Saturday, August 09, 2014

Kale and klezmer

Farmer's market love-hate, the eternal topic. Mark Bittman wants us to feel OK about swapping our checking account for a small handful of really top-notch tomatoes. I want to feel OK about having done so this morning. Current objections, though, are as follows:

-The markets here are either Thursday from 11-4 (tough if you have what South Park once referred to as a jerb) or Saturdays 9-1 (tough if you have any sleep to catch up on from the week, or if you did anything other than anticipate the following morning's produce options on Friday night).

-I do live in a big produce-growing region. But for obvious population-density reasons, the local farms ship their goods to the city. I doubt if lettuce season is actually over (in fact, the presence of local lettuce at the supermarket suggests it's not), but at the market today it seemed to be.

-As Bittman says, "Farmers’ markets are not just markets. They’re educational systems that teach us how food is raised and why that matters." And, indeed, everyone on front of you in line demands copious education. For themselves or, if bringing kids, for the kids as well. If this has to happen at each stand, it can go from convivial to there goes the day rather quickly.

-The number of cars parked near the market this morning in no way matched up with the amount of produce available. This is a thing to do, a place to listen to pesticide-free banjo klezmer music or whatever, but not by any means an alternative to the supermarket.

-Buying kale or chard doesn't necessarily mean going on to eat either. Although I'm now starting to see where that green-juice fad emerged from. Other people probably also had fridges full of uneaten bitter greens, and, in attempt to do something with them, threw them into the blender.


Anonymous said...

I really want Bittman to go try life in a food desert for several years and then go shut the hell up. But life in the non-rich parts of Los Angeles gave me no patience for holier than thou food advice. (Also, like many who write for the New York Times, his sense of seasoning tends towards the bland, and he apparently has something against good tofu cooked traditionally?)

I am in another food producing region, but one that ships to the rest of the country. All we have at our farmers market here are onions and peaches at the moment. Onions and peaches.

Phoebe said...

What continues to baffle me about the food movement is how sparse things are at markets even in places that one would never in a million years call food deserts. I live in an academic village surrounded by mansions. The market-shoppers presumably live in the mansions. (You sort of need a car to get to the market, and not all of the academics have one.) And yet, close to zilch. Whether or not you're prepared to overpay.

kei said...

Onions and peaches!

The market closest to me is such a scene. I can't read Bittman so only less-than-quarter-heartedly skimmed it* but yes the whole "educational" stuff is getting really tiresome. This is a bit of a luxury and I obviously can't grow everything I want or use, but I've found growing vegetables to be more educational than buying them at the farmer's market from Michigan teenage boys (all due respect to them, I love them but I don't feel like asking them [or anyone] about the various plums they're selling). Does he preach about that? But more to the point as Onions and Peaches points out, he should just shut up or get a new angle!

*I even thought about not clicking the link, but then thought "No I want NYT to see that I only click on links when WWPD links to them" so I opened up a new tab!

Anonymous said...

lettuce season is actually done for now. it won't be cool enough for it until around september for your part of the country.

Phoebe said...


Yes, yes, a new angle. The time had long since come.


If that's so, how am I buying local lettuce at the supermarket? Mislabeling is always a possibility, but my thinking is, lettuce is best in spring/early summer, but the less delicate varieties are still possible to consume fresh a little later in the season. Exactly how it's stored, or when it's harvested, I have no idea.