To Market

I try not to cringe when friends tell me it always rains in England. Sure, if you want, as poet William Blake called it, a “green and pleasant land,” you need to expect a decent amount of precipitation. Yet there are those “died and gone-to-heaven” days when the sun shines, puffy white clouds float across the sky, a gentle breeze ruffles fields of mellow wheat, and stirs the canopies of magnificent English oak, sycamore and nice-fingered horse-chestnut trees. All the same, my memories of trailing after my dad on Saturday market days are entirely of flapping, soggy canvas awnings, slippy wet litter underfoot, and dodging the umbrella wars. Undeterred, my dad would sally forth, gathering vegetables – the kind that came with soil attached, a skinned rabbit, maybe a seam of tripe if it looked fresh enough, and black pudding. He would wander around the “antiques” a.k.a “junk” stalls, but I don’t recall him finding a bargain, at any rate, nothing worthy of the “Antiques Roadshow.” As we left, he would pick up a bunch of bronze chrysanthemums for my mum and I would hold the stems dripping on my already damp lap, as we drove home.  It was not the kind of market where you haggle over the prices, though the stall-holders were all brash, colorful characters, who would throw in an extra lamb chop or a few sticks of rhubarb for good measure. This must have been the time after the old market hall burned down for as my teenage years approached and it was no longer “cool” to tag along with dad, a new market hall was erected of a stunning contemporary design complete with sway-back roof. Perhaps I was entering the grunge generation, but it was simply not the same. No jousting umbrellas and no sodden mackintoshes either. Maybe I’m mistaken, but the dry and warm vendors were less inclined to banter and none, I witnessed, slipped a toffee apple to a scrawny kid.

All these years later, having shrugged off my grunge years alongside my platform shoes, I love to go to Farmers Markets. (When did the word “farmers”  slip into the title given that very few of the goods on offer have seen a traditional farm?)  The Farmers Market here in Colorado has a wonderful setting in a park shaded by firs and cottonwoods. There’s subtle background music and sometimes circus performers, swathed in snakes, juggling or tumbling.  We meander past the CBD stalls.  We hover, inhaling deeply, by the roasting chili peppers, and offer a suggestion to the “instant” poet. The Amish baked goods stall always attracts a good crowd, these folk live simple lives, but their prices are bang up-to-date.  And that seems to be a feature of  today’s markets. I was recently visiting friends in California and we braved the precipitous canyon roads to reach Laguna Beach’s Farmers Market, bustling on a beautiful Saturday morning, flanked on the one side by the canyon walls and, on the other, by the distant crashing of the ocean. CBD products were old hat here, with vegan, fermented foods, and ayurvedic products liberally  sprinkled amongst the imported cheeses, the extravagantly priced fish and the farm-raised (where else?) exclusive cuts of meat. We ate a brunch of vegetarian (no surprise) crepes idly watching the market-goers pass by before scaling the steep paths to my friends’ home perched part way up the canyon, burdened now mainly with vegetables and a curious golden watermelon.  It’s absolutely clear to onlookers that my friends are locals, not only can they climb the hills carrying heavy produce, but they also carry a conversation at the same time!

It seems to me that markets have done an about turn since the days when dad was hoping for inexpensive necessities. Now, we are inclined to be in pursuit of specialty goods and treats. I have heard that the indoor market of my youth now has an excellent reputation, has won awards, and is featured on Trip Advisor.  I don’t doubt that it has developed its distinctive character, but my vote goes to outdoor markets. For sure, living in more temperate climes makes that ballot easier to cast, but there is something about mingling with friends and nature that, for me at least, makes the Farmers Market as much a social event as a place to buy and sell.

And, as we return to our Florida home I am not denied the pleasures of a Farmers Market.  This one comes complete with African sambosas, tropical plants, the world’s best guacamole. Bliss!

End Notes

Reading

Braising Sweetgrass by  Robin Wall Klimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass
Robin Wall Kimmerer

Listening

Psalm 23 in Hebrew
Kochav Mayin

Galop-Marche Piano for Eight Hands
Albert Lavignac

Viewing

Happy 4th of July 
Gabriel Iglesias: Fluffy

Poetry

You are Welcome Here
Titilope Sanuga

 

News Flash!

Now Available!

Tracking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela:
Memories of Blisters and Blessings in Pursuit of the Headless Saint


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Tracking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela by Jean Goulden

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