A Tale of Two Farmers' Markets

(2022-08-29 13:24:03) 下一個

It has been the mildest Bay Area summer ever in Bill's memory. August is almost

over and temperature hasn't even broken above 90 degrees so far.


Regardless, peanuts have arrived like clockwork. The second Sunday, he swung by

Fremont farmers' market, which has moved to the east parking lot of the New Park

Mall and in-between the iMax theater and 880, and bought two lbs of the legume

for $10. He couldn't help grudging the cost. It grated on his nerves more than

bleeding his bank account. In the end, he told himself that farmers could be

struggling more in today's economy. We were all in the same boat, he concluded

and made his peace.


It reminded him of the people he came from, people he used to visit around this

time of the year. It had been almost three years since his last trip. With them,

he would pull the plants out of sandy soil and collect their seeds without paying.

No one there seemed aware that the staple crop was a New World expatriate. The old

country was still a flight away but man-made barriers were harder to cross. It was

good for the peanut to have come before Covid, he sighed. Maybe he was asking too

much. After all, he was the one who chose to jump ship two decades ago.


Back home, he gave the pods a wash before pouring them into a cast-iron dutch

oven, added water, half a cup of salt, a couple of star aniseeds, and a teaspoon

of five-spice powder, brought it to a boil, turned off the stove, and left the

pot to let the salty fragrant liquid soak in. In four hours, he would have a

delicious meal to polish off with a cold beer.


The next week, he went to the market in Mountain View for a change. This was

only his second time since moving to the city two and a half years ago. It sat

next to the downtown Caltrain station and was about the same size as the one in

Fremont. It boasted more artisan products including baked goods, however, and

among them Acme Bread, well-known in the larger bay area, had a booth.


Overall, the produce cost 20% more. A pound of fresh peanuts, e.g., fetched for

six bucks. With a budget of $20, he decided to pass. Then, as he looked ahead,

a sign that said 'You Are NOT Lactose Intolerant!' stood out a few yards away to

the left and behind it was the stand of the Claravale diary farm. What a pleasant

surprise! He had never met them although he had been buying their milk since the

Milk Pail days.


An elderly couple was paying a white-bearded gentleman in a buttoned shirt

behind the table, who turned out to be the owner, and six-feet behind them was a

middle-aged Asian woman in a scarlet brocaded sleeveless qipao. A bottle in

hand, she stood like a statue among the throng of shoppers moving up and down

the lane. Bill was not sure where he should wait for his turn.


    "Is there a line?" He gave her a smile.


    "They are in line." She pointed to the elderly couple without turning.


    "And you are not?" He noticed her face mask but didn't think much. The third

    year into the pandemic, nobody cared any more, he had wrongly assumed.


    "I am next. Can't you see?" Her English had no accent.


    "I couldn't. That's why I asked. And thank you." With that, he scooted

    farther down the side of the booth to wait.


    "Thank YOU!" Came the rejoinder from behind the mask.


But he had been sincere: 23+ years of no practice deprived him of even the

thought of queue-jumping. So the implicit accusation briefly registered and then

fell like water off a duck's back.


After a brief chat with Ron of Claravale to show appreciation, Bill bought raw

milk and sauntered on. It was almost 1:00pm and vendors started cleaning up. He

failed to find his favorite sweet purple yam but ran into some plump heirloom

tomatoes at the booth close to the entrance where a slender woman in a yellow

T-shirt was tearing a plastic bag off a roll. Seeing Bill with his hands full,

she smiled.


    "Need a bag?"


    "I've got one. Thank you."


Bill smiled back, put down his pick, and fished a bag out of his backpack's side

pocket. He almost always carried bags. It had stopped being a private pride from

environmental awareness and become a mindless habit.


The three fresh ripe tomatoes would taste sweet in the pasta and the beans, two

meals planned for the coming week. The goods were pricy but Bill came out under

budget. For him, the farmers' market was redeemed by the last trivial kindness

from a stranger. It was not that bad, after all.

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閱讀 ()評論 (2)
7grizzly 回複 悄悄話 回複 '暖冬cool夏' 的評論 : Thank you, 暖冬, for reading and your kind comments.

Living frugal, you sure are birds of a feather :-)

I've never pressure-cooked fresh peanuts and wonder if they would turn out
mushy. The five-spice powder was not necessary. My recipe would be simpler
without it and might bring out more flavor of the legume itself.

I like farmers' markets in summer and fall and find that if planned well,
expense is quite manageable. In my family, waste comes mostly from impulse
buying from Costco.

Bracing for the hot days ahead and looking forward to your post.
暖冬cool夏 回複 悄悄話 Bill is frugal, like me:)) And a good cook, like me. :))) He is friendly, of course.
When I cook peanuts, I normally use a high-pressure cooker, adding salt, and one or two star aniseeds to the water, without five-spice powder. It seems that Bill's recipe is more flavorful.
I rarely visit the farmer's market for pricey food or snacks. But months ago, we started buying vegetables in a bulk from a big farm, which are delivered to our city. The fresher and better produces are actually cheaper than those in the supermarket, but the farm only grown some limited varieties. I should one day write about it, hopefully in English.
Thanks for sharing Bill's most recent stories! It's going to be hot in the coming Labor Day, at least in Southern CA (100+ F).