"Eat in accordance with the seasons as you would dress for different types of weather." - The Bhutanese Guide to Happiness
Don't you think Farmers Markets are happy places? We've chatted before about how they're a celebration of the seasons. Our Seattle farms stands are now brimming with apples, pears, autumn squash and mushrooms. One look and you know it's fall. And for me, summer lives on thanks to a vivid memory of how a ripe tomato tastes on market day in Provence.
So, of course I loved visiting the Bhutanese markets -- a riot of flavors, colors and smells not unlike what you'd find at Pike Place here at home.
But in Bhutan there are no supermarkets -- no running to the local equivalent of Whole Foods for off-season strawberries. So you can imagine the vital importance of Farmers Markets, both for the community and the home, whether it's the multi-story weekend market in the capital of Thimphu or a roadside stand.
Traditional Bhutanese food was fantastic -- different from anything I've ever tasted. Lots of red rice, plenty of spice, and a few flavors that were totally new. Like crow's beak, a pod-like vegetable that packs some heat and is typically served cooked with chilies and cheese. And tree tomatoes - delicious with melon in a western-style gazpacho on a hot afternoon in subtropical Punakha.
I did finally meet a cheese I didn't like. Yak cheese. Dried, you can chew on it all day - or so Namgay, our guide, told me. No thanks. Not my thing!
Yak cheese aside, my guess is that the food we tried in Bhutan couldn't help but be delicious because the ingredients were so fresh and seasonal. There is something to be said for the correlation between the accessibility of farmers markets and happiness - both in Bhutan and in France.
But this is where we get back to happiness as a complicated subject. How grumpy would I be if I couldn't just dash to the corner grocery when we run out of milk? How nice is it on a crazy-busy day to pick up a relatively healthy, pre-made dinner? Surely supermarkets will find their way to Bhutan someday and people won't know what they did without them.
But is my life a little less happy because hyper-local, fresh, seasonal food is a treat, not an everyday practice?
Just food for thought.
Happy Wednesday, all! XO