Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Queen of the Cali Farmers Markets

Molly and I were talking about the farms she has visited near Santa Barbara, about the amazing work some of these organic farmers do, and the next thing you know we're putting in motion an early morning drive to the Santa Barbara farmers market. That drive is an hour and half from us and on fourth of July we just got up early and went. That long of a drive to a farmers market seems ridiculous especially when our own Wednesday farmers market, just a mile a way, is the type where LA chefs come early to fight over the first pickings. But let me tell you, a market that is set up near the actual farms is a fresh-food geek's technicolor dream. I'm considering going back so often that I'll have to conveniently redefine my concept of buying "locally." Eesh.

We arrived at the opening of the market, and once through the threshold of the parking lot lined with overflowing booths masterfully displaying gorgeous produce, Molly and I stood erect and become illuminated from the inside out. We are the ultimate admirers of such a fantasy farmers market. It was like entering a secret garden and we wove through the lanes smelling and touching and oohing and aahing, wide-eyed and floating. After fawning over a berry booth -- crouched low for microscopic views of soft, sweet Loganberries -- the farmer said to us without any lead in, "You guys are adorable." We were like, huh?

I've never considered lettuce artful. Until Saturday. Molly knows the most prolific lettuce farmer in the area and his lettuce is not just inspiring, it's jaw-dropping. Molly says he's the type of farmer who stares at the rows of lettuce for long periods of time to get a sense for what the lettuce needs. He'll weed them at one in the morning, nurture them to no end. He does nothing to prevent bugs because he believes whatever bugs come are there to balance out what the lettuce needs. And this level of mastery shows in every single head of lettuce. It was astounding. Each head was larger than any I've ever seen. Each leaf was perfectly and purposefully placed, thoughtful in design, though obviously not designed. When I sampled the butter lettuce, it tasted creamy in texture. How can that be? Creamy! I couldn't' get enough of the lettuce.Though the lettuce moved me the most, I have to say that every item at the market seemed an accelerated display of farming. It was the best in show; the lettuce taking top billing in my mind, and these taking a very, very close second: These tasted like candy. I'm not joking. No, seriously. These are what strawberries taste like in heaven. They were mind blowing, and I would've eaten all three baskets myself if I didn't keep giving them away saying, "Holy shit, you have to try one of these . . ."

Here's a collage of my day. I can't wait to go back.

12 comments:

Madame One Tree said...

I am right, now expressing a deep longing for smellandtaste -a -vision.

nola said...

Wow. Real food is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing the images.

Marigoldie said...

Gorgeous! There is nothing prettier to me than that red leaf lettuce. I just want to jump into it. Which reminds me: It's Madness Drinkable Dressing season.

nec said...

Absolutely beautiful! I'm jealous :o)

When I was in N Cali in April, we went to the Farmer's Market in Chico - the strawberries were so amazing! I could not believe how deep the flavors were.

Melinda said...

I just tried to scratch-n-sniff my screen.

Rebel Girl said...

Love that market.

I'd carry that lettuce in my wedding - if I had a wedding!

Check out the walnut oil next time.

madness rivera said...

Thanks everybody.

Hey nec, I bet that Chico FM was pretty unbelievable too.

Hey Lisa, that walnut guy comes to our SM Wednesday FM. I get walnuts from him all the time, but I haven't tried the oil yet. Lemme know if you want me to pick you up some.

Rebel Girl said...

Andrew would ADORE some - he dips my bread in it...

madness rivera said...

You got it. You'll have to wait until Aug 1st . . .!

Molly Chester said...

That walnut oil is THE. BEST. Seriously. Like the lettuce. That oil on the lettuce might just make me pass out.

Thanks for such a great keepsake of our day Danette! It was so fun sharing it with you!

Sandra said...

Your blog is wonderful, so delightfully laid out and the plastic bag thingy blew me away. The photo collage of the day at the FM was a delicious rainbow. I agree with one post who tried to scratch and sniff her monitor! I miss you girl. Can't wait to see you in August.

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