The lesson behind these striking plums is not necessarily a happy one. It speaks of inspiration, ingredients and failure. We often go to farmers markets and are drawn in by the beauty. The noise, the clamor, the ingredients all act together to create an ambiance, which takes us back to a different time. We can talk to farmers and shepards. We can connect with our food. There is an interaction that occurs and the result is that we feel good about what we are buying. And usually we buy plenty, caught up in the frenzy of the moment, supporting the small, the passionate, the people with the same beliefs as us. And then you get home and you start tasting. And some of the food is good, some is great and unfortunately a lot of it can be bad. It looked so beautiful on the stand, in the basket, and talking to the grower we forget that they are there to make sales. It is so beautiful. We carefully wash the fruit or vegetables, put them in the bowl and take a picture. Then we taste whatever it is we just bought. In this instance the plums were mealy, watery, and flavorless. How could this be? I shopped at a farmer's market. I bought local and seasonal and connected with the guys that grew these great ingredients. Apparently not. I connected with the idea of the market, not the ingredients. I connected with the feeling of nostalgia, not the week of rain before the sunny morning I visited the market. I arrived when it was in full swing rather than upon opening when some of the "farmers" are unpacking big boxes of produce and arranging them in well worn baskets. I bought into the hype.
We have created a food culture where farmers markets demand higher prices even when the ingredients themselves don't measure up. We are often buying nostalgia and ideas rather than quality. Sadly not everyone at some markets are even growing the items they present. After all a farm stand doesn't have to put out a sign that says "I grew this" the sentiment is implied by the location. Questions about the truck full of empty produces boxes in the back are met with a shrug and a half-hearted excuse that they just pack their stuff in those boxes, with no mention of where the boxes may have come from or why they all happen to be labeled with exactly the items on the stand. We have to remember to search out flavor and authenticity and not just wear the rose colored glasses. We have to remember to buy one plum and taste it before taking a whole basket.