Today we went to the Farmers Market at the Festival Plaza in downtown Shreveport near the banks of the Red River. We arrived at 7 AM, but there was already a long line of customers waiting to buy fresh corn from the Bailey Farms trailer filled with sacks from the fields of the Mennonite colony in Arkansas. The crowds were otherwise fairly light, but within a short time, the plaza was filled with folks of all descriptions, and the vendors were busy selling their wares. Unscene Shreveport is an ongoing project of the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, who are trying to revitalize the riverfront while bringing new ideas about art and food to the community. The executive director, Pam Atchison, met with Sarah and Evan, along with local chef, Jason Brady, to plan events of the day and to talk about the cooking challenge.
Amateur cooks were encouraged to participate in a free cook-off using a “secret” ingredient from the farmers market. The entrants drew their assignments from a big basket – either tomatoes or squash. It was interesting to see how many were puzzled about what to do with tomatoes, which were in abundance – ripe or green, big or small, heirloom or otherwise. There were lots of choices for squash as well.
On Monday evening, contestants were to return with eight helpings of their dish. Sarah, Evan, and Jason would be the judges and also cook a meal from market selections. Then there would be a sort of covered-dish supper with all the entrants invited to sample their competitors’ offerings. Extra points for using more ingredients from the market. As we wandered around the plaza we saw the bounty of the Ark-La-Tex (the region where the three states come together with Shreveport as the unofficial capital) There were berries of all kinds, fresh watermelons, authentic Louisiana pralines by Dardie, fried pies, fresh and pickled quail eggs, hen’s eggs, meat of several varieties, cookies, cupcakes, bread, goat cheese, and on an on.
I’m looking forward to Monday.