Celebrating 70 glorious years of market magic
April Fool's Day may be over, but sometimes it can seem like modern life is making permanent mugs of us. After all, who really benefits from being able to shop 24/7?
Most of us work way more than is good for our health, just so we can pay for the supposed pleasures that the retail and entertainment industries provide, even though a radically simple solution to stress and fast-track to personal fulfilment can be found right under our noses in our local country market.
Certainly, I've been a convert to the cause since I moved to this country town, where mooching down to the market to buy Brendan's brown bread and other sundries is an integral part of most Saturdays.
Occasionally I end up with something I didn't know I needed, like a hand-carved mirror inscribed with "Bald as a Coot" that I haven't dared give to any of my bald pals.
So it's no wonder that Country Markets Ltd is celebrating 70 years selling such gems, which is no mean feat, given it has never sold out. These beacons against big-city bedlam have stuck to their locally produced guns, despite fads, fashions and decades of economic downturns or decadent excess.
And it's just as well, for these resilient rural networks are more relevant than ever in this era of obesity and epidemic depression. It's high time we heeded their powerful mantra that the key to health and happiness can often be found on our doorsteps. There's a vast difference between co-operate and corporate, though the spelling is almost identical. Country Markets' core belief that the whole community benefits from buying locally grown produce and crafted goods challenges this alienated age of corporate capitalism. Its co-operative ethos is an under-the-radar antithesis to the modern disease of disconnection.
If you hunger for more, the organisation has produced a cookbook to mark its anniversary. It is (homemade) jam-packed with neighbourly nuggets of wisdom, such as the secret to personal satisfaction lies in making things, rather than buying cheap imports. It also gives the clean-eating industry a run for its money, having always championed fresh food that is locally grown, cooked at home and eaten in moderation.
It's not rocket science - just rural sense.
The book maps an Ireland of marketeers, with recipes from Bandon to Ballina; Naas to Nenagh; Westport and North Wicklow, where alongside classics like Porridge Bread and Donegal Champ are exotic dishes like Teriyaki Tofu Burger and Chinese Moon Cakes. Surely, not only the fairies would fancy a sup of Elderflower Champagne to go with their Hedgerow Jelly and Stuffed Nettle Roulade?
Household hints include instructions on how to use a cup of coffee as a barometer, though only a fool would need one in order to forecast an equally bright future for Country Markets.
Because it's the best thing since before sliced bread!