I was at the Hollywood Farmers Market this Sunday searching for vegetables for this Baby Zucchini Salad. It was early in the day and there was a lovely gray shroud hanging over the market. Here in Los Angeles the inversion layer is particularly pronounced in spring. Some call it May Gray or June Gloom. But these are rather dreary monikers, because our morning fog has its own special charm. Partly because you can count on it “burning off” by lunchtime, leaving you with some of the prettiest blue skies LA is capable of producing. What I really like best about these gray mornings is the special kind of “hush” that falls over the city. I don’t mean hush like quiet. LA is never quiet. There’s always a certain low buzz or hum that permeates the atmosphere (10 million people are incapable of producing complete silence). But there’s a gentleness in the air that envelopes everything. On this particular Sunday I was hoping to enjoy some of that hush, while at the same time choosing a few lush vegetables to carry me through the week.
It didn’t take long for me to spy a basket of the baby zucchini I was seeking. So I grabbed the baby zucchini and found myself getting out of the market as quick as I could – the buzz of Sunday shoppers had overpowered the morning hush for me. I’m happy to have the baby zucchini, but I must admit I felt cheated by the abrupt departure.
You see the Hollywood Farmers Market has grown into a weekly event that features a lot more than just great produce brought in by local farmers. There are balloon-artists, face-painters, petition-hawkers and lots of prepared food. People line the curbs eating pupusas, tamales and big bags of kettle corn. I once slipped on a chicken bone and nearly cracked a rib (oh yeah, sometimes there are ribs too).
Henry Pellé “Morogues” Menetou-Salon, Loire Valley
Pairs well with vegetables, fresh pungent herbs such as basil, thyme and rosemary and most seafood.
I know I sound grumpy, and I like pupusas (and ribs too) as much as the next guy, but I miss the good old days of farmers markets. Before they became magnates of commerce dragging in all kinds of vendors – many of who have never had their hands in the earth before. I support the growth and strengthening of a robust system of farmers markets. I really do. But I’m not sure the current formula is the answer. It seems that the more popular the business model of the farmers market becomes, the more communities turn to them to attract carnival-style foot traffic. Which in turn makes the farmers themselves less relevant to the success of the farmers market.
Baby Zucchini Salad
But it’s Sunday. I came to the Hollywood Farmers Market to get what I needed to make this Baby Zucchini Salad. Where else can I go? So I try not to get peeved by the sometimes misguided popularity of farmers markets these days. After all, farmers markets are a very good thing (and my very favorite place to buy baby zucchini). It only makes sense that they’d become more popular, right? But are they too popular? Do people appreciate and understand the importance of the mission of our local farmers markets? Or have they, in true Caddyshack style, all jumped in the pool at the same moment, completely destroying the poolside ambiance of the Bushwood Country Club (while dropping their chicken bones in the gutter)? GREG