Farmers Market Juha

I’ve always had a hard time resting well. Until last year, I thought rest meant being a vegetable, relaxing on the couch and watching movies, hanging out with friends, or reading. And I really didn’t understand the concept of spiritual rest or resting in the Lord. At the beginning of last year, during my first year of full-time ministry, I spent the first few Saturdays doing movie marathons. But then, when it came to Sunday, I was still tired, stressed, and worried about the week to come. I didn’t feel mentally, physically, or spiritually rested; I just felt dread over my lack of preparedness for the next week. Thankfully, my good friend and ministry coach pointed that out to me right away. “I don’t think you’re resting well,” she said, concerned about my well-being. When I asked what that really meant, she replied with a question, “What brings you life?” She said that I can glorify God by doing activities that bring me joy and refreshment. So, I asked God to reveal the activities that give me rest and joy and bring glory to Him.

Flash forward to the present. Though I feel like I’ve adjusted to a new city and back into ministry pretty well, especially after a summer of ministry partner development, I’ve realized in the last few days that I haven’t exactly been resting well. And this made me think, What can I do that will give me rest and joy and bring glory to Him? I’ve decided that the things that currently bring rest are having “me” time, taking walks, exploring new places (at my own pace), shopping at outdoor markets (or just grocery shopping in general), budgeting (It’s like a game for me.), exercising, reading books that capture my affection for God, cooking and baking, writing, and spending time with friends in small group settings or one-on-one.

So today, I decided to do a good majority of these things. But rather than giving you a play-by-play of my day so far, I wanted to share a few snippets.

First, I explored a new part of the city, the Saturday Farmers Market. (It really made me miss the Athens farmers market, especially because I just love fall in Athens. And it’s such a happy place.) The Ljubljana Farmers Market is probably about 5x bigger, though. And although it’s a dreary, rainy October day here in Ljubljana, the market was alive with color, live traditional Slovene music (complete with accordions!), and the joyful chatter of fellow food-lovers. In fact, Melissa, one of my friends/teammates who met me there, said, “It’s just so happy here.”

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To get to the market, I had to walk through souvenir vendors with their Ljubljana snow globes, jewelry boxes, hand-painted pottery, clocks, and wooden toys. I was surprised by the number of tourists still in town at this time of year! I then emerged into another part of the market, the “Bio” section. Everything in this area is certified organic and fresh. There were rows of seasonal produce — apples, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, peppers, and zucchini — rows of cheeses, grains, dried meats and salamis. I even found a raw, organic, and vegan stall that sold pumpkin and sunflower seed crackers. (I splurged and bought some, of course!)

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On the other side of “Bio,” my nose led me through what I call the “Alley of Flowers.” The fresh scents, as well as the pinks, purples, and reds, brought a smile to my face. They illuminated the gray day. Not to mention, those who were selling the flowers constantly greeted me with a friendly “Dober dan” or “Dan,” which means “good day” or “hello” in Slovene.

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At the opposite end of the Alley of Flowers, I came upon the conventionally grown produce, the biggest part of the market. It takes up the entire square. There were stalls upon stalls upon stalls of apples, apple cider, pumpkins, peppers, lettuces, grapes, pears, broccoli, cabbage, beans, and much more. Best purchase of the day: a kilo of green beans for €1 from a sweet, elderly female farmer with a warm smile.

I finished my time by swinging through the grains and baked goods, and then through the fish and meat markets. (For you Pittsburghers, the fish market is a lot like Wholey’s in the Strip, especially the smell! Mmm mmm.)

After two hours of meandering through the markets, I lugged my multiple kilos of goodies back to my flat, in the rain. I was cold and my feet were soaked. I decided the best remedy was to make potato soup. But potato soup quickly turned into, “let’s throw all my veggies in and see what it tastes like” soup. (The recipe is below.) And let me tell you, that soup was good for my soul. So delicious!

I’m so thankful for a day to rest and be refreshed. (It’s not even over yet!) And I’m thankful that I serve a God who wants me to rest from my work and also provides rest in Him.

So let me ask you, what brings you rest, joy and refreshment? Have you taken time to do that lately?

Recipe: Farmers Market Juha (Vegan, Gluten-free, Low-sulfur, Sugar-free)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: About 1 hour and 30 minutes
Makes about 5 servings.

Ingredients:

7 small potatoes (peeled and cubed)
2 dozen cherry tomatoes (halved)
2 medium green peppers (diced)
1/2 small cabbage (chopped)
1 large carrot (peeled and shredded)
1 medium zucchini (shredded)
1 cup of fresh green beans (chopped)
1/2 cup millet (or rice)
Olive oil, salt, pepper, curry, garlic powder, coriander

1. In a large pot, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat on medium. Sauté the potatoes for a few minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the potatoes start browning, add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and stir.

2. Add the cabbage, beans, carrot, zucchini, green peppers, and tomatoes. Stir. Turn heat down to medium-low. (You want the veggies to cook down but not get too soft.)

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3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. (Fresh cracked pepper tastes better, in my opinion.) Add 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and a pinch of coriander. Stir thoroughly. (For a very low-sulfur diet, omit the curry, garlic, and coriander. Rosemary is a great alternative.)

4. Allow mixture to cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (Add salt and pepper to taste.)

5. Add 1/2 cup of millet or rice. (Brown rice will take longer to cook.) Adding millet or rice will thicken the soup because it absorbs a lot of moisture. If you like your soup thinner, you may need to add a little water.

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Serve hot. And enjoy!

“Sugar, Dates, and Pistachios!” (8/17/2011)

Every Thursday is Souk Day (market day) for Moroccans in and around Telouet, the largest city near Tighza. (Though I would hardly consider it a city. It’s about the size of a town in an old western film.)

Bourciod, the minivan driver, picked us up early in the morning at the kasbah and drove us the 40 minutes to the ville. Along the route, we picked up about 15 other passengers, who crammed themselves into the back of the van or hung on to the back of the van. On the narrow dirt and rock “road” we drove, winding around the mountains and through little villages. I couldn’t watch at times, picturing us tipping over the cliff after taking a turn a little too fast.

By the time we arrived, Telouet had been bustling for a few hours. It seems like all the men from nearby villages gather in Telouet and spend all day at the souk. To me, it’s an excuse to get away from the home, wife, and family, considering I only saw 10 women there total, which is nearly nothing.

In Telouet, there is one road that passes directly through the center, dividing the food shops and cafes into two sides. Like I said earlier, it really does look like a town from a country western film, just take out the cowboys and insert the Berbers. Behind one side of shops is the souk, or the market, which is a large square with lines of vendors under their makeshift tents. Some of the vendors were lucky enough to have wooden stands for their wares, but most had tarps on the ground with their goods on top.

Meat vendors aligned the outside entrance of the souk. Goats, sheep, and beef hung from hooks in the ceiling. Bloody goat heads stood on the counter. Flies swarmed the area, and the smell of rotting and cooking meat filled the air. (The meat was not cooking in an oven or on a stove, the sun was baking it.) As for coolers with meat, I didn’t see any. I’m shocked that more people haven’t died of food born illnesses here. Honestly, I was pretty disgusted, and I’m sure it was worse for Kim.

Though I didn’t find any sanitary conditions — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would’ve had a field day — I did find a butcher, dressed in a red Hawaiian shirt, who supplies meat for Mohamed. His stand was also decorated with goat heads. He’s a burly man in his mid-30s, who only speaks using signs and gestures because he is deaf. A few times he gestured to our cameras and then made a frame around himself using his fingers. Kim and I had already taken footage and photos.

Once out of the meat clearing, there sat vendors around the perimeter of the square with fresh fruits and vegetables, but only what is in season in the villages: potatoes, watermelon, figs, dates, onions, carrots, and apricots. I saw more dates than anything, and sellers were always trying to give you one to taste. They look like brown prunes, but have a slight crunch — like a squashed exoskeleton of an insect — when you bite into them.

The center of the square looked more like a flea market with teapots, old furniture, rustic-looking jewelry, pottery for tajines and cookery, old clothes, and second-hand rubber shoes. (The shoes sell for about 10 dirhams per pair, and nearly everyone in the village has a pair.) I was able to speak to one man who sells jewelry. In his broken French, he told me he made the jewelry, then he said he sold the jewelry for a store. All I do know is that he showed me his carte d’identité and he tried to explain three times that he is a democratic Berber, whatever that means. I’m pretty sure he was just trying to sell me his tarnished metal jewelry.

And every once in a while we stumbled upon a spice stand, complete with cinnamon, cumin, saffron, turmeric, ginger, paprika, ground coffee, coffee beans, lentils, beans, pasta, and kilogram cones of sugar. The colors were bright and the scents were fragrant, but because the spices sit in the open air all day, they don’t have as much flavor as the bottled spices we find in western countries.

Customers lined up to pay between 30 and 60 dirhams ($3.75-$7.50) for a kilo (2.2 pounds) of spices. The customer points to a spice, tells how many grams, and with a scoop in hand and a flick of the wrist, the spice slides into a quart-size plastic bag. With another twist of the wrist, the bag flips around and is tied closed. For the more adventurous type, spices are combined into one bag. At one of the spice stands, I spoke to the vendor, Hassan, 37, who has supported his family for 10 years by selling spices at souks around Morocco. He purchases his spices from Casablanca, then travels hours to different regions to sell spices. At this particular souk, his brother, father, and young son were helping him sell.

Upon leaving the crowded souk, we crammed into Bourciod’s minivan, and because Mohamed is good friends with Bourciod, we were able to score the front seat (which included Bourciod, Mohamed, Kim, and me in 6-by-2 feet of moveable space). Although I was incredibly uncomfortable, considering I couldn’t sit backwards without leaning into Mohamed’s armpit, it was far better than the alternative: stuffing into the trunk with 12 other people, mostly men, and their pounds and pounds of groceries. All other bags were shoved to the top of the van.

By the time we left the souk, there was nearly 2 feet of groceries on top of the van, about 20 people inside the van, and another half-dozen hanging on the back of the van. I’m not sure how much the whole van weighed, but I do know that for the first few miles the van traveled at the speed of 10 miles per hour. I was thankful when someone got out of the van, especially because we had to make it 10 miles back up the windy mountain. Somehow, Bourciod’s van has the power to do it, even though I doubt it every time.