the summer solstice has arrived, which means that farmers market season is in full gear. for californians, supporting local farms is more than just a matter of social conscience; it's a matter of being at the center of a social scene. spending your weekend at a farmers market and being able to tell your dinner guests, "these heirloom tomatoes are from dirty girl produce," has become the equivalent of "hip." it seems that the markets you shop at and the stalls you visit says as much about you as what bars you frequent on the weekends (hipster in the mission or yuppie in the marina?).
here in the bay area, the epicenter of the eat local and slow food movement, i have no shortage of options to pick from. on saturdays, the big question is, do i trek up to san francisco (which i'll call home starting august first!) and fight the crowds for some people watching and food sampling at the ferry plaza's saturday market or do i take it easy and bike to the palo alto market? the past two sundays, i've discovered the new california avenue farmers market, where i was introduced to two new cheeses: a fresh garlic curd and a sage cheddar from the spring hill cheese company in petaluma. it was love upon first taste and i'm thinking that they might be more than just a one-afternoon-stand.
social status aside though, i find great inspiration when strolling through the stalls of a farmers market. i always go with my "culinary ideas" book in hand to make sure all that inspiration is captured. there's something about being able to experience food in its natural form, fresh and in season, that allows me to imagine new flavor combinations and the taste of new recipes. to know where your food comes from, to have it sold to you by the people that have a direct relationship with what you're eating reconnects you to the earth's resources in a way that has been neglected for so long. the majority of americans stopped eating food a long time ago; instead, we've recreated manifestations of food that distorts and depurifies. for me, seeing the crowds at the markets makes me believe that there's hope for a revolution in the american diet. but even if you don't believe in all this eating local and organic social conscience bullshit, at least go for the social scene (oh, and the free samples - those don't hurt).
and if you're not sick of my farmers market soapbox speech, check out my article about how farmers markets can make your entertaining life so much easier.