Sara Foster speaks food as others might speak a second language, like Spanish or Mandarin Chinese. A brown paper grocery sack is not something to merely transport foodstuffs; in Sara’s hands, that paper bag becomes a steam-oven, in which to produce a beautiful and succulent spring hen. Radishes are elevated from mere plate-garnish to center stage when they are roasted and added to fresh spinach leaves and soft fresh Chevre. As her fourth cookbook, Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen, proves, she is well-versed in the language of using the very best each season has to offer.
Sara has made a career of sharing her good food with others—as a caterer in Connecticut, working alongside Martha Stewart; as the proprietress of two food emporiums in the North Carolina Research Triangle; and as author of four highly-acclaimed cookbooks. At Foster’s Market, Sara and her staff churn out more than 2,000 meals a day. Her nephew, Patrick Edwards, is the general manager of the Durham location which recently celebrated its 22st anniversary. His bright blue eyes share the same twinkle, belying their kinship. Sara notes, “My sister Judy told me that Patrick may be her son, but he’s mine now.”
Her books have sold thousands and taught legions how to best use a cast iron skillet, select the right potatoes for a salad and make Seven Pepper jelly from a garden’s largesse. But it is through her work as a board member of the downtown Durham non-profit SEEDS program that she most hopes to influence the way folks eat.
Located on a formerly abandoned lot, just a few blocks from the Durham Farmers Market, the mission of the SEEDS Program is “to educate youth and adults through gardening and growing food while cultivating respect for life, for earth and for each other.” Here, a whole new generation of eaters are learning the intrinsic benefits of tilling soil, nurturing seedlings and literally harvest the fruits of their labor. Members of DIG (Durham Inner-city Gardeners) who enjoy successful harvests are likely to be found selling their wares at the nearby market.
Sara’s bright eyes light up when she talks about the SEEDS program and all that is possible there. Here is Sara’s menu for some of those items you might find at the Durham Farmers Market. Capitalizing on the bridge of season that is September, you’ll find both summer peas and fall apples, perfectly complemented by some thick bone-in North Carolina pork chops.
—By Christiana Roussel