Saturday morning, while everyone else in the house was still asleep, Betsy, her daughter Isla and I got dressed and headed out to the market. Betsy and her husband Ian moved to Barnes last year. It looks like the quintessential, peaceful English village with a pond and fuzzy ducklings and everything, but it's a district of London, so it takes no time at all to be in the middle of things if you want to be. Later, when the others had woken up, we left the kids at home with their dad and headed out to go shoe and window shopping on the King's Road. But first, Betsy wanted to show me Barnes. It was a beautiful day, sunny and windswept and clear. The kind of day that made you think there could be no city more beautiful than London.
Now, if there's something I like more than visiting grocery stores in foreign countries, it's going to farmer's markets in foreign countries. The Barnes farmer's market is pretty small as markets go, but it's a total gem. These baby greens reminded me of that stand selling microgreens at the Union Square green market in New York, just by the entrance to the subway.
This butcher's stand was incredible. Check out the size of that piece of beef waiting to be cut into rib-eye steaks! It always seems to me that the English are big on meat-eating, and it's no wonder with such lovely institutions as the Sunday roast lunch and good-looking beef peppering their markets.
But don't worry, there was plenty of produce too. Fat, pink stalks of rhubarb and a sign promising fresh asparagus in a week, plus local apples and juice.
Meat pies always sound like they'll be so delicious, straight out of the pages of an Enid Blyton book or the Chronicles of Narnia or something. Betsy advised us to stay away ("suet!", she whispered ominously), but I'll keep daydreaming about eating them piping hot while sitting at the top of a magical English tree.
Luckily, right next to the butcher's stand, three apron-clad folks were cooking breakfast sandwiches on a hot griddle. There were two kinds of bacon, spitting sausages and thick slices of blood pudding, all made from local pigs. Everything smelled so good. You could ask for your eggs to have a hard yolk or soft (my choice) and choose from a white or wholemeal roll. Plus, there were fried onions to fill out the rest of the sandwich and a long assortment of different condiments: English mustard, chili jam, a finely chopped pickle and more.
We finished the rest of our market stroll munching on the warm, delicious sandwiches and then, on the way home, passed by the pond again so that Isla could jump in some muddy puddles with her little pink wellies and we could throw crumbs to the ducks. When we got home, the rest of the house was up and ready to go.