I returned to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
Here in this blog, I've often pretended to love farmers markets. Heck, up there in my "about me" I brag about walking to my local market twice a week, and that's just no longer true. (For one reason, it was murder on my left hip; for another, I joined a gym and get my gentle exercise that way now.)
But the thing is, how can you not go to the farmers market? That's where the good stuff is.
In my case, sometimes I just send Cranky on his bicycle, and he comes home with a couple of sacks of produce hanging from the handlebars. Other times — this only works in summer, sadly — we take an adventurous drive to West Marin and feast on the Pt. Reyes Station market. Most weeks now, I drive the half-mile to Marin Civic Center and brave the crowds for 30 minutes or so, chatting with farmers if they're not too busy, checking out the seasonal goodies, choosing favorite vendors.
But when I say "brave the crowds," I'm not kidding. It's crowded, and sometimes it seems like the crowds are only there to push toddlers in strollers and to sample free cheese cubes. Oh, and to drink coffee. (I've finally gotten used to the coffee bar at Whole Foods, but coffee vendors at a farmers market?)
Cranky and I went to the SFFPFM this morning, and again, it was love-hate. I loved buying crepinettes from the Fatted Calf (and since those fine purveyors of tasty meat products don't come to the Marin market... whaddya gonna do?). I hated being shoved by cell-phone-oblivious teenagers. I loved sneaking a glass of wine at 11 a.m. (which, come to think of it, isn't very farmers market-ish, so maybe I hated it). I hated having to maneuver around ridiculously long lines of patrons for coffee stands. I loved buying ultra-fresh cardoons, which I've never cooked before and will have fun trying out.
I had a really great time there, when I wasn't having a bad time.
I know there are other more genuine markets, like San Francisco's Civic Center market on Wednesdays and Sundays. But the produce there is droopier, the patrons are sometimes shove-ier, and I could swear some of the food is trucked in from industrial farms. Then there's the Alemany market, which I'm embarrassed to say I've never visited, but I hear it's the real thing.
Worst, I think, are the evening "downtown" markets in smaller towns, like my own. Nothing more than an excuse for some lousy jazz, carousing, and luring shoppers into restaurants. (Maybe it's me, but I just don't get buying scallions in the dark.)
I value farmers markets greatly and would hate to see them disappear. Heck, I even chose the place I'm currently living because of its proximity to a pretty good market.
I just don't like to see them devolve into self-absorbed-yuppie magnets. With pastries.
I think I understand that these markets need to sell more than dirt-caked vegetables, local honey, artisan cheeses and sparkling meats in order to stay in business. OK, so chapatis and chutneys. Rotisseried chickens. Fresh-cut flowers. Beautiful breads. And coffee! Fine.
I'm not going to get into the elite pricing of the SFFPFM. They accept food stamps, and if that's how you want to spend your food stamps, do it. I also realize that the SF market is a food emporium, with retail shops far beyond what you'd see at a "normal" farmers market. It is what it is.
I'm just not entirely sure I like what it is.
I'm so confused.
Tea at Tea and Cookies launched a great conversation the other day about farmers markets. Currently there are 25 comments; it's worth a visit.
Happy Earth Day.