Thursday, July 23, 2015


While the East Coast swelters in ninety degree heat and the kind of humidity that makes even an anhidrosisian sweat (you can look that one up) and the West Coast is left baked dry as a bone, we in Madison bask in blue skies with vistas that stretch all the way to our state borders and temperatures that make spending time outside a pleasure rather than a chore.
Every Saturday I get to spend in Mad City, one of the dwindling places in America where liberalism is appreciated and synonymous with compassion and inclusion I itch to get out and walk the Farmer's Market that surrounds the Capitol grounds.
Every year I feel compelled to do a blog on the market if for no other reason than to show off the beauty of its immense bounty.
We belong to a Saturday morning breakfast club. It's not an official club but the membership is pretty tight. We meet at a Greek diner a couple of blocks off the Square that serves unlimited cups of coffee with traditional American fare along side Greek specialties. Sometimes Rick and I try to get up early enough to hit the market before coffee and at other times we leave the car down in the free parking lot by the lake and head up to the market with our oh so fashionable barkcloth grocery bags slung over our shoulders in an attempt at being both sartorial and ecological at the same time..
This Saturday the skies did not disappoint, the view was crystal clear, the lakes as smooth as glass and the weather so perfect it wasn't even a point of conversation . We were walking up King Street from Plaka, our Greek hangout and entering the market from the Southeast corner. It was after coffee and a breakfast of two eggs over-easy, two slabs of ham and two buckwheat pancakes all served with rye toast, butter and tons of maple syrup. The crowds had already formed so walking was a very slow process. By mid-July the bounty of the surrounding farmlands had begun its stunning appearance. Root vegetables were piled high on long tables.
Buckets of yellow dandelion-like flowers produced honey for the sweet tooth of our eyes.
Gooch Farms of Sullivan, Wisconsin, had its freezers filled with red deer meat. Selling Bambi under the name of Gooch seemed right on point. It made me think of the Wizard of Oz and that mean Miss Gooch taking poor Toto away to the pound.
Lilies were out in full force along with that intoxicating fragrance, their intense color range of blood red, magenta, orange and sunshine contrasting against the background of the Capitol's grassy lawn.
Even the Capitol's gardeners added to the color play around the square with plots of Wisconsin red planted at each corner.
It wasn't difficult to find yourself walking behind a bouquet of summer's colorful bounty as you made your way around the packed sidewalks of the Square.
Some of the offerings had already been squeezed and fermented into bottles like the beautiful herbal vinegars from the Violet Rose Cattle Co.
Every block of the market has its resident bakery selling croissants, elephant ears and cinnamon rolls. Thankfully I had had my breakfast so the temptation of all those sweets was marginally avoidable.
But the one temptation I find impossible to pass up is Stella's hot and spicy cheese bread. They either bake it or heat it up on site. I'm not sure, but the aroma is more enticing than perfume. You have to eat it the minute you buy it. There's an overwhelmingly fragrant steam that's released when you pull apart the soft hot dough.
The unusual is never far behind when you're at any event in Madison and the Farmer's Market is no exception. This trip found a farmer selling garlic scapes, the strange looking stem of the garlic plant. I was told that they are edible in the same way as the garlic bulb and equally beautiful in flower arrangements minus the pungent smell.
Our favorite beekeeper held on to his regular booth selling his honey dressed in his beehive bonnet.
Madison is a very political town. We did our market walk right around the Fourth of July, so many of the vendors had dressed for the occasion showing their patriotism and their political advocacy.
But would an assessment of the market be without a nod to Wisconsin's best known export: cheese curds, the kind that squeak when you bit into them served room temp or deep-fried.
The market has a place for everything and everyone. I did say that Madison was a town of compassion and inclusion.

Our patriotic front porch
Photographer, Lee Melahn


  1. I loaded up with produce and my favorite baked treats this a.m. Some Sat. I am going to crash your breakfast club!

  2. I hope you do. You would be a welcome addition