Saturday. 8:30am. Too early to be up, but might as well be productive since I can’t return to a reoccurring dream featuring Paris restaurant, La Tour d’Argent**. I plopped on my floppy, orange, straw hat, and inspired by my relative productivity at such an early hour (being conscious), I drove over to my hometown’s Farmer’s Market.
(http://www.gilbertfarmersmarket.com: check it out if you’re close!)
I brought along two of my friends to the market, seeing how grumpy I was already (definitely more of an afternoon person).
Plus, markets are social venues. They scream COMMUNITY. I like to think of them as a modern day ekklesias, a word the Greeks used to describe a gathering of citizens in a public place. But instead of exercising civic and democratic power, we sleepy eyed Gilbert citizens are exercising our right to fresh food.
Wading through the strollers and leashed puppies, my friends paused at each booth for a sample of homemade jelly here, a cookie there… ooh! I’ll take a cup of locally brewed coffee too.
I’m functionally awake 20 minutes in, and after grabbing business cards and chatting happily with the vendors, I had tucked a bunch of Russian Red kale, a peach, a bag of almond chocolate toffee, and 6 small yellow tomatoes into my pink purse. (That sounded like I food lifted! Don’t worry, I paid for my items. I’m not anything if not honest.)
Upon returning home, I was fully awake and fired up about the great recipes I could make with my items, especially those yellow tomatoes! Yellow tomatoes call for special dishes, or one could just buy run-of-the-mill reds, right? Yellow spaghetti sauce, sliced and roasted to compliment a meat, a yellow tomato soup to pair with a gourmet grilled cheese(***)…
(I need to start taking my own food pictures, but don’t they look lovely?)
In an unfortunate spurt of dis-creativity, the only thing I did with my unique farmer’s market ingredients was make a salad. (Besides the toffee; happy belated Mother’s Day, Mom!) In the salad’s defense, it was more beautiful and colorful and flavorful than my usual refrigerated, processed, preserved in who-knows-what choices.
And as I was preparing this technically simple dish, I had a food revelation. I thought about fresh food from my Gilbert ekklesia as being a privilege and a right.
First, a privilege. Yes, our nation as a whole isn’t hungry, but there’s a McDonald’s on practically every block. It’s cheap, it’s filling, it’s the fatty-salty-sweet cornerstone of American cuisine. Not necessarily fresh.
Certain towns in America, while having a Mickey D’s in their neighborhood, may not have the luxury to be in the heart of farmland. In addition, they may not have the wealth it takes to choose fresh, organic foods (which tend to be overly expensive).
In a way, today we have food version of “Jim Crow” laws in effect, because fresh food may not be offered, and it may not be affordable, and this limits the people who are able to purchase the really good stuff. Consequently many fall back to Big Macs and Coca Cola because it’s what’s available.
Of course, this is not the time to rant about agricultural and food distribution systems in the U.S. (and the system that ensures various imported foods…maybe later?). The point is that fresh food should not be simply a privilege.
And it isn’t. It’s a right too. (If our farmer’s market is our modern day ekklesia, is it political to say that fresh food is a right?)
And just like voting in America, not everyone chooses to go where fresh food is offered. (Also kids, we have an election coming up. Go vote!
But, for a majority of Americans, they DO have that choice. What Americans primarily eat is not organic, contains unnatural ingredients, and sports an outrageous food mileage. It’s what lines our grocery aisles and our pantry closets. For example, look at the nutrition information on anything in your fridge. Do you recognize half the ingredients? How far away did those ingredients travel before hitting the table? How long ago were these ingredients truly “fresh”?
Let’s exercise our food rights, people. Let’s fill our fridges with local produce, our pantries with treats made from local businesses.
So, if it’s available, and you can manage to rise early Saturday morning, follow me in placing your vote in favor of 6 small yellow tomatoes.
All Hail Farmers Markets,
*If you’re wondering about the banana tree: What’s also great about farmer’s markets is that you usually have no idea what you are going to buy before you go to them, unlike a grocery store. For example, one of my friends bought a banana tree, which she promptly planted in her yard (and I’m already planning banana foster recipes…). Once again, the right to fresh food.
**http://www.latourdargent.com/ Their wine cellar is legendary.
***On the grilled cheese note, please see the June 2012 edition of Wine Spectator. There is an excellent article on which cheeses are best for grilled cheese because of their melting behaviors.