Weekly Newsletter: Healthy School Days

Dear Shoppers: We continue to see great crowds at most of our markets, and we thank all of you for keeping us alive these last few months of the summer season markets. And let this be the official announcement that the Fairfax Corner, Oakton and Gainesville markets will all be year-round markets — as will the new George Mason University market with time off when the students are not on campus. Our weekend markets will be open every weekend up until Christmas except for the weekend following Thanksgiving. We have been closed that weekend in the past, but we would be happy if shoppers shared their thoughts about that idea. We will then schedule some days off in the coldest months, especially since we will be blessed once again with an indoor location at Fairfax Corner. It will not be terribly inconvenient for any of you who really can’t wait another week for Tommy V’s salsa!

I have been thinking this week about the start of a new school year and what it means for our children’s food options for the next nine months. I have noticed some items at the markets that can really help if you want to send a good lunch to school with your kids and have a variety of healthy alternatives awaiting them when they get home in the afternoon.

Today I asked John Panas, owner of Bonjour La Parisienne bakery, whether he would bring each week the small ciabatta squares that he had with him. And he indicated that he would. Maureen Becker, our awesome market manager at Reston, buys several packages of them at a time when they are available. They are the perfect canvas for paninis — or for any sandwich — and they can be kept in the freezer and removed one by one, providing a permanent supply in no danger of molding or drying out before they are eaten. You can also buy Bonjour La Parisienne’s sourdough, whole wheat, rye and pumpernickel breads already sliced for the convenience of whoever makes the lunches in your house. Great Harvest is also looking after you and the kids with great loaves with all kinds of added ingredients that children love. In some cases the bread alone is a wholesome snack!

And of course the apples were made for lunching and snacking, and that good ole Healthy Homemade Applesauce can also be made in large quantities, frozen in small ones and used as ice packs in lunch boxes for a slushy treat at lunchtime. Hint: I always sprinkle a little cinnamon on each small quantity before it goes into the freezer.

Moving around the market today, I was also reminded as we see the tomatoes fading into fall that my mother wanted us to have the complete sandwich every day, so she faithfully and delicately wrapped our tomato slices in waxed paper (no baggies then!) for us to add when we sat down to lunch. This was to save us from a soggy mess. What I also remembered was that usually — no matter what else was on the sandwich, ham or bologna or chicken — my younger sister would remove the meat, leave the tomato slices untouched and eat it as a mayonnaise sandwich, bringing all the other uneaten items home with her nearly every day. My mother never gave up; my sister didn’t either. Of course, my sister was in heaven at the drive-in in Cordele, Georgia, where for the first time in my life at six years old I tasted mayonnaise on a hamburger. I hated it then, but I like it now when I make it myself and have that great lettuce and tomato on it too.

Still moving across the market, I noticed the variety of cheeses we have at the market — all of which are great candidates for sandwich fixins. We have spreadable goat cheeses and cream cheese mixed with all kinds of good stuff, and Mennonite swiss and cheddar cheese with lots of good things added to them too such as herbs and spices and hot peppers.

We have meats that you can broil or grill on the weekend and slice for sandwiches all week long — brisket and flank steak from Angelic Beef and Croftburn Farm, sausages from Simply Sausage, and cured meats from Lothar Erbe, as well as Heritage Farm and Walnut Hill chickens for chicken salad.

And of course we must have cookies — no harm in a sweet ending to a healthy lunch. Mountain Creek sells wonderful cookies and cake slices, and we soon hope to have Mountain Top cookies at more of our markets. But if it is your preference, this is where that applesauce could also satisfy a sweet tooth with no added sugar at all.

And then we have Borekg’s hummus and dips and salads and Mabelle-Dalmasso’s empanadas and Tommy V’s salsa — all good ideas for lunch or an afternoon snack — all healthy and local too!

So you really have no excuse for not being able to adhere to your principles: You can Buy Fresh and Buy Local for your kids too. For at least some of those lunchbox meals, you can feel really good about what you send with them. Let’s just hope you don’t get most of the sandwich back as a token of their appreciation when they come bounding in the door hungry for a snack! Now there’s a challenge for the intrepid recycler!

See you at the market!