Where bargains mingle with new ideas, products and unusual folk … and people with the interest and the time can browse and cherry pick.
… are often the quirks and caprice of people who see the odd, the whimsical, the uncommon (or the unexpected) and who bring it all together at a single venue for a few hours or a few days.
Regularly held in hotel ballrooms and school compounds, in atria and on sidewalks, these seasonal happenings offer many opportunities to chance upon the new and exciting in these collections of goods (and services) from all over the world – stalls upon stalls of treasures to be discovered; the unusual, the exciting, the novel, the new, the foreign … crystal jewelry from Canada, honed, polished and faceted, vegetable-dyed threaded bracelets from the villages of Chiang Mai, gemstones and silver accessories from India, cushion covers from Thailand, holiday homes in Bali, ballet shoes and personalized children’s CD’s, toy tractors and pashmina shawls, costumes and mind games, food and organic fair trade clothing, greeting cards, art boards, handmade paper goods …
Many of the vendors are Singapore-based expatriate housewives or small and medium sized businesses; many travel from neighboring countries – Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia – and some showcase merchandise from as far away as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Europe, China and France.
Visitors, locals and expatriates, regulars and walk-ins (all are welcome) can get details online, or from expat magazines, club newsletters, direct mails and flyers. Singapore Fairs is an interactive directory of fairs and open-houses with information on participating vendors (including contact details), product photos and price guides. (It also offers news on upcoming art exhibitions, furniture outlets, holiday villas, well being and sports). A free monthly newsletter provides the low-down on events and venues. Honeycombers is another online listing of what the day – or the month – has in store, and the die-hard shopaholic-bargain-hunter can always check out Flea Markets on FaceBook.
(Most events offer a Lucky Draw with extravagant sponsored prizes. The opportunity to win carpets, tribal rugs, wine bottles, coffee table books, dinner vouchers and spa sessions is a major crowd-puller).
A Farmer’s Market takes place on the first Saturday of every month (9.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.) at Loewen Gardens in Singapore. On offer are a tempting range of products – gourmet meats, wines, organic vegetables, cheeses, breads, home-made delicacies, gluten-free goodies and more.
It has become a much anticipated weekend happening, and brings to mind another Farmer’s Market that lingers as a fond memory – a Sunday affair in the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide, in the heritage town of Willunga.
Recalling another Farmer’s Market
That Farmer’s Market was an epicurean delight, where grizzled farmers and beatnik eco-adventurers traded goods and news with visitors, chefs, gourmands and comfortably plump mothers; where recipes were discussed and exchanged, new offerings tasted, aromas inhaled and appreciated. In the background, raucous white corellas hovered in the wind-tossed silver grey gum trees, children ran around and sausages sizzled on the grill while dogs ambled alongside families. Budding musicians played halting Mozart on the cello and people sat at occasional tables sipping cappuccino’s, lattes & flat whites, breakfasting on bruschettas with chorizo, tomato, roast capsicum, rocket & parsley oil or onion & tomato relish rolls or falafel, salad & yoghurt in warm pita bread.
A morning spent in delightful anticipation of the evening’s dinner, while browsing stalls of almonds and olives and honey, smoked fish and cheeses, herbs and vegetables and a million other little things, every one of them quaint and fresh off the land.
A sprig of parsley, a paper bag of field mushrooms, one red Williams pear, a summer fruit. The Cleopatra Combo (full cream milk, pure Jersey cream, creme fraiche) or a wedge of feta ? Fresh mountain strawberries ? Chutney ? A relish ? Greens ? Yes please to some smoked rainbow trout, a bottle of olive oil, some of the chermoula dip, aubergines, peppers, sprigs of basil, a bunch of rocket, a bag of arugula and a pat of freshly churned butter. Oh, and some flowers for the table ?
The planning and shopping eventually came together in the cool twilight of an evening, beginning with a bottle of sparkling, chilled Jansz, followed by Tapanappa Trout Farm’s rainbow trout with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a pinch of parsley, dukkah alongside a bowl of Talinga Grove’s freshly-pressed garlicky olive oil and wedges of a crusty French loaf … crackers with the Moroccan chermoula dip … pasta tossed with venison chorizo sausages, char-grilled peppers, eggplant, Roma tomatoes, roasted garlic, pepper and fresh basil … a crisp salad of pear, arugula and rocket … mixed field mushrooms in garlic pepper … wedges of Parmesan, Peppato (Romano with pepper corns) and Gouda … all washed down with a Yalumba viognier and a fine Australian cab sauv.
What better way to spend a weekend morning than with the family and out in the sun; this back-to-the-goodness-of-the-earth respite before the onset of another Monday, this hiatus of gourmet food, lovingly prepared and shared with those you love and treasure ?
Photographs by Anita Thomas.