Last Saturday we went to the Trout Lake Farmer’s Market, and strolled along through the happy people buying organic veggies and lining up for tomatoes, tasting artisan cheeses and feeling very healthy and environmentally good. The trucks parked in the lot were marked with the names of the farms and growers, and the food was bright and sparkling in the sunshine. A beautiful experience, but very expensive. In the world of healthy goodness, this is very high end – to buy direct from the grower who has trucked the newly picked veggies in to the market. It is a charming scene, a theatre of food and choices. Well, after spending over $40 on some lovely basil and mushrooms, a bag of fresh picked peas and some delicious organic cherries – oh and don’t forget the amazing pickled beets, we still needed groceries. So it was goodbye to the theatre, the play of being a certain kind of shopper.
On the way home we stopped at the Sunrise Market on Gore, and we had our Sunrise yellow and red shopping bags at the ready. Who knows who grew these veggies? I pushed into the Saturday crowd at Sunrise. They are not so artisanal – Chinese shoppers mix with East Side residents and a few others. Foodies? I don’t think so. I got red peppers, veggie chicken, tofu, organic oats for oatmeal, free range eggs, romaine, green onions, radishes, zucchini, tomatoes, dark apricots, grapes, and more for under $40. Was this so different from the trendy market? Well, yes. The woman who was yelling in Chinese at the man who was selling her chicken was getting the best she could out of the Sunrise market, not playing at buying, then bringing home a precious potato or a rare hand-selected edible frond.
McLuhan had it right when he said, “Past times become pastimes.” The farmers’ market has become an entertainment. I am somehow reminded of those science fiction stories in which there is a rare plant that yields food and people kill one another for it, the shards of the past life being held as ultra-valuable. The only way to do this right is to grow a garden of your own. Then the sheer wealth of nature reveals itself. You can’t even give away all the zucchini harvest!
But I’ll keep going to the market from time to time. It is, after all, real food, and the taste of some of these fresh veggies can be very intense – compared with the iceberg lettuce versions of irradiated genetically modified commodified food shipped to us in containers from all over the world – grown who knows where by who knows who in who knows what.
And about the iceberg, we’ve seen a fantastic iceberg wedge served as a salad at Joe Fortes – looks elegant, tastes crisp, and it has an ironic fun quality. I think I’ll pick some up at Sunrise next time I’m there!
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