Sunday, June 29, 2008

Going to Market

Today I checked out that New Amsterdam Market shortly before the monsoon came. The market is full of locally grown food and the people who process it and sell it. Their goal is to eventually move the market into the Tin Building and the New Market Building, previous home of the Fulton Fish Market. Right now they're under the FDR drive.

Writing that made me think of another market I used to visit when I was living in Paris that set itself up under the Metro. Walking through it sometimes felt like you could pick your feet up off the ground and be carried onward by the swell of people. The food was very very cheap and I have no idea where it came from. The placement of the New Amsterdam Market is only similar in that it's under a large bridge-like structure meant for transport. It's also a stone's throw from the South Street Sea Port which means lots of tourists which is great for sales (sometimes-tourists probably aren't so interested in fresh veggies and meat they can't cook) but maybe not the place to attract real New Yorkers in a residential neighborhood. On Sundays in Paris everybody and their Maman was at that market. Here, there was a crowd but I wondered who was representin'.

First of all it was blazing hot. So I went over to the People's Popsicle where I was 'greeted' by an array of beautiful fresh-faced young lads and lasses with charming British accents who seemed to be selling popsicles pretty much on a lark. All four of them served every customer, taking out the individually frozen pop, dipping it's plastic case into a mason jar of warmish water, then working it in their hand until it could be eased out of its molding. I asked if this was their first time ever selling popsicles and they admitted that yes, this was the dry run-through.

An hour later when I got my Blue Velvet pop (blueberries, yogurt and honey) I hoped it would be worth the wait and $4. I know, $4. Kind of outrageous but I would never have described a popsicle as filling before. Seriously, it was practically a meal.

Refreshed, I continued on and got a big score-the last head of purple cauliflower!!!:

If you eat something purple made of synthetic chemicals it's probably bad for you. But any opportunity to eat colorful vegetables should be taken. It pleases the eye and the body! Here's the picture of the last purple cauliflower I ate that a friend bought and cooked for me in October:

Hauntingly beautiful, isn't it? I like taking pictures of myself with vegetables.

I also bought some fancy Gruyere cheese which was actually, it turned out, from Pennsylvania, being distributed by White Dog Community Enterprises which is a non-profit that tries to help farmers hook up with local wholesalers. Had I read the fine print I may have on principal tried to find the New York State equivalent but the cheese lady had already started hacking away and seemed a bit flustered. I didn't want her to stab me and ruin all her lovely cheese with blood. Anyway, I spend a fair amount of time in the Poconos. Pennsylvania cannot support its economy with scented candles alone! (The candle store in our hamlet burned down)

It would have been pretty easy to fill up for free, since as one excited shopper exclaimed when I asked if she knew of an ATM around, "Free samples! FREE SAMPLES!". Yes, lots of those, cheese and bread in particular. The bread isles were a little lonely looking, with the heat and colorful competition all around no one wanted a slice. Atkins, what hast thou wrought??

But speaking of eating for free one of the most popular stands was Wild Foods, headed by Nova Kim and Les Hook, two foragers from Vermont. They go into the forest and come out both full and not horribly dead. Verrrry curious, I bobbed along the perimeter of the crowd to see what they might have-air? Grubs? Actually, lots of little bags fulled of funny roots and furry leaves with photocopied recipes stapled to them. They also had several photocopied DIY books with all the ways you can eat from the side of a road and not kill yourself. There were even little laminated spore grids that look like Sudoku puzzles that you somehow use to not eat poison mushrooms...I don't know, I'm not a doctor.

Anyway as soon as I picked one up Nova Kim herself leaped on me. She and her fam live off the grid which I would guess gets lonely. She told me several interesting facts:

There are about 2,600 identified mushrooms in the U.S. and only 13 or 14 will kill you or make you wish you was dead. I like those odds!

If you eat a poison mushroom, consider yourself lucky it's not Hemlock. Hemlock runs through your circulatory system, so as you struggle to walk for first aid you're basically helping it kill you, whereas with a mushroom you'll make it to a hospital most of the time.

Hemlock and Wild Chervil, an edible plant, look much alike.

She and few others are trying to set up a Wild Food Gatherers Guild and get more and more people gathering food and certified to teach what's edible and what definitely isn't. Talk about taking personal responsibility for what you eat- according to Nova the most important thing is knowing your own environment and trusting your own expertise. Um, I know what crab grass looks like...

Here's a place to learn about that (it's pretty much as cool as martial arts):

And I must say a much nicer looking website than I would have ever anticipated.

So eventually I came home and made a great meal of steamed cauliflower with pecans, honey, garlic, and grated Gruyere. Jealous?

You're jealous.

For more info on the New Amsterdam Market go to:


angela said...

You've been blogging a lot, I wish I'd known so I could have followed through with my RSVP better. Also so I could have told you that I went to that thing yesterday - it sounds like you were there earlier than I was (the popsicles were sold out when I got there, e.g.).

The Patty Marx article... was hard (emotionally, not work-wise) to check. I think I had a slightly less harsh opinion of the piece because I knew her primarily from her stuff for the New Yorker and not for T+L, and her schtick is this self-deprecating, very sarcastic humor writing. But... I didn't find the writing that funny in this particular piece. And when that's gone it does just seem sorta sneering. The farm's owners, who I checked it, with were supposedly very apprehensive about having her come out to do this assignment, and I feel like they very possibly were quite hurt when the article ultimately came out. I liked the photos though.

Also, I should give Robin some lavender recipes it sounds like.

Robin said...

I'd love some lavender recipes! Thank you, Angela. But I'm ready to defend those cookies, which is a liberal use of the word--they're more like dry, crumbly biscuit things--because they've really grown on me. Plus it's probably my fault for not measuring the flour. Anyway, there's sorrel this week. Got sorrel recipes?

I'd also like to lobby for specific recipes to appear on your blog, especially as you make your way to farms and hippie communes upstate.

The Lonely Goatherd said...

Oh Robin's been alone with her lavender cookies for too long if they've grown on her.

I will certainly post recipes if I find anything fun and cool to make or have an interesting experience making it. I don't feel like an expert enough of a cook to say "Make this!" unless it will have exciting rewards.

Yeah, I felt like I was being a little harsh on Patty Marx but I also felt like the article didn't really convey what WWOOFing is supposedly about, just sort of what you might get stuck doing if you try it. Probably some of that is T&L's expectations for the article.

It makes me sad to think of the offended farmers though. I was wondering as I read, why Michigan? Why that farm? I'm curious how the piece got off the ground.