They’re a big deal to me. Not only because they put me in touch with the people who generate great foods, but because they come closest to providing community in a country that has too much of rather soulless commerce. At the market I can exaggerate the significance of my connection to a local grocer, baker or cheese maker. I feel they're my neighbors. (Almost.)
Of course, I switched markets when I moved. From downtown, to the Westside Community Market ("WCM"). And so my loyalties shifted. It was like meeting a new city of bakers, growers and cheesemakers. It was a tough transition.
When I occasionally go back downtown (like when daughters are in town...),
... I recognize some of the longtime vendors and we talk about growing children and the sighting of the first swarms of mosquitoes. Like old friends. (Sort of.)
Yes, all that’s interesting, you say. But are the foods any better there, downtown? Or at the WCM?
The answer is, of course, that the foods are fantastic at both.
Though I have to say this – the downtown market has cut flowers that don’t run out by the time we get there. And they are magnificent. And long lasting.
Markets need flower stalls. It just cannot be that a dining table has to rely on supermarket flowers to carry you through the week.
So I’ll grant the downtown market the flowers. And cheese curds: not only can you sample many, many different curds (so Wisconsin!), but you can feast on grilled curds every single time you pass this stall.
People watching? Oh, the same at both markets. Less crowded, the WCM lets you stretch out a little more. On the other hand, there are fewer people to watch. No kids on a bench, for example, eating market cookies.
Okay, but really, when you have a local market, you don’t compare it to the one in the old neighborhood. And you don’t cheat and run out for bread at your old bakers. You stay loyal. And I did. I bought no peas, no berries, no garlic scapes. I passed on the tomatoes, the sprigs of mint, the first potatoes.
But I did bring home flowers. Heavenly bunches of sweet peas and bouquets of white peonies and daisies.