Sunday, June 13, 2010

Maria magic



Maria van Zyl is only 18 years old, but already working hard to build our regional buffet. I was lucky enough to discover her (and her warm oats!) next to the children's playground at the Waldorf Organic Farmers' Market. Except for the oh so yummy oats, she sells the best spiced apple tea I've ever had, polenta tart with spiced pears in red wine, chocolate brownies (with nuts when she can find them locally), ground almond and semolina cake, wheat free nut cake and wheat free chocolate cake. Many of her baked wonders is inspired by Wendy Cook’s The Biodynamic Food and Cookbook, based on biodynamic principles.

Maria understands the many levels of an ethical food system. Not only are all of her ingredients organic and/or freerange, but she also attempts to find them regionally. She also uses compostable containers from Green Home in Cape Town. On a social level, as part of her final year high school project, she taught a group of twelve people in Kayamandi how to bake. The course was based at the Legacy Centre in Kayamandi. It forms part of the Waldorf school curriculum that she follows at the Constantia Waldorf School in Cape Town.

Maria's future plans include a possible pastry course in Observatory, Cape Town and a year of working in a bakery in France to acquire the cutting edge skills she needs to bake her way through her studies in natural medicine. She is not set on anything yet, however, and for the moment is focusing on finishing school and spoiling us with her baked treats.

Look out for the Bircher muesli and quiches she is going to sell soon!


Talking about the OFM


Anri: Let's go! So...

Michelle: Waldorf market! Our new favourite place.

A: With some of our new favourite people!

M: Exactly. I liked what you said on Saturday about the difference between the two markets and they different ways they compromise; can you elaborate?

A: I can't remember exactly what I said, but the Fresh Market is more of a Saturday "hangout" with readymade foods and goods and so on, whereas the Organic Farmers' Market (OFM) at Waldorf is a one-stop-shop for girls like us who want to do a whole week's worth of organic, regional shopping. The OFM has more raw products and is more focused on sourcing things regionally and organically.

M: Also, you said that whereas the Fresh Market branches out by having second hand clothing and so forth, the OFM branches out by having family-run businesses that aren't necessarily organic but could be nudged in that direction.

A: Yes indeed.

M: What did we really really like about this market?

A: We liked being there, which sounds obvious, but it's important. We used to leave after shopping at the other one; at this market we shopped and then sat down to have breakfast and cake and rooibos cappuccinos, while being read poetry and fed organic dark chocolate. And then there’s the fact that the different marketeers actually know each other and use each other's produce—for example, the one organic farmer who bought cheese made from the milk of the cows who ate his straw bales. This market is all about the people.


M: The best part for me was definitely the level of human interaction. The market creates a space where strangers can interact without anxiety, chat to each other about this and that—of course, it's all centred around food, but the important thing is that the market creates a tangible connection between you and your food and the people who make or grow it. And people feel free to talk to you as well! An itinerant poet named Gustav just sat down at our table and started reading to us from his worn-out copy of Ogden Nash poems.

A: Wasn't it Oglan? Or Oglen? We have to find the celery poem.

M: Nope, Ogden. And it goes:

Celery, raw
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

A: You're too fast.

M: Oh snap! That's me, baby. But yes, aside from the touchy-feely-we-love-community aspect of things, it was far more practical for our everyday shopping.

A: Hear hear! And the coffee is so good! Oh so good.

M: I also liked how the organisers made it very clear that their goal is to be a part of a sustainable food system. From the quotes they had on the blackboards to the bins for compost, recycling and waste—they've really thought it through and it shows.


A: And they show that each of us has the responsibility to play an active part.

M: Definitely. Very empowering for the individual consumer.

A: Even if it is just by participating.

M: Also, the location is lovely.

A: Moo! And they have pony rides for the kids!

M: And a jungle gym! I mean, what more do you want?

A: Bagels and pancakes?

M: Flapjacks, darling. And that was a real question: what more DO you want? What do you think they could be doing better or what should they be working towards?

A: Well, yes, stepping out of the ooh and aah of it all, I think more information about the marketeers could be nice. When it gets a little crowded they can't talk to everyone, so posters with info about where the food comes from would be grand. And dried produce, too.

M: It feels a bit whiny to say so because the selection is still much better than anything I've seen yet, but the vegetable vendors seemed to have a lot of the same things. I can only eat so much spinach, guys! So it would be good if they could co-ordinate in the same way that the prepared food vendors do (Maria's coffee-and-cake deal for R25 was a nice example of this). And yes, definitely some more dried produce. More dried regional produce—it's nice that Divine Foods shows up, but their emphasis is on organic rather than regional and organic.

A: That's true, but the market is still very young and I don't think they have enough veg to supply the market once it starts growing; so rather have too much than too little. You also have to remember that they grow what’s in season and what grows well, so it will always be more limited than what’s available at the supermarket.

M: That's a good point. We have to change our expectations as consumers. I'm always complaining about how mainstream environmental literature is always like, "You can live exactly the same life you're living now! Just switch to CFLs and recycle!" when in reality, people (myself included) need to get used to not having every. single. thing. they want!

Nevertheless, they could use an eier tannie, and a botter tannie. And a rhubarb tannie, for that matter. Although it is the end of the rhubarb season anyway, so I need to get over it.

A: Good girl. Now let's be honest about the cost of it all...

M: Well, I blew a stack of cash.

A: It cost us, but why?

M: Because we were seduced by all the delicious prepared food!

A: The actual produce wasn't expensive at all.

M: Lemon bars, baba ganoush, hummus, apple tea, roobios cappuccinos...that's where the main money went. My 1L of Greek yogurt was pretty pricey (R45), but it’s gorgeous and comes in a big, beautiful jar with a pretty gold lid.


A: That's what hurts the pocket my friend—the add-ons. But I thought about that as well, and it's still less expensive to stop at the market than it is to buy from the supermarket and then go on a Saturday outing with the family. It's really an all-in-one deal, and you get to teach your kids ethical eating from the beginning and make it a part of having fun and being in a community.

M: Really, it depends on how you view the market. As a pure vehicle for getting the grocery shopping done, check check check, it's not so great. It takes time to get out there, it takes time to pay each vendor, you get sidetracked wandering around. But compared to stopping by Checkers or a SPAR, it is such a pleasurable experience. And that whole linear "get 'er done" mentality is just modernist nonsense, or so I hear.

It would also be super cool if they eventually had a Stellenbosch shuttle. It was pretty terrible to be just the two of us in a car, and then meeting Jess who had a separate car...and so many other cars!

A: Now that's an idea! And they should have a website; it would also be such a great platform for interacting with the marketeers. We could tell them what we need, what we want, what we like and so on. They also need to make cloth bags, or sell baskets at the market.

M: Yes! People seemed to be good about bringing bags, since it's the Waldorf crowd, but it would be nice in case folks forget. You know what else would be super rad? If people brought empty jars and tupperware just for donation or recycling, and then if someone buys cheese or something else that requires packaging, they could just take it and pack it away.

A: Super rad—but don't you think people will have issues with hygiene and so on?

M: I guess. But germs are good, and build immunity! I mean, folks should bring them cleaned already. I would do it. But then again, I fear NO GERMS.

A: I know, but if it was that simple, I mean as simple as washing a jar, I don't think plastic would ever have been invented. I agree with you by the way, just playing devil's advocate.

M: Right. Well, it can be just available as an option, and as a small way of combating germophobia. But people don't have a problem eating off of the vendor's crockery, do they? I mean, who knows whether or not they sterilised each and every spoon! The horror!

A: Not at all.

M: But that's just a side issue anyway. What else have we got?

A: Time and place! The market runs every Saturday from 9h to 14h, at the new Waldorf School on the Annandale road between the R44 and the R310, Badel Powel Drive. If you're on the R44 towards Somerset West, turn right at the Polkadraai traffic lights with the giant soccer ball. Ayoba! If you're on the R310 towards the N2, turn left after Spier at the giant strawberry. You'll see the signs and the cows and the cars against the hill on the other side of the valley.

M: Nice.

A: Okay, goed meisie. Lekker werk ne!