Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can I Feed You?

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig.

Well, I've never bought a fat pig at a market but I've sure acted like one. By rights, I should be dead by now for the many market atrocities for which I've been responsible over the years. Earlier this spring I was at the Boyce Farmers Market in Fredericton when I discovered my latest sugar coated muse...freshly made mini donuts.

Do you remember one of my earlier blog postings, from 1812 or thereabouts, when I spoke of my childhood fascination with the greasy pooping donut machine at K-Mart of the late 1960s? Well, suuuuuuuuu-eeeeeeeeeee, I squealed like a fat pig the day I discovered freshly pinched, deep fried dough rings at the market. It was lust at first sight, love at first bite. I was smitten.

Of course the mini, or baby, donuts are horrible for you. They will kill you if you let them. There were twelve in the bag, and after eating (is it considered eating if you inhale them without chewing?) eight of them I decided that I'd better hide the remaining four.

Share them? What, are you nuts?

Like Gollum's 'precious', these were mine. After about thirty seconds I decided to put the doughnuts away for later. Yes, I was mature enough to hide the last four donuts...sadly, I hid them in my stomach. It was about six weeks ago that I ate those dozen little temptresses. They cost about three dollars, but I've saved about eight dollars in toilet paper...still waiting for my colon to re-awaken. One of these days I'm going to grow up and realize that I have no will power. I am weak to sugar and oil in the same manner that Brian is weak to stuffed envelopes.

Oh yes, I have a weakness. I love farmers markets, they bring out the worst in me...gluttony. At the Kingston Farmers Market it's the freshly made potato chips. I can't stop eating them. I wonder if smokers look at me and say 'that guy's addicted'. Druggies look down at me 'he needs help'. If you are what you eat, then I'm fried. Deeply, almost morbidly, fried.

Oddly enough, my addition at the Saint John City Market does not orbit around 'bad' food. On the contrary, I always try to go to the port city's market on Saturdays, the only day that I can hear those magic four words...

"Can I feed you?"

Yes, Habib, you certainly can. Habib Kilisli is the greatest marketer in the world. He's the Walt Disney of Turkish food. Habib, and wife Turkan, are the most lovable purveyors of ethnic food in New Brunswick, if not the galaxy. If you stacked the diminutive Habib on the equally diminutive Turkan, then he might be able to look me in the eyes, but only if Turkan went on her tippy-toes. In my eyes, though, they are giants. I've been a fan of the Kilisli's food for many, many years (long before I became a non-religious, gluttonous Quaker wannabe). Now, when I visit, I take great joy in watching Habib market his delicacies. Here's how he does it (it's so simple): someone walks past his stall and Habib simply, and genuinely, says "can I feed you?"

He is not joking. I've gone to his market stall on an empty stomach and walked away half full. For his generosity, he asks for nothing in return. You would never hear him give someone a piece of Turkish flatbread with some tzatziki, then say 'tzatziki, four dollar'. He's got way too much class to market like that; besides, he doesn't have to. His products (tzatziki, hummus, baba ghanoush, cabbage rolls, baklava, flatbreads, sun-dried tomato breads, sambusek...I'm forgetting about eight other items, most of which I can't spell) make ketchup weep. Peanut butter bawl. Wonder Bread wonder (wonder why it's so horribly devoid of flavour and substance). Habib sells very healthy and natural food that sells itself, no Wonder.

This gives Habib the luxury of having the ultimate marketing tool: the sample. He and Turkan's food is so outrageously delicious. It's every marketer's dream...selling a product that's so unbelievably great that people will beat a path to your door. Supermarkets occasionally adopt this strategy. We've all seen the bored 'sample lady', dressed up like a pharmacist, trying to offer us a Pillsbury Pizza pop in a Dixie cup. It's not authentic. Habib and Turkan are the real deal.

The mini donut people could learn a lesson from Habib. They could easily double their sales by having a front man, or woman, handing out samples. I have a work related allergy (it's called work), so I could never be a paid front man for the mini donut people, but there's nothing in my Leisurologists Union contract that prohibits volunteer work. I can think of one good reason that they need me, and a dozen reasons why I need them.


  1. You are a genius!

  2. I too love the farmers market because it feels like because it is fresh it mustn't have calories. It feels guilt free. Also because I feel like I'm supporting food at its' source which I know makes the 100 mile people very happy. So eating that fresh good stuff not only is calorie free, I'm saving the planet too. Long live the summer markets!

  3. I was looking for Sambusek online after buying some at the Saint John Market from the wonderful first introduction to she and her equally wonderful husband. Walking by, Turkan asked 'Can I feed you'.....and she did, samples of everything that they sell, on Saturdays only. Needing to choose from the delicious selection, as I was about to board a plane, I selected the Sambusek, the round bread with seeds, and the best taboulleh that I have ever tasted. Tonight they will be dinner here in Toronto.....
    Thank you so much for your insightful profile of these 2 wonderful purveyors of home made Middle Eastern cuisine......

    Judy Lank