You may be familiar with past references in this space to farmer’s markets. If the subject is like hearing a favorite song again, I hope you will hang on and reflect with me.
Since I was a farm boy, growing up, I have always appreciated farmer’s markets and am emotionally refreshed this time of the year when growers and producers gather to offer foodstuffs and farm products for those without green thumbs or green space with which to plunder the earth.
Having said that, I can remember somewhere in China on a tour that took a group with which I was traveling, to venture into a residential neighborhood. There in a two-foot square space, an enterprising resident had planted and tended three stalks of tomatoes.
You can find things growing in the green space of bridge abutments in the land of the Red Dragon. Not sure that Chinese government officials would agree, but that appeared to me to be a classic case of free enterprise.
It also confirmed that one’s person ingenuity can make a difference in lifestyle and survival.
For years, there was a Saturday morning market in downtown Athens at the City Hall on College Avenue. It was a truly great place to visit. Then the one in charge of the kitchen at my address said after one particular weekly visit to the street market, “I think it is nice that you want to go find a basket of peas like you did on the farm, but after you shell them and we cook them, you haven’t saved very much. Why not go to Kroger and get the same product which is ready for cooking?”
She was probably right, but it didn’t satisfy one significant element. That would be the absence of the fulfillment of having my hands connected with red hull crowder peas which would end up on the dinner table. Farmers and gardeners enjoy the satisfaction of seeing plants grow. They enjoy the harvest, and they enjoy displaying and sharing from a horn of plenty. Emotionally, it is more than turning a modest profit.
Seems today that we have a society that does not have any interest in participating in the growing season, finding ways to support agriculture, and connect with the growing process.
There are the many who are in step with the apathetic characters in the story of the “Little Red Hen.” This fable is so out of date, there may be many who are not familiar with the details which underscore the importance of hard work and commonsense management.
The Little Red Hen found some wheat in the barnyard and planted, milled, and harvested it, asking all the other animals to help along the way. Not one offered a helping hand, but when she baked the bread and brought it to the table, all those animals that refused to help, showed up ready to help her eat the bread.
There is a good neighborly way, collegiality, and community about gardening and growing things. There has to be a “feel good” sense connected with bringing what you have produced to a common meeting place and spreading the handiwork of your efforts. That is the centerpiece of the art of producing for the dinner table.
Artists, historically, were attracted to collections of fruits and vegetables, fields and meadows of grain and agriculture. When the growing season culminates into harvest, that is a high time for so many.
The spring has moved me to recall the many wonderful street markets I have visited over the years, primarily Europe. England has always been exceptional. The fields and farms of Kent are a joy to experience. Shopping at the greengrocer is always fun, even if you have no kitchen expertise.
The whole of Scotland, the length of Italy, “anywhere” France, Germany, Belgium—even the old Eastern European counties such as Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Cezch Republic have exciting and inspiring street markets.
The most stunning street market by far was the one in Ramallah in the West Bank. I have never seen such abundant fruits and vegetables. I bought a couple of robust oranges which were extraordinarily tasty, the best I think I have ever eaten.
How nice it would have been for an exceptional chef to have shopped for dinner in the West Bank and then cooked at some attractive spot by the Jordan River.
A man can always dream, can he not?