I spent yesterday morning at my local farmers’ market. It’s been a few weeks since I’d been, and in that time it has grown. There’s now a pizza stand, a crepe cart, two cheese stands–in addition to the dozen or so stands that are there every week. It was bursting with shoppers, strollers, family dogs. Partly, the new energy must be the result of the incredible seasonal bounty that is beginning (the first corn of the season was mobbed as soon as it was put out). But more and more, I am convinced that these are just, in general, the glory days for food.
The commercial and cultural awareness of food doesn’t seem to have ever been present at quite this level before. Cooking shows, competitions, food fairs, restaurant weeks, celebrity chefs, and books on food politics are all part of the mainstream conversation. There’s a newly romanticized appreciation of artisanal production; a growing awareness–to at least some degree–of food politics; a conversation about obesity; multiplying farmers’ markets; a White House organic garden. There’s a momentum right now that makes me feel it’s the most exciting time possible to be interested in food. I don’t know how much sea change is possible, but I don’t think the way America thinks about what it eats will ever be the same again.
In a way, I wonder how this will affect America at large. With cheap food sources, the country has been able to grow economically by freeing up labor and creating a food-export economy. Of course, there have been serious consequences –environmental, international famine issues, farmers’ rights, fast-food culture, to name just a few. I just wonder how much the current push from the people can really affect change. Clearly there’s a large-scale demand for conscientious products–if Walmart is selling organic food, then the conversation has infiltrated the mainstream. I think that food is a much bigger issue for the American economy than we necessarily understand, and I am curious to see how will America change structurally if these attitudes toward food continue to flourish. How we eat affects so much more than just our three meals a day; it’s foundational to our economic and cultural identity.
For now, I am just enjoying it. I have access to gorgeous local food and the community it brings together every week. Food is full of pleasure, people, and ideas for me. And, being able to make myself a meal focuses my day.
The following dish is one that I made entirely from Sunday’s farmers’ market produce, with the exception of the basil, which came from my patio garden. The intensity of fresh, in-season corn provides one of those rediscovery moments, like meeting an old friend again, as if for the very first time.
Farm-Stand Corn Salad
2 ears of corn
about 2 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small vidalia onion (or other), diced
1/2 c. of fresh basil, julienned
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper
olive oil, about 1/2 c.
balsamic vinegar to taste (depending on age and sweetness of the vinegar)
Bring a pot of salted water to boil and prepare a bowl of ice water on the side. Dehusk and clean, then cook the corn for 4 minutes. Immediately place in the ice water to stop cooking. On a cutting board, cut off the kernels and place in a large bowl.
Combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil with the corn. Toss with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.