Let's Get Pickled

My life has always been a roller coaster ride. Since I was a kid. There was constantly something happening. Good. Bad. Or just weird. But it was never quiet. And I can handle that. Each challenge builds new layers of character, armor and honesty in my being. Yes, strangely, for the last few years, things have been mostly manageable and I should have known something was up. About 10 days ago, we were blind-sided. 

On November 13, we received an eviction letter from the owner of the shopping center where the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market is held and has been held since May 2011. Just two months ago, they approved an expansion for the market which nearly doubled our footprint. And then this letter arrives. (For the whole story and all the media to date, click here.)

The letter cited parking as a cause of concern and, due to the holiday season, they were enacting the "early termination" clause in the License Agreement to "reestablish the Sunday parking availability to our tenants and their customers." (Um, I thought we were a tenant...but whatever.)

We immediately attempted to communicate and negotiate with American Assets Trust. They would not return David's phone calls. And when they finally did call back, they were not budging. Unflappable. "We maintain our decision." Unbelievable, we thought. Any good commercial real estate developer or owner knows the intrinsic value of an event that draws thousands of people to your shopping center on a day of the week that is traditionally slow for retail. Nevermind that the farmers market attracts between 2,500-4,000 shoppers each week, 95% of those visitors shop at other stores in the center as well. Why are they really asking us to leave? Something is up and it's not good.

As there appeared no other route or opportunity to negotiate, we let the cat out of the bag calling our media contacts and sending out press releases. The media were all over this story. As they should be. It was David vs. Goliath all over again, really. Oh, and, by the way, Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, too.

Just as the local food movement is trying to gain traction in the San Antonio community, a publicly-held company headquartered in San Diego refuses to even have a conversation about this situation, but instead issues an ultimatum and up-ends nearly 40 small businesses comprised of local farmers, ranchers and food artisans.

Fortunately, when San Antonio got wind of this breaking story last Thursday, all of our phones lit up (and we have 5 lines between the two of us), the texts started coming in and every electrical device we owned started buzzing and dinging and pinging. This story had social media a buzz.

People were not happy and we were flooded with offers for possible new homes. The outpouring of support for our cause has been and continues to be incredible and we are overwhelmed and humbled by the city's adoration for the farmers market and its tenuous circumstances to find a new home in just three weeks. Three weeks before Christmas.

We have received more than 100 offers and suggestions and are carefully assessing each one carefully, without irrational or emotional thinking.

As we take a deep breath this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, and to pause and reflect, our hearts overflow with gratitude. For the many friends who reached out or stepped up to remind me that David and I were not alone in this unexpected situation, for the generous offers we have had for new locations and for the hundreds and perhaps even thousands of market fans who have stood behind us and promised "we will follow you wherever you go," may your hearts be filled with love, hope and gratitude this Thanksgiving holiday and trust that there is always a silver lining in every situation.

Buen provecho!
This is not a Cowgirl Gourmet photo but comes from marthastewart.com
Pickled Shrimp 
The Cowgirl Gourmet thanks Mark Bittman for this recipe that was slightly adapted

Print recipe

To celebrate the potential silver lining in my life over the last ten days, I am sharing with you a recipe that I took to a pig roast with lots of foodie friends in Dripping Springs in mid-November. To lighten up the richness of the roasted pork, I made pickled shrimp which quickly disappeared and had everyone talking. With innumerous holiday meals and parties in the coming weeks, this pickled shrimp appetizer will be a fresh and fun addition to a buffet table filled with the standard mini quiches, cheese balls and spiced nuts.

Serves 6-8

2 pounds U-10 shrimp, peeled, deveined and washed thoroughly
8 cups water
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon allspice berries
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
12 dried bay leaves
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
Apple cider vinegar

Bring water and Old Bay to a boil in pot. Add shrimp and reduce heat to low. Cool about 2 minutes, until shrimp are pink and curled up. Drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to chill. Drain again.

Finely grind the celery seed and allspice in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Transfer powders to a bowl and stir in oil, juice, parsley, salt, chile flakes, garlic and bay leaves.

In a 1-quart glass jar or container, layer shrimp and onions and pour oil mixture over. Add apple cider vinegar to cover shrimp, stir well and cover with lid. Chill overnight before serving.
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