One of the things I was worried I’d miss about living abroad was wandering around farmers’ markets, picking up local goodies direct from the people who’d grown or produced them.
After nearly twenty years in Tenerife and then Portugal, I’d had it imprinted on my brain, thanks to various posts online, that produce in other countries was superior to Britain, and when we returned to the UK, we’d mostly have to make do with mass-produced supermarket fare. Having previously lived in Greater Manchester, my experience of farmers’ markets in Britain was limited, so I didn’t know any different; although, we used to buy fish and cheese from great little stalls in Stockport market.
First experiences of Devon put my mind at rest. It helped we were living on a farm where honey, eggs, apples, plums, pears, and lamb were regularly handed through the window. A nearby farm produced their own sausages, so we benefited from that as well, and there was a vineyard on the other side of the hill. The last one I definitely didn’t expect.
When we moved to Somerset, I thought we’d lose all those benefits. But the effort we have to make to replace the door-to-window service we enjoyed on the farm is only slightly more.
Our nearest town, Wiveliscombe, has a market every Saturday morning. It’s small but punches way above its weight in terms of what you can buy. It’s our source of locally produced honey at prices below what we’d pay in a supermarket. There’s fruit and veg, bread, a fish van, cheese stall, and a chef, Conrad’s Kitchen, who catches his own fish and sells dishes he’s prepared himself, such as confit duck legs and king prawn madras. He also sells dangerously delicious wild boar sausage rolls made with the meat from culled boar from the Forest of Dean.
The other week, there was another chef, from El Duende restaurant in Wiveliscombe. The name intrigued me. One of the most renowned restaurants on Tenerife was called El Duende. It was tucked away where people wouldn’t find it unless they knew it was there. Visiting Spanish chefs frequented it, including the world’s best, Ferran Adrià. We ate there once, and it was Michelin star level. But its obscurity meant it didn’t attract enough customers, so it closed.
El Duende’s chef, Tim Zekki, is from Cyprus rather than Spain, and his interpretation of the meaning of El Duende was one I didn’t know – a term used to describe rapturous flamenco dancers. Tenerife’s El Duende referred to an imp or goblin. I’d also heard it used regularly in the Canaries as a reference to ‘the boss.’ We got chatting while we tasted his whipped feta, hummus, romesco with bitter orange, and butternut squash. He was supposed to have baba ganoush but had run out by the time we turned up at 09:30.
In Wellington, a 15-minute drive away, there’s a bigger monthly market which has food and craft stalls. Last time we were there, we picked up a brace of marmalades. Taunton, a 20-minute drive, also has markets – ranging from a handful of stalls on a Thursday to a monthly affair with around 75 stalls. And then there are all the local fairs. There’s a venison farm in our village, and their food truck is a regular at these.
The upshot is, I needn’t have worried. There are more locally grown/produced goodies in this area than I have been able to work my way through … so far.