The Blog

Farmers' Markets and Pop-ups: I Should've got Gyozas

You're finally holding your chosen container, nibbling what's inside on the way to somewhere seated - and eyes are fixated on you.

You're finally holding your chosen container, nibbling what's inside on the way to somewhere seated - and eyes are fixated on you.

'How've they made up their mind?' question some. 'Are they seriously already having a full meal?' murmur others.

A few are judging, discerning; even mocking your decision. Others are simply looking on with envy, yearning for the same, struggling to understand how you managed to actually come to terms with the fact that really, there's only really one option to be taken in entirety.

On Sunday I went for the curry - a rich chicken tandoori, with velvety daal and a samosa. The garlic wafted amid the staring crowds. In sunshine, hungover, there's nothing better.

Farmers' markets and 'street feasts' are magical affairs. Within ten minutes you journey from India to Japan, travel from a French charcuterie to a strange homemade contraption that makes ginger beer for £1.50 a pop. And it doesn't taste of sweeteners or flavourings, but of - at least I imagine - Victorian afternoons beside riverbanks.

The problem is with so many nourishing wonders it's hard to come to terms with it all. Skipping from samples of locally-made sausages to little squares of brownies on cocktail sticks, it's almost tortuous to realise that only one, or perhaps two, will actually become a full meal.

Sure, there's overeating to be done - it doesn't have to end with one paper plate of falafels and hummus. But nobody can have it all. And that's painful. As the first dish is finished there's always the dramatic revelation that you're actually fuller than you thought.

Because while strolling amid stalls there's no way of avoiding popping in cubes of artisan rye all smothered in chutney, tucking into cubes of cheese, munching on vegetable batons. Quite rightly, you've said, 'oh okay then, I'll give it a try', to just about everything thrust in your direction.

It's impossible to hold any reserve of course, not at these events. They're always affordable, wholesome; only scroungers or those on hunger strike are able to leave without having enjoyed half a farm and most of an orchard.

But when surrounded by so many nationalities, dishes, and cultures, experiences are so often bitter sweet. As soon as the die is cast you always have to pass all the other stalls that didn't cut the mustard. Although they could have, that's the thing. How on earth are we supposed to decide between jerk chicken and lamb tagine?

Yes, farmers' markets and evening pop-ups are some of food's greatest accomplishments, vital components of the industry; they're also mean, testing times where everyone's stuck in a constant whirl of indecisiveness.

For when you finally bite into that sweet smelling pork bun, however good the sauce may be and however tender the meat, you suddenly become aware of the fact that actually, you wanted six gyozas. And a massive hot dog.