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?
For more info on the New Amsterdam Market go to: