New Vendors This Week
Pizzeria Moto will be back with us this week. They suffered through the horrible heat their first time with us, but you must have made them feel welcome, because they want to try a biweekly rotation through the end of the market. Check out their menu and take home a couple of really good gourmet pizzas.
Also, Uncle Fred is working on getting back to us at least every other week soon. He is building a new smoker to help meet the demand.
On the Way In and Out
Look for the melons at Jose’s -- this heat has produced the sweetest melons in several years. And the blackberries at Alma’s are big, juicy, and sweet this year. Paired with peaches in a crisp or a rustic tart, they’re even better.
I’m still waiting for a list from Mike Burner of Holly Brook Farm of the many tomato varieties he has planted this year, but I think he is so busy picking them that he can’t get around to it. Once we get it, we will print up a chart for you -- I think he has planted about 30 different tomatoes. They come in all shapes and colors and will make some lovely salads worthy of Joie de Vivre’s dressings. And don’t forget to check out his potatoes -- we threw some on Uncle Fred’s smoker last week, and boy were they good! They have so much flavor that all you have to do is wash but don’t peel them, cut into chunks or thick fries, toss in good olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 400-degree oven till brown and crispy.
This Week at the Market
I realized this week that I have not mentioned Cavanna’s Pasta in a while, and for those of you who may not have tried it yet, I apologize. This is the best pasta we have ever had at home, and it rivals the handmade pasta in the finest Italian restaurants in this area or anywhere. Gianni makes all of his pastas himself; the fillings and sauces are all made from scratch in his storefront’s kitchen in Richmond. Just ask Mehdi, who sells for him at our markets.
If you plan to make your own sauce, you really must do it justice and serve it over Gianni’s pasta. My family enjoyed this fettuccine with mixed vegetables recipe using Cavanna’s Straw and Hay thin pasta (half spinach and half regular) in place of the fettuccine, and last week I made an uncooked tomato sauce to eat with his sausage tortellini. Mmm good! Don’t despair if you don’t make your own sauces -- all of his are authentic and amazing. As is Gianni!
From the Market Master
Recently the New York Times published a well-written, organized, and thorough investigation into how Big Food has manipulated and nearly co-opted the system put in place in the early 2000s to set standards for and certify foods as organic, including produce, dairy, meats, processed foods, and much more. It is a scary article, and I have predicted this as the sooner-rather-than-later outcome of the federal oversight and certification of organic anything.
Cabinet departments and regulatory agencies in this country have long been more kowtowing than browbeating in their approach to dealing with the businesses they regulate. I remember reading and condensing a story in The New Yorker for a college professor of mine more than forty years ago about the discovery by a Senate Committee led by Estes Kefauver that the Food and Drug Administration was allowing the drug industry to run the show even then. In those days, this revelation became a minor government scandal. I can guarantee you that there will be a similar story today in a newspaper or on the Web about some recently revealed regulatory malfeasance.
At this point, we have let ourselves and our families down by not insisting on and fighting for better representation, not just in the legislative branch of the federal government but within these regulatory agencies and the commissions and committees they create to advise and consent. It is not just the government agencies that have abdicated their responsibilities. We have met the enemy, and it is us.
So what can we do? I think we have made some headway with the Farm Bill this year, though not nearly enough. The subsidy program may even get worse, which is outrageous, but some of the smaller programs designed to promote small farmers, farmers’ markets, and access to fresh, local food in what we now call “food deserts” have at least not been cut, and a few have received additional funding. This funding still represents a small budget compared to the subsidies going to wealthy farmers who grow for Big Food. If that kind of money went to nurture and support small farmers all over this country, we would all be eating better and be healthier for it. More corn on the table and less in the stockyard or the corn-syrup plant would be a good thing for all of us.
Some concerted grass-roots efforts were underway throughout deliberations on the bill, and in previous newsletters I have provided links to great information about the bill and to petitions you could sign or letters you could sign and send. I was impressed by the activity and outreach, and it looks as if the people were heard on a couple of provisions.
Please read the New York Times article and learn what is now being labeled “organic” and what is being considered for approval to be added to foods sold under the “certified organic” label. Then look at the prices being charged for this charade. It may make you sick, as it did me, but it will bring you back to the farmers’ market -- any farmers’ market -- in a minute.
One thing you can do is to work with us and others to help strengthen and promote our markets here in Northern Virginia. Smart Markets can always use help on the ground at our markets (I need a couple of market managers right now) and outreach assistance from those who are active in their communities, churches, and schools or with children’s activities. We can get you materials and give you something to do. We may not be able to change much at the national level, but we can let people know what is really happening to the food system and what their options are in the marketplace. And the more folks we get out to the markets, the more we can reach with our own little informational campaign.
I always think back to the success of the anti-littering campaign. My family traveled long distances in the car north to south along the East Coast for many years. Before the campaign, the highways looked terrible, and people would throw all kinds of trash out their car windows. I remember when the campaign started, mostly with signs and radio ads, and as kids we would holler at people we saw littering from their cars -- not that anyone ever heard us, but we understood the message anyway. The informational campaign succeeded, and even though highways still sport litter occasionally, it is rarely from people throwing it out of their cars. My point here is that information does work and can lead to action and change.
So let’s start here and get the word out. And get your friends and neighbors out to your farmers’ market right in the middle of your community with farmers who come quite a distance to bring you what they grow, even if it isn’t “certified” organic. At least it’s real food.