Mid-day nourishment refuels our metabolic fire. Schoolchildren, eager for springtime recess, inhale a sandwich with a carton of milk before dashing outside to play. Seniors gather at the table to savor the importance of a shared community meal. Business professionals flood local restaurants to break from screen time at work. Construction crews rest their legs on site.
Three to five hours after breakfast, blood sugars fall and replenishment at lunch is important. “Eat the fruit first,” I said to my kids as they’d head off to school. I encouraged them to consume what they enjoyed least first because consumption on low blood sugar makes any food taste sweeter.
School lunch programs began in the early 1900s with concerns that a large percentage of the nation’s children suffered from malnutrition. Women’s organizations rallied efforts to provide nutritious warm meals for neighboring schoolchildren. In 1946, Congress approved the National School Lunch Act, partly in response to the problem of young men repeatedly being rejected from military service due to conditions arising from malnutrition.
So there’s no doubt about the need to eat lunch, but sometimes the sandwich routine can get a little stale. Ben Larratt has the solution. As chef manager of the Main Market Co-op in downtown Spokane, Larratt, who previously worked at Bittersweet Bakery, relishes the challenge of creating meals for the lunch crowd.
“I love food. Fifteen years of work, on both coasts, has given me a wealth of mentors and ideas,” he says. “The idea of working at Main Market appealed to me. We try, as much as possible, to use seasonal local ingredients in our deli case.”
The Main Market deli rotates a selection of hot and cold entrees, and made-to-order sandwiches. Two daily soups, plus a variety of grab-and-go foods, are available for those in a hurry. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are always available, and everything is made from scratch. The Main Market Co-op’s Facebook page is updated daily with soup and sandwich specials.
“I like that the co-op has a mission statement; it gives greater purpose to my efforts here,” reflects Larratt. That statement is: “Nourishing the community at the table. Main Market Cooperative contributes to a healthier and more resilient Inland Northwest, one bite at a time. Member Owned, Locally Driven.”
Membership at Main Market Co-op is optional, however the benefits are unique. Where else in town can you rent a freezer locker for your side of locally raised beef? Opportunities are available to meet the producers and travel to the sources of the meat and produce carried by the market. Discounted cooking classes help members learn about healthy and sustainable food choices.
And the building’s just plain cool. A former auto body shop, Main Market Co-op was revamped using recycled building materials. Solar panels and a system to capture heat generated by refrigeration heat water to help save energy, while an industrial composter turns waste into compost that is either sold to farmers or used to fertilize the Co-Op’s rooftop garden. Also on the roof, rainwater is collected and stored in tanks under the parking lot for use in irrigating the garden and landscape. The raised rooftop garden beds in turn help absorb sunlight, keeping the building cooler in the summer.
Warm weather will mean it’s time to raise the two large glass garage doors for outdoor seating off the deli dining area. Larratt says he’s looking forward to riding his bike to work again.
“I like the healthy atmosphere Main Market promotes for its staff and shoppers.”
Pacific Northwest Shasta Lentil Salad
“The recipe I chose utilizes lentils. The Palouse is the lentil capital of the world. These legumes are colorful, rich in fiber, protein and flavor.” — Main Market Chef Ben Larratt
2 cups yellow or green lentils
1 cup spinach
1 tablespoon diced red onion
3 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons chopped flat parsley
3 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 oranges, zest and juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 ounces canola oil
Salt and pepper
Pour 1 quart of water in large pot and lentils (pre-rinsed) and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until tender but still firm. Rinse with cold water and refrigerate for an hour. Toast hazelnuts for 10 minutes until golden. Assemble lentils, goat cheese, spinach, onion and parsley in medium mixing bowl. Add hazelnuts and mix through. Salt and pepper to taste.
Zest and juice oranges into small mixing bowl. Add vinegar, Dijon mustard and sugar, whisking until mustard dissolves. Whisk in oil or combine using a food processor until the mixture emulsifies. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add dressing to lentil mixture and toss gently. Leftover dressing will keep in fridge for two weeks.
Yield: 6 (4-ounce) servings
NUTRITION: 330 calories, 16 grams total fat, 31 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 13 grams fiber