By Salai Thura Zaw, Myanmar (Burma)
18th July 2015
Time passes so quickly. The day we will depart from Missoula becomes closer and closer. Although I have been staying here for a short time, I become accustomed to living in such beautiful land and friendly community. Some people asked, “How do you like Missoula?”. I exactly love Missoula. I love mountains, rivers and the blue sky. I love those friendly people and the way they love the nature.
Today I also had a chance to learn how people in Missoula conserve the nature, and promoting public health through encouraging organic farming and providing healthy foods. We went to Clark Fork Market to buy some necessary ingredients for our potluck dinner. The market is situated in downtown Missoula, under the Higgins Bridge just east of Caras Park and alongside the Clark Fork River. The products available at the market include locally-produced fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, organic dairy products, flowers, baked goods, honey, and other products from local farmers, ranchers and chefs. There are also some counter where breakfast, lunch, hot and cold drinks are available. Live music at the market also makes the customers feel relaxed and enjoy shopping.
We had a chance to meet with market manager, Franco Salazar who discussed the actions taken by the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition and the specific effects that the market has had on area farmers and ranchers. Agriculture such as farms and cattle ranching has been central to Missoula history, and the market is set up to preserve those agricultural lands, to promote sustainable farming systems, and to help people access to nutritious, affordable and culturally appropriate food. There are about 110 vendors in the market and the market is open from May to October on every Saturday. The farmers are friendly and they kindly answered the questions from customers and also from us.
Another thing we learned is the “Food Stamp”. It is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people living in the U.S. It is a federal aid program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Mr. Franco said they accept food stamps in this market and have a program trying to encourage people to buy local organic foods and staffs, by doubling the amount of food stamps, for example, if someone comes in with 20 dollars, then doubled to 40. It reflects the attempt of government and the Coalition to provide healthy foods to the community and to maintain sustainable agriculture.
The market is also a part of Missoula’s charm, and we had a great shopping time through enjoying live music and having teriyaki for our lunch. We had a great chance to enjoy live music by Brian Ernst who is on eco-touring with solar-powered bus and with 20 instruments and a looping pedal.
In the afternoon, we Myanmar team, Cambodia team and Laos team went to Dr. Len’s home to cook for dinner, and Thailand and Vietnamese teams went to Deena’s home to cook. We tried to cook to our best by learning and helping each other. It gave me lessons how to cooperate and work together effectively in a given time and situation within our own group and partnership with others. We Myanmar team cooked Monhingar (Fish soup with rice noodle), Lat-phat-thoke (pickled tea leaves, fried beans and dried shrimp, and hta-min-thoke (rice salad). Cambodia team cooked grilled fish and apple salad, Khmer traditional vegetable soup, and fried vegetable with fish. Laos team cooked Oc Lam Mou (Prok Lao style strew), Cucumber Spicy Salad, Fish Soup in Lao style, and Jeaw Bong and Mekong dried River weed. Thailand team cooked Tom Yum, Larb, and Pab Puk, and Vietnamese team cooked Pork and eggs, Sweet and sour salad, and Spring rolls. After preparing our dinner, we enjoyed such delicious meals at Deena’s house. Everyone loves the food, and the words, “yummy” and “taste really good” were flying in our dining room. In my opinion, the most important and secret element for those delicious meals are not the good ingredients and recipes, but the care and love that we all put into the food while preparing it.
Looking forward to enjoying potluck dinner all together again! 🙂