

Salt and Pepper

2 cups chicken stock

Sauce thickener:

1 1/2 cups sour cream (no wonder the chicken tasted so rich!)

1 cup water and/or Hungarian white wine

3/4 cup flour


6 eggs (no wonder the dumplings tasted so rich!)

4 cups flour

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt


Start a large pot of water boiling for the dumplings.

In a large frying pan, seer the chicken breast (cut in strips) in the oil.

When well browned, removed the chicken and set aside.

Fry up the onion in the same pan, picking up all the brown bits.

Add paprika, salt, pepper, chicken broth, and the reserved chicken pieces.  Stir and set to simmer for about half an hour.

In a bowl mix the water, flour, and sour cream with a whisk until the mixture is smooth.  

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, flour, water, and salt for the dumplings.  

(Now comes the fun part.)  To make the dumplings, hold the mixing bowl over the boiling water. Use a butter knife to slice a ribbon of dough from the lip of the bowl.  Keep doing this until the dough is all used up.  Dip the knife in the water occasionally to keep it from sticking to the dough.  Make sure the water is boiling and let the dumplings cook for another 5 minutes or so.

If you’ve timed it right, the chicken should now be done.  Take a little of the hot chicken sauce and mix it in with the sour cream mixture.  Stir until blended and repeat a few times.  Now stir this mixture in with the chicken and stir until smooth.  Bring this all to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. 

Drain the dumplings and place in a large serving pan.

Place the chicken and sauce on top of the dumplings.  Serve!


To round out this meal, we had a selection of cheeses and Hungarian sausages for appies.  A big bowl of salad and veggies of beans and cauliflower with the main dish.  Some pastries from the baker below us for dessert.  Oh… and of course, a lot of Hungarian wine to round things out!


A good time was had by all with wine to chase away jet lag!






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Return of the Woolly Pig

Or: Mangalica Pork

Unfortunately, not a good image of the mangalica pig. You should google it to find some better (but copyrighted) pictures.

I have a new culinary favourite!  It is mangalica pork, or woolly pig. Indeed, it looks a little like a pig crossed with a sheep!

The mangelica pig is raised exclusively in Hungary and was bred to withstand the harshest winters. It has developed a woolly fleece and extra insulating layers of fat.

During the 1970s when all things fatty were considered taboo, the woolly pig fell out of favour and became almost extinct.  In fact, when a biologist came along and actually counted them, there were only 200 left!  The hew and cry went up and farmers started breeding more.

Mangalica Sausage


Then it was discovered that the fat in the Mangelica was actually high in Omega3 and low in saturated fats.  And, because of the high fat content, it makes some of the best, but slowest curing, ham in the world.  In fact, the Slow Food Movement discovered this fact and adopted the woolly pig’s cause.  The best way to increase a farm animal’s population is to make it economically appealing.

Now there is a saying: Eat them to save them!  

I have been doing my best.

We first had mangalica pork in a sausage rich in paprika.  How Hungarian can you get?  It had a lovely almost sweet spiciness to it and, even straight out of the fridge, the texture of the sausage is moist because the mangelica’s fat is not as solid as other pig fat at room temperature.

Next I had braised mangelica pork at a restaurant.  That is when I fell in love!  The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and so tasty!  

Long live the woolly pig!

Braised Mangalica Pork with Porcini Mushroom Finzerrel


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My Go-To First Dinner in a New Country

Or: Mushroom Soup Surprise


Ingredients for Mushroom Soup Surprise in Budapest


Normally, I am not a fan of using processed foods in my recipes but when you are first visiting a new country, struggling with an unfamiliar kitchen, and usually dealing with the muzzy head of jet lag, you want simple.  Thus this recipe:

Mushroom soup
Fresh mushrooms (if you can find them)
Chicken pieces

That’s it!

However, the variety is endless.

The hardest part is usually finding some form of mushroom soup, either in a can, tetra pack, or dehydrated in a pouch.  The winner in this category is the tetra pack of wild mushroom soup we found in Belgium.

I love France for the variety of mushrooms you can find, even in an ordinary grocery store.  My favourites were some yellow ones with grey spots we found in a market in Beaune.  Looked terrible, tasted wonderful, and I still don’t know what they were.

Even onion comes in many varieties around the world.  Hands down the best for this recipe was in Hawaii where we used fresh Maui onion.  Walla Walla onions from Washington state were a close second.

At times I have had to make do with garlic powder or even garlic salt, but the winner here, I’d have to say, is the garlic from our own local farmers’ market.  The farmer in question was from Lilloette.

Until we travelled, I didn’t know that chicken came in so many different colours! White, yellow, brown, grey, pink.  Who woulda thunk it?  I have also substituted pork instead of chicken and here, in Hungary we used turkey simply because it was the darkest turkey flesh I have ever seen.  I couldn’t resist!

To cook the meal you need a fry pan and a knife.  

1. Seer the chicken in the oil (or butter, or lard, or whatever you can find).  Set the chicken aside.

2. Fry the onion in the same pan, picking up all the brown bits.  Add garlic.

3. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they have reduced somewhat.

4. Stir in the mushroom soup. 

5. Return the chicken to the fry pan and cook in the sauce until done.

The sauce is excellent with potatoes.  

Here in Hungary in September, we couldn’t find any mushrooms and the mushroom soup was dehydrated so I added milk, wine (no matter how jet lagged we are, Jim always makes sure there is wine in the fridge) and thick yogurt.  The turkey was richly flavoured but probably a little more dense than you would want as your Thanksgiving bird.

To add to the meal I stuffed eggplant with Mangelica pork sausages and tomato. I added sides of yellow beans and mashed potatoes.  Yum!

P.S. We had leftovers, so I chopped the turkey, added the remains of the sausage stuffing, added a little more milk and threw the mish mash on rye bread.  Voila! Turkey a la King, Hungarian style, for lunch.


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The History of Pizza


Fast Food, Napolese Style

The story of pizza started when Europeans came back from the new world with a wonderful new type of vegetable: the tomato.  Now-a-days it is hard to imagine Italian cooking without tomatoes.  Where would we be without tomato sauce?

It took a while before the tomato, a member of the deadly nightshade family, was recognized as non-poisonous.  In fact, for the upper classes who used pewter plates rather than the cheaper wood, tomatoes were poisonous because the high acidity brought out the lead in that silver alloy.

Thus is was the lower classes that first went crazy on tomatoes, and tomatoes grew so well in Italy that it became a cheap food stuff.  In fact, it was the fishermen’s wives who made the first pizza, the simplest and cheapest of all: bread dough spread with tomato sauce, olive oil, oregano, and garlic. That’s right, originally there was no cheese.  This pizza was named after the people who made it; the fishermen’s wives.  Literally… Marinara.  I always though Marinara had to have seafood in it, such as clams or mussels.  Not so!

Another famous pizza is the Margherita.  This is tomato sauce with melted mozzarella cheese and a basil leaf plunked in the middle.  This is a very patriotic pizza because it was named after the princess and contains the traditional Italian colours: red, white, and green. Who knew pizza could be so political?

I loved the way it was sold everywhere, often from restaurants that had glass cases filling half the doorway so people can easily see the wares.  Our pizza, a marinara house special (with cheese and zucchini) was wonderful, simple but filling with one of the best pizza crusts I have ever had.  It was rustic Italian bread cooked in a wood oven.

We happily toasted the birthplace of pizza with a glass of local wine.  Salute!

Red, White, and Green. The Patriotic Margherita Pizza


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How Food Determined the City of Victoria’s Location

Camas Lily

The reason boils down to one of the favourite foodstuffs of the Lekwungen (the indigenous people of the area); Camas.

Camas is a purple lily that blooms each spring and produces a tuber that was one of the rare carbohydrate sources for the First Nations People.  In fact, it was one of their major trade items.

Every summer the Lekwungen would have camas festivals where they all gathered in the area they called Camosack.  They dug up the sod, removing the larger tubers, separating out the weeds and definitely any Death Camas (a poisonous version of camas with white, more star-like flowers) that dared to grow, then replaced the sod. Thus the little bulbs were left ready to grow for future harvest. They also had controlled burns of the lawn to keep down the brush and give the camas a jolt of fertilized ash.  Camas also loves to be near Garry Oaks (a native oak found only in this region), so the Lekwungen cultivated those as well.

So what did James Douglas and his little band of Hudson Bay Company men see when they arrived at Victoria?  Six square miles of lush, green landscape dotted with “wild” flowers and beautiful oak trees.  It was almost more than a group of homesick Brits could stand!  

A Meadow of Garry Oaks and Camas


They thought it was a natural parkland, just ready for cultivation.  Little did they know the land was already being cultivated.  Simply because there were no fences or “Keep Out” signs didn’t mean the Lekwungen land wasn’t being used.  Each Lekwungen family had a section of the camas “farms” and each generation cared for it their whole lives.

To this day, the camas grows in lovely meadows between stands of Garry Oaks, but only in Victoria’s parks. On an April day walking through these green and purple fields is a true delight.  There are also fawn lilies, chocolate lilies, and pink “shooting stars.”


Pink Shooting Stars


I haven’t tasted it, but apparently, camas goes through several changes as you cook it.  Raw it is way too bitter but the Lekwungun used to cook it in slow, underground ovens for a day and a half.  It goes through a potato-like stage, then parsnip-like, then is reminiscent of cooked pears, and finally, when it is caramelized almost black, the flavour is described as like figs. One can eat it at all those cooked stages but it doesn’t end there.  The blackened bulbs could even be dried and ground up into a sweet spice which was traded all along the coast.  What an amazing vegetable!

I can’t help but wonder… Could I grow camas in my own garden?  I don’t have any Garry oaks but I have plenty of rocks.  I love the idea of a beautiful yet practical flowering plant that is (sort of) local to boot!

Chocolate Lily

Fawn Lily

So the cultivation of camas by the Lekwungen people is what drew the Europeans to this site and thus, with the influx of Europeans, it meant that the Lekwungen people could no longer harvest nor celebrate the annual camas festival.  However, I was pleased to see that there has been a recent resurgence in camas popularity and at least one modern Camas Festival has been in the works.

I leave you with one last thought: You may have noticed that Victoria’s native name was Camosack, which in Lekwungen means “Rush of Water.”  However, I did notice a couple of sites that spelled it “Camasack.”  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the true name for Victoria was “Sack of Camas?”  But I am sure that is just wishful thinking.

Camas! Camas! Camas!



Please note:  A lot of the information for this article came from “Camas Country” by Janis Ringuette.

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First Winery Picnic of the Year

Picnic at Cherry Point Winery

We are at Cherry Point Winery in the Cowichan area.  We chose this winery for the simple reason that we have never been here before.  It has a lovely location near enough to the ocean that hints of sea salt mixes in with the heady mixture of rising sap, young grass, and fresh spring flowers.  We are sitting at one of their tables in the garden.

The wine?  Cherry Point Ortega.  A pleasant white with enough oomph to it to stand up to our cheese and paté.  Of all the wines we tasted, it was the one that matched our need for immediate drinkability, acidity, and an intriguing flavour.  When we had it by itself at the tasting, we had noticed a little bit of candied “grapiness” in the finish but with food, this melded right in and became an asset.

The cheese?  One was Little Qualicum’s “Rathtrevor,” a firm white cheese.  This went very well with the Applewood Smoked Cheese Bread from Thrifties.  The other cheese was Golden Ears Cheese “Jersey Blue.”  This cheese was the hit of the meal, a wonderfully sharp yet full blue cheese.  If you like blue cheese, you should give this one a shot the next time you find yourself near Maple Ridge.

We augmented our repast with some sweet carrots from Abbotsford, cucumbers from Delta, flax and almond crisp crackers from Vancouver Island, and jicama (from Mexico… Sorry, not local at all.)

As Jim and I gazed around the garden, so vibrant with its almost neon yellow-green leaves contrasting with the deep dark greens of the ever-present firs and cedars, we toasted each other and wished for many more wonderful winery picnics in the year to come.

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Tapas Bars in Southern Spain


Barbecued Pork on Bread (L’s favourite tapas of the night)

Or: It’s Time for a Pub Crawl with a Difference!

It seems like a long time ago, way back during our first visits to Spain… we went into a bar, ordered wine to go with our meal and were confused when some un-asked-for food came to the table.  We were sure it was a mistake but no, in Spain, when you order a drink, the restaurant/bar/brasserie will also give you a little tidbit with your drink.  
Now, in Southern Spain, they have taken this wonderful idea to whole new levels.  There are now areas in a city that specialize in tapas bars.  The idea is that you enter a bar, order a drink, enjoy your tapas and then move on.  Naturally, what the bar is hoping for is that you will enjoy their tapas so much that when it comes time for you to move on, you and your party decide instead to stay put … and order more!  Thus, the bars in this area are all trying to outdo each other, perhaps with food, perhaps with interesting drinks, perhaps with atmosphere, perhaps by appealing to a special crowd. 

Salmorejo (chilled tomato soup)

We, six of us, decided to join the tapas party during our stay in Granada.  The first hurdle was to find these fabled areas that guidebooks mention.  Our first try, an area call Tapas Row has since been taken over by wall to wall restaurants (not tapas bars) that cater to tourists.  So, we kept going.

Now, one of the problems with having six people in a group (especially polite Canadians) is that you can never please all six.  We wandered and dithered and meandered and said, “Whatever you guys want.”  Eventually, we found one unlikely place with a garish orange and brown sign and someone said, “Let’s at least start here.”  It turned out to be one of our favourites of the evening. We even went back at the end of the night!

The tapas here were sliders; mini blue cheese hamburgers on banquet bread instead of a bun. Lovely!  Many of us had Estrella dark beer on draft, and besides being a perfect match for the burgers, was an excellent way to quench the thirst we’d developed during our meandering. 


Sloppy Sandwiches with Ground Peanuts

Now refreshed, we continued on. And magically there suddenly appeared to be many places with the magic word “bar” on their sign.  We next went to “white tablecloth” bar where the tapas were barbecued pork strips.  The thought that a good tapas will make you want to stay sure worked on L.  She wanted more of this place.  

As a complete change, our next tapas bar was a student bar.  Such a different, lively atmosphere!   Here we had sloppy sandwiches that were incredibly tasty.  

All told, we had a lovely evening but we were surprised that the tapas bars started closing up at midnight.  We could have gone on much longer!

Hummus with Veggies and Dried Bread


As an interesting side note, H (our resident font of food knowledge) told us that the idea for tapas in Spanish bars started as a result of flies.  Yes, flies!  There are always a number of flies buzzing around and they like to target glasses full of wine or beer or sangria.  The bar owners would thwart the flies’ efforts by putting a small plate on top of the glass.  Then, some smart individual decided that these plates would be even better if they were put to use by putting a small snack on top.  I don’t know who that first entrepreneur was, but I applaud his or her ingenuity!


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A Luncheon Feast gone Local!

Farmers Market Maui

In the years (decades) since we started coming here, I am pleased to see the enthusiasm for locally produced food has been expanding.  I haven’t been on one yet, but you can now take (rather expensive) farm tours.  I was so pleased the last time we went zip-lining and one of our guides was a local boy who was very eager to show off fruits of the land growing wild as we trudged up and down the hills.

Without having to go to such extremes to find the three different kinds of guava on the island, you can hunt out local foods in your nearest village.  Even Safeway now carries Maui’s Surfing Goat (great name) Cheese. Our favourite is Ivory Coast, a mild chèvre with cracked black peppercorns.

For us, the best place to get fresh local products is Farmers Market Maui.  A natural food store that also has an outdoor market every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning.  Best of all?  It is only a ten minute walk from our rental!  (I timed it.)

Bear in mind, what they can’t get in local foods, they will import so keep an eye on the cardboard signs.  If it doesn’t say local, it probably isn’t.  The “normal” bananas often come from Ecuador but the much sweeter apple bananas are home grown.

Anyone want a sample?


How about 10 samples?



They also make a wide variety of dips, cream cheeses, and dressings.  These have become the staple of our favourite Maui lunches.

Best guacamole in the world!  (In my humble opinion.)  Pair this with Maui onion chips and you have a flavour taste we dream about all year long.

As for the rest of our Maui lunch, I cut up a bunch of veggies, lay out some cheeses, a few tubs of Farmers Market Maui’s finest, some crackers, some bread (as dark and seedy as we can get) and Jim opens a bottle of wine.

You can mix and match everything but here are a few pairings we have discovered work extremely well:  Carrot slices with papaya seed dressing (Before this I didn’t know papaya seeds were edible!)  Red peppers with tahini hummus.  Celery with Surfing Goat Ivory Coast (It is like my childhood love of celery and Velveeta all “growed” up.) Jicama so fresh it splashes when you cut it, that goes with everything. Then for dessert, coconut tapioca pudding with fresh banana and papaya.

Enjoy this lunch in the shade of your lanai, listening to the surf and seeking out the blows from passing whales.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

Our Local Lanai Luncheon


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Barossa Farmers’ Market


Barossa Farmers’ Market. A taste for everyone

Another week and Di is writing about another market…No!  Wait!  Don’t go searching for a new blogger yet!  This market is different!  I can sum it up in two words: Taster’s Paradise.  (Okay, now you can look for a new blogger.)

Still with me?  Good for you.

Barossa Market is a every Saturday and the majority of it is in a building.  I always appreciate covered markets!  A good portion of the produce was outside but a lot of the fun stuff was inside.


Every tried loquats? The texture is like a firm papaya (or paw paw in Australia) but the taste is like a nectarine.

As soon as I walked in the door, while I was waited for my eyes to adjust to the lack of sunlight, my nose started pulling me to the first kiosk.  Spices!  Sweet and rich.  Could it be?  Yes!  Homemade Chai Tea, all hot and ready.  A taste I have had little of in Australia.  I was still blinking and trying to read the price for a cup when a woman offered, “Would you like a taste?”  I probably looked stunned because she repeated it louder and clearer.  This time I had enough where-with-all to say yes, whole heartedly.

It was lovely, good sweetness, lots of cardamon (my favourite chai spice) but after I finished telling her how much I enjoyed it, discovered it was $25 a container of spice.  Certainly more than I could finish before we went home so I regretfully left her and her sweet smelling stall behind.

Next door was a flower stall, also sweet smelling, but of course, no samples.  So It wasn’t until three more stalls where I’d had a dukkah tasting, a sliver of sausage, and a bit of muffin that I finally noticed the pattern.  Everyone that could was offering samples!  Many samples! Samples to compare!  Samples to share!

One of the original merchants of the Barossa Market, fantastic olive oil. Try one crushed with lemon.


As usual, myself and my market buddies had gone off in different directions as soon as we entered, G in search of coffee and H in search of dinner supplies.   Many times I would think, “Ah!  Must come back here and get their opinions before I buy!”  Well, as fate would have it, many times I did just that and what I had planned to buy was gone!  I should have bought those mulberries as soon as I saw them!

Apparently, this sample techniques works far too well.  The merchants set up their wares and two hours of frantic sampling and selling later, they are sold out!  However, there was still plenty for me to spend money on.  Had a most intriguing tasting at the beer kiosk.  Yes!  Beer!  At least six different kinds!  I, naturally, had to try the maple porter to which the merchants had to laugh, because although almost every thing in their beer is from Australia, the maple comes from the same place as my accent.  While I was proceeding to sample the chocolate stout I was joined by G, and then H.  Funny how we all gathered around the ales, isn’t it?


A true Farmers’ Market, they even had baby chicks for sale!

In the end we bought some delectable olive oil, a well hung lamb loin, some new dukkah, two perfectly ripe eggplants, four assorted cheeses (we meant to get only two but he talked us into another and then one more leapt into the bag as a treat from the merchant) and, of course, some of that wonderful beer.

My advice to you if you ever find yourself able to go to the Barossa Farmers’ Market: don’t eat breakfast, go early, buy quickly before they sell out, and enjoy the taste samples.  Warning, you will probably spend more than you expected!

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