It's All About the FoodChristmas Baking with SusieJ

I'm in love ...

... with my farmer's market.

I work in West Philly, oh, sorry, University City, and one of the benefits is the University of Pennsylvania trying to make it a hip college town in the middle of an un-hip city. Lunchtime Wednesdays, there is a two-stall farmer's market outside the student bookstore (and the Cosi coffee shop and Urban Outfitter's flagship store) at 36th and Walnut streets for the organic yuppie crowd.

It's a big improvement over buying use-it-today produce from the back of a truck under the railroad tracks on Market Street.

You wouldn't think two stalls would be enough, but, first, these are big stalls, six or eight folding tables each, and secondly, one of them is Mennonite, and they sell almost everything: vegetables, fresh basil, some fruits, cakes, shoo-fly pie. It's fresh and cheap and full of flavor. They come in from Lancaster, so the produce ripens as God intended: in the ground or on the tree.

The other stall sells fruit and heirloom tomatoes. The fruit is exquisite: juicy and full of flavor. Their blueberries tasted like blueberries, not sour, blue orbs. Even weeks after, eating plain cereal gave me a physical longing for fresh blueberries. I'll never buy supermarket berries again.

The tomatoes sent my husband into raptures. Flavor! Texture! Worthy of being eaten with only pinch of salt. The stall owner was giving away extra tomatoes; this is the first year he'd planted tomatoes and was astounded at the yield -- and he doesn't even like tomatoes.

Whole Foods and other organic supermarkets can't compete with the farmer's markets. The produce may be organic, but it's all too often flown from far away, and bred for making the trip, not tasting delicious once it arrives. (Having recently flown six and a half hours to Charles De Gaulle Airport, I have a lot of sympathy for any peach making a similar journey and hold it no ill will for not being at its best on arrival, because I desperately needed at least a shower on my own arrival, and more appropriately a good, stiff breakfast.) I'm not sure how I'll survive the winter without good produce. I may need to learn to can next summer and fall.

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