Cool As A Cucumber In A Bowl Of Hot Sauce

I hate feeling like someone is pushing their beliefs on me, so I try not to push my beliefs on others. But it’s hard to avoid talking about my beliefs at times, like when people ask me why I shop at the farmers market.

There are so many reasons I shop at the market and the incredibly fresh and delicious food is just one reason.

Another reason is that I believe supporting local farms helps keep California’s rich soil producing food, not housing developments.

I also believe that local farmers are focused on providing a quality, healthy product and farming in a way that is healthy for the farm workers, healthy for the land, healthy for me and keeps their farm in business.

I don’t believe food conglomerates are particularly focused on providing nutritious food. (If you want to feel truly jaded, read up about how Kraft sells something they call “guacamole” that has less than 2% avocado in it. Then try to think of what the remaining 98% of the product is made of). Like Kraft, many “food” companies produce “food products” that are full of preservatives, chemicals and hormones. The use of petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers to produce these “food products” further pollutes our water and our land.

But I know firsthand how easy it is to dismiss someone who talks this way as crazy. I graduated from UC Santa Cruz for Christ sake, I spent years with these sort of people. And the only thing I learned from them is that I never wanted to be like them.

So when asked why I shop at the farmers market, instead of focusing on the controversial or political reasons (after all, someone might have that Kraft “guacamole product” at home in their fridge!), I appeal to their greedy side. I talk about the food you can get at the farmers market that you can’t get anywhere else.

I know this approach works because as much as I believe that supporting farmers is an important thing to do, I also know that I’d be hard pressed to get up early and head down to the market every Saturday if it weren’t for Primavera.

Primavera has what I consider the best Mexican food in the City and probably in the bay area — and it’s only available at the market. Sure, you can buy their terrific tamales at local grocers (even at the local Whole Foods), but the market is the only place you can get a plate of chilequiles, or their better-than-Baja fish tacos, or that crazy delicious pork and peach chile relleno they served a few weeks ago. Don’t get me started on their beans. Or their agua frescas.

Here are some other items that are hard to find outside the farmers market and worthy of a trip to the market:

padron.jpg Happy Quail’s Pimientos de Padron – Thanks to Calvin Trillin for alerting me to the existence of padron peppers. Saute these peppers in olive oil until they blister and sprinkle with salt — you’ll have a snack that is delicious, occasionally spicy, and dead-easy to prepare.

tonno.jpg Fatted Calf’s Tonno di Miale – The name refers to tuna and that’s because this pork is cured in olive oil as if it were tuna. It’s a happy day at the market when Taylor’s selling tonno although it means Mr. WholeHog will refuse to go out to eat. He only wants to be home with the tonno.

Fatted Calf’s bacon – You thought all bacon was delicious. You were wrong.

polentacake.jpg Della Fattoria’s polenta cake – I like this cake for breakfast, for dessert, or as a post-market snack as I had last Saturday. I like it plain, topped with fruit or with a scoop of ice cream. It’s versatile and delicious.

Other items I’ve already written about (and truthfully, every item above deserves its own post):

Rancho Gordo’s magical beans

Devoto Farm’s magnificent apples

Della Fattoria’s panforte


One Response to “Cool As A Cucumber In A Bowl Of Hot Sauce”

  1. cryitout Says:

    Must try the polenta cake now, thanks!

    And here’s one for you — Dana bought a thing of basil with roots at the farmers market. We put it in water on a windowsill a MONTH ago and it is still actually blossoming. Fresh basil!

    I love the market!

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