Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Farmers Market

Winter Market: red cabbage, watermelon radish, celeriac, carrots, cold storage pears, honey.

The Ithaca Farmers Market is a dedicated structure on the shore of Cayuga Lake. The last day of market is in December. It is so cold that the meat sits out on the counter and the vegetables are in coolers to keep them from freezing. After the holidays, in the first week of January, the indoor winter market starts up.

It is a small, dedicated group of farmers who do the winter market. They continue to harvest and drive in the icy dark to market in the deep cold. Arriving to market the tales are shared of frozen batteries, impassable driveways and still everyone has arrived.

Eating my dinner, I notice that the red cabbage is significantly sweeter than even the one bought from the same farm in November and December. This plant has been through a lot even in that short time. I think that sensory knowledge of place is central to my gratitude for our farmers.

Even though I live in the country now and walk on the actual dirt every day, I still have a deep and wide gap in my understanding of what it takes to get my food on the table. For me, the food chain begins at the market. I know more now than I did in the city. There too I shook the working hands of the farmers who grew the food I ate. Here I know the farms and I know the people a little more. I might even know the breed of hen whose eggs I scramble up in the morning.

But I have never known this arc of taste of region and climate, the arc of texture and sweetness of a cabbage from fall to deep winter. This knowledge, while a personal epiphany and great pleasure, also feels old, and normal. Normal knowledge of place, and the food that sustains us.

Thank you farmers.

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