There are times when you just have to brag. Here we are, down in the Bay Area visiting my family, and the headlines are split between the mosque-at-Ground-Zero and the 380-million-egg-recall. My stepfather has plenty to say about both topics, but for once I too have some input. Namely, that we don't buy our eggs from the giant egg complex/salmonella-spreader that is American factory farming. I speak to my egg farmers on Thursday and Saturday at the Bellevue Farmers Market. I can ask them what breeds of chickens they raise, what they eat, how the eggs are cleaned and handled. No mysteries. Ditto for our meat, cheese, fish, fruits and vegetables. (Not to mention our salad dressing and toffee and caramels.)
I've missed my Market this week, but have comforted myself with a visit to the Milpitas Farmers Market in --surprise!--Milpitas, California. Uh huh. Did I mention I'm a Trojan, Class of 1987? Milpitas has a very high ethnic population, and, as we all know, high ethnic population = awesome food. Check out the egg selection, for instance. I was so amazed the BFM had duck eggs on Saturdays, but haven't yet seen any Red Salted Duck Eggs there, or quail eggs, for that matter. A helpful fellow marketgoer informed me that you know your quail eggs are done when they float to the top. For $1 per half-dozen, it's hard to go wrong.
And then there was the produce! Things I had heard of, but never seen at a market: lemongrass, okra, table grapes. And things which I had neither seen nor heard of: "sticky" corn (boil 15 minutes), patola, and something that sounded like the capital of Nicaragua which my mother says is great with pork chops. People were clamoring for this watercress-looking stuff, which made me want it too, but I couldn't find any label beyond one sign that read, "All Leaf $1." Amazing what you can grow in California's Central Valley. Farmers hailed from Modesto, Stockton, Hughson.
I didn't suffer from seafood-envy at the Milpitas Farmers Market. It's hard to beat the Puget Sound. There was just one pinky-orange fish (whole, of course) with big glazed eyes which my niece was dying to poke. Berries were also in short supply. There were plenty of strawberries from Watsonville, naturally, but they were the huge, tasteless variety you find in the grocery store. And it goes without saying that you don't hit the Milpitas Farmers Market if you're dying for cheese. Asians are not really big on cheese. But all these differences are exactly what is so wonderful about visiting farmer markets--seeing that regional agriculture and cuisines are alive and well. That we all haven't been Appleby-ed and P.F.Changed into uniformity. Long live farmers, and long live the markets!