Eating in? Shop the farmers markets for healthful food fare
Ken Musselwhite first started making tofu 15 years ago but became serious about it when he purchased Cal’s Kitchen in 2006. The business is a family affair, operated by three generations.
Every Saturday Musselwhite sets up a booth at the Certified Farmers Market in downtown Chico, selling his tofu and handing out samples of other products such as vegan mock-egg salad and garlic pesto.
People often have a bad association with tofu because the kind sold in stores is usually mass-produced and weeks old, thus making it slimy and weak, he said.
“It’s hard to convince people it does taste like something,” said Musselwhite, whose tofu is made fresh every day. The end result of the hours-long effort is a product so firm and flavorful it doesn’t need to be cooked.
“It’s artistic. People don’t get that part of it,” he said. “It’s elusive.”
Musselwhite also tries to be environmentally conscious in business, even to the extent that everyone in his family—in-laws included—shares one car. Living in what he calls a “little oasis” has made that doable.
If people want to live sustainably, Chico makes it easy, especially with the amount of local food available.
Farmers markets provide a feast for more than the belly. To see how, try this experiment at the Saturday market: With eyes closed breathe in the sensual smell of fresh strawberries, plump and sugar-sweet. Move to another spot for the enticing odor of green onions, or the fragrant smell of sage and wildflowers.
Listen to the chatter of many different languages: Hmong, Spanish, English and others murmuring over the laughter of a crowded sidewalk. Imagine being at an international bazaar in Madrid, or perhaps Istanbul.
Now look around and take in what is an oasis of food fare. The market meets rain or shine year round on Saturdays on the corner of Second and Wall streets.
A quick glance around the venue reveals several booths with signs that read “certified organic.” Organic may be the buzzword these days but “local” is the real selling point of this market. Shopping there supports area farmers, who in most cases personally sell their goods.
It isn’t like shopping at a grocery store where the avocadoes are transported from Chile and kiwis were frozen for their flight from Paraguay. Produce from the market comes straight from Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties.
A variety of fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year, but during the spring and summertime the market is abounding with seasonal favorites such as tomatoes as big as grapefruits and vine-ripened peaches.
Several vendors also sell specialty items including local wines, organic meat, honey, jewelry, cheese, chai and that delicious handmade tofu.