Monday, September 03, 2007

Vegetable platter

Vegetable platter, originally uploaded by foodchronicles.

Okay, so part of this long weekend's agenda was to go to a farm stand. Not just any farm stand, no, a really famous farm stand. Its' virtues have been extolled by famous chefs, local well-knowns, and the occasional wealthy non cook. I asked myself, should I go? Well, hey why not, I know the area, shop close by at another farm stand and thought "what have I got to lose?"

Well, a lot, I have to tell you. Look at that platter. Take a gander at these other shots, of same platter:

red leaf romaine?

Tomatoes, Haricot Vert

What's not to love? Well, there is something. Let me elucidate.

We drove over the mountains and through the woods, well, maybe not mountains, but hills for certain. We drove a winding road through famous estates, with names like " club and spa", "equestrian hollows" and kingly estates surrounding us on all sides. A gleaming lake, beautiful tall Eucalyptus trees everywhere. Finally we stumble upon the road to "the" farm stand. The road had a sign that said "Nothing larger than a pickup truck allowed on this road!". Well, since we were in the MINI, no problem. As we turn onto the actual farm stand property, I felt suddenly out of place. The next smallest car to mine was a Jaguar. Lined up in neat rows were a few Mercedes, a couple of Saabs, more than one gigantic Cadillac Escalade, and every other large vehicle known to mankind. At least the well heeled know where to buy vegetables. Filling the air with enormous amounts of carbon dioxide coming to a fro the organic farm stand is not to be concerned with, "we're eating green!"

Quickly I notice the line. I glance around, getting my bearings, cue up and look achingly at the cornucopia of offerings. I noted the sign atop the framed stand - pictorial fashion - of people, fat, thin, male female, kindly cued in a line. Well, I got that prior to noticing then sign. Yes, I am brighter than the average shopper at the fruit stand evidently. Each of us waited our turn to enjoy the fruits of the owner's bounty. I did note while awaiting my turn that the salespeople were all like me. The guy in the back doing the hard labor of unloading more and more boxes of freshly picked fruits and vegetables, was surprisingly not like me. He was one of them. You know them, those south of the border guys. Yep right there in front of all of us, he was sweating!

The woman in front of me was just about to get started shopping. She actually picked up a tomato. Then quickly, as if it was the farm stand nazi, a person spoke to her in short tones. "Your turn will be next, someone will be with you soon". (I thought maybe she had lost her turn to purchase - no veggies for you!) She quickly understood the "don't touch the vegetables until it's your turn!" warning and she waited patiently. Finally, after standing in 104 degree weather, albeit in a small belt of shade, it was my turn! I picked out carefully (well, with that small orange pepper, obviously not so carefully as I thought) the vegetables you see above. Please note, I picked them out, quickly letting go of them and handing them to my polite sales person, she would bag, weigh and tally my purchases. When I had finished, the final blow was delivered. I thought for sure my dear husband would fall over from a coronary when she said $35. I said $35. In my head I was going great, I am now the owner of fruit and vegetable so expensive I can't eat them.

Wowzer. I have never paid so much for so little. Except of course a good platter of Australian Lobster Tails. I didn't feel so bad about paying so much then because I knew something given its' life in the process. I could faintly hear my father-in-law laughing out loud as my husband handed over the money. He had two and a half acres of tomatoes and melons, and vegetables. He would have laughed at these prices. I would not of been embarrassed if he had been with us and had laughed outloud right there at the stand.

My farm stand, that I frequent often, just a few short miles away, close to the same pacific waters, having the same great offerings of organic fare, has never even come close to charging these kinds of prices. I think I left a bit of my dignity there also. I foolish one that I am, succumbed to the fancy froo froo hype of the minions of stature and heir. Won't be doing that again. At least with regard to vegetables.
I actually felt sorry for the humble vegetables, the Lords bounty to us, they had become part of the prostitution of a "mentality" that we experience in our world today.

Being a farmers daughter-in-law I do believe farmers never get paid what they are worth. Don't get me wrong on that at all.

I also have this statement from Anthony Bourdain seared into my consciousness: "I've always felt that the true measure of the greatness of a culture is exemplified by what its' poorest and rural people cook. Food that tastes good because it has to be good. How to make the tough, the bland, and the truly humble into something truly special. This is where throughout history and across the globe, cooks are made.