Sunday, April 3, 2011

Famers' market

In the past few years, I kept noticing posters in Rome advertising "Farmer's Market" (ahem: unless it's just one farmer selling his/her goods, you might want to rethink where you placed that apostrophe!) but I never bothered to follow up... until recently. A dear friend of mine went to the farmers' market in Testaccio and raved about the great prices and excellent quality of the produce. So we went together last week. The market is located indoors and has a decent sized selection of only LOCAL goods.

You can get incredibly delicious in-season fruits and vegetables, cheese, bread, homemade pasta, honey, jam, sweets, etc. and the prices are lower than "mercato" or supermarket prices because there's no middle man, it's just a farmer selling goods directly to the consumer.

I couldn't help but chuckle about the newly adopted "farmers' market" term because traditionally, all mercati used to be like this: they were filled with local farmers selling their goods directly to consumers at reasonable prices. But then things went awry and these stands were selling all produce at any time of the year. At my mercato in Trastevere, for example, I managed to find only one real farmer: he and his daughter have a limited selection and quantity of in-season produce. They don't have cases and cases of apples with "Melinda" stickers on them, they only sell fava beans when they're in season, if you go do your shopping late in the morning you'll often find that all the goods have already been snatched by the neighborhood's old women who flock to that stand as if it were Mecca.
It's amusing but sad that Italians had to borrow our term "famers' market" to make the age-old mercato tradition seem like something new and trendy. Italians need to realize that some things are better left unchanged.

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