Saturday, May 4, 2013, was market day in my home town of Weiz. Every Wednesday and Saturday, local farmers from the area come to the main square and offer their products for sale. Having lived for many years in Toronto, Canada, I notice that people’s consciousness of food is generally much greater in Europe. Many people in big cities here still buy all their food from the supermarket and don’t question where it’s coming from. A lot of Europeans, on the other hand, will carefully select quality products, even drive to specific farmers and producers to pick up a certain product. And of course many, like my family, grow their own vegetables and fruits. There is something truly beautiful to this culinary awareness and many people are much more concerned about eating less, but higher quality foods.
Some of the typical local products offered on the twice weekly farmers’ market include farm fresh eggs, delicious home-made rye bread, smoked pork, various spirits and different kind of schnapps as well as pumpkin seed oil, a delicacy from my native province of Styria. It is thick, dark green in colour and has a nutty flavour and is perfect for any salad. Styrian pumpkin seed oil is the one product that I always miss during the rest of the year when I am back in Toronto. (Fortunately, there are now a few suppliers who have started importing it, which will make my salads a lot tastier again..)
In the afternoon we visited my sister-in-law’s family where I got to admire a garden full of spring flowers. It’s always wonderful to connect with family and friends during a trip back home. Later, in the evening, I was invited at a birthday party of one of my best friends in the quaint small village of St. Kathrein am Offenegg, a popular tourist destination not far from my home town. The village is really cute, and the hotel where our party took place, the Wellness Hotel Eder, offers a great view over the surrounding countryside.
My good friend Andrea, who is my frequent travel partner and a real soul mate, was celebrating a big birthday and more than 40 people from countries such as Canada, England and Italy were in attendance. Altogether, people had travelled more than 12,000 km collectively to join Andrea in her celebrations. Andrea and I have already travelled together in Ontario, in London and last year we went skiing in the Austrian Alps. She is one of those like-minded souls who loves exploring and connecting with people from other places.
The menu was absolutely amazing, we got treated with smoked salmon tatar, followed by curried cream soup with crisp breadsticks, then with a choice of beef pot roast with polenta and red cabbage or tagliatelle noodles with pumpkin sauce and Arzberger Stollenkäse, a local cheese that is aged inside the tunnels of an old silver mine. All this was followed by a scrumptious dessert that included chocolate cake accompanied by fresh strawberries. The hearts of all the foodies around the room were beating faster with this selection of delicacies.
We watched a nice slide show, a humorous and loving tribute by Andrea’s husband at the occasion of her big birthday and got to see a photo compilation from her childhood up to the present. I even got to speak a little bit of Italian with one of Andrea’s friends who was seated next to me. I had a fabulous time and got home very late around 2 am and tried to rest up for our big plans over the next couple of days: an excursion to Austria’s Salzkammergut, the picturesque lake district that was made famous by the cult classic “Sound of Music”.