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May 13, 2014

Rose Simpson: I'd like to go to the Farmer's Market, but I've run out of gas

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina. You can read her previous columns here.

Photo by Scott Troyer

I was so damned excited that the Ottawa Farmer's Market was opening this weekend, I nearly wet myself. Going to the market has become one of the great rituals of each summer.

Scott and I have a route. We start up the left side of Market (which is located if you don't know across from Carleton University, which does its part by trying to gouge visitors for parking even though there is free parking in the neighborhood). We like to compare prices and produce, chat up the farmers, ask them about their winters.

Then we veer left talk to the Yak lady and Carleton the Jamaican sauce guy. Along the way, we buy eggs from John the egg guy and some wonderful Lanark cheese.

On the right side, there is hot sauce and honey, baby booties and dog biscuits. By the time we're done, in past years, we've dropped $65 on a wonderful variety of colorful gnarly carrots and weird vegetables. The big treat is always, come June, when my homies from Niagara boot down the 401 to deliver luscious tender fruit and jams. Makes me feel like a farm kid again, except for the fact I have to shell out cash instead of being able to pick my itchy peaches from their mothers.

By the end of our route, if we still have a few loonies left, we spend them some wonderful Artisan bread baked fresh overnight. That bread, literally, is a gift from God.

Going to the market is like spending time in paradise once a week; it gives a person a reason to live another day.

Alas, this year, our visits will become infrequent. It's not that we are bored -- that's never the case -- it's just that we're too broke to spend the extra two dollars on something we can get at Farm Boy. It's sad to say but we'll probably only go to the Market a few times this year, lest temptation get the better of us.

It's the economy, stupid.

We simply cannot afford to support the 100 mile diet anymore. With no work in sight for me, I'm sometimes a step away from the Food Bank thanks to high Hydro bills and looney-tune water bills. And we're the lucky ones. At least Scott has a good full-time retail job and a pension.

Still, it's hard to make ends meet these days, what with helping the under-employed kids in the basement who are working at Target and can't seem to get enough hours. So I batch cook a lot of spaghetti sauces and muffins to tide us over on the weeks we're living on fumes.

I am Mother Hubbard with the cupboard nearly empty, a person who is so skilled with "making do" that I can throw together inexplicable ingredients and make a fairly good meal. For instance, before Nick came up with the rent on Friday, I was making honey bran muffins using egg substitutes, whole wheat flour and Almond milk instead of the regular ingredients because I'd run out of white flour, eggs and milk. Thank God for All Bran cereal which Nick found for a buck at Giant Tiger. He also scored a vat of honey for less than ten bucks.

During the lean days, I rely on Air Miles for gas and Loblaws for groceries. But this time, I hadn't figured that I had to pay the tax first, so my $50 in Loblaws points were useless -- unless I borrow five bucks from somebody.

Too bad I'd spent my last $100 on medication for my gallbladder and parking for doctor visits. It's a bitch getting old. My friend Doris spent nearly a thousand dollars on extras when her husband Bob landed in the hospital last week, what with parking, Boost to supplement the pureed shit they made Bob eat and equipment rental, Doris was running through her money pretty quickly last week, so I gave her some of my muffins and soup. In these depressing days, sometimes the only thing that makes us smile is the helping hand of another person who is knee deep in it on the ferris wheel of shit.

I used to be stressed out but now I just roll along, shopping sales, using all my loyalty cards. I do a pretty good job of making sure that we eat all natural, unpackaged food, but even then, I was blindsided this week by a severe allergy to mangoes of all things that left me with a thick, itchy red mask. I went to the doctor who gave me a prescription of cream and Benadryl, but I didn't have money for them so I settled on using Scott's old steroid cream and a two year old bottle of Calamine lotion I found sitting in the cupboard.

The good news is that I have identified the villain in the gallbladder piece. It's a stone the size of a moon rock that keeps getting stuck in my bile duct. The bad news is there is nothing I can do to prevent another gallbladder attack. Doctor Ben simply says if it hurts, go to the hospital and maybe if I'm lucky, the good docs will take out my gallbladder.

But then I'd have to be dropped off because I can't afford the parking.

It's the circle of life for the under-employed in Ontario these days. No relief insight.

Tim Hudak wants to lay off more government workers who will then use their Master's degrees and government-sponsored French lessons to bump the kids out of their ghetto jobs.

Kathleen Wynne is too busy battling the hologram of Stephen Harper she has in her head to care about me, the writer with nothing to write but this blog, which I write for free. And Andrea Horwath, she's too busy bashing the other two to come up with any real policies, except maybe for daycare and I'm too old to care about that.

The real issues in the Ontario election aren't big issues, they're little ones. Farmers are losing customers who can't buy their stuff because the customers are having to shop at Giant Tiger for honey and Bran Flakes. Sick people and their rellies are having to pay up to $20 bucks a day just for parking and enormous out of pocket fees. And a lot of us are scraping by, hoping to bank a lot of great depression era memories to share with our grandkids.

Oh well, at least it's a nice day.

As I say, I'd like to go to the Farmer's Market, but I've run out of gas.


-- Rose Simpson


See also: Ottawa Food Markets
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