Once Upon A Time At The Farmers’ Market

farmers' market


When I moved from Hollywood to Tarzana, in 2014, one of the few things I knew I’d miss about my old neighborhood was the beautiful Hollywood Farmers’ Market on Sunday morning.

farmers' marketI’d wake up at 6:00 AM every Sunday, to find the perfect parking spot on Selma Avenue, where the market still happens weekly. At the time, I felt very self-aware, and uncomfortable in my own skin, so I’d do my shopping very early, when only a few people were up for organic produce and fresh bread. I didn’t have much money, but I’d always save some for the market, and I’d fill my woven basket with what I could afford.

“I’d cut a thick slice of fresh bread,” I said to Ben a few days ago, when we had unsuccessfully tried to go to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, “and then I’d scramble the eggs I had just bought. I’d spread some butter and orange jam on the bread, and I’d read the New York Times.” I have always hated Sundays, but this was possibly my favorite part of the week.

I have been living in Tarzana since September of 2014, and I have finally decided to go back to my happy ritual.

Like every morning, yesterday I woke ap at 6:30 for breakfast, meditation, and work. However, since my agent was still reading the chapter I had sent her, I decided to take a day off to cook and run errands.

“Babe,” I said to Ben at 9:00 am. I jumped on the bed like a three-year old.

“There’s a farmers’ market on Topanga Canyon! I’m going!”

He gave me a sleepy smile, and then kissed me.

As I checked the market’s website for their weekly schedule I could already see the colors, smell the flavors, touch the crunchiness of a fresh baguette, and imagine the stories behind the wrinkles on a farmer’s face. Recipes wrote themselves in my head, and I felt excited.

“I’m going to go now, because I am afraid I won’t find parking,” I told him as I took my clothes to the bathroom.

At 9:40, I was driving up Topanga Canyon. I felt nervous about the parking situation and I didn’t know what kind of market this would be.

topanga farmers' marketI arrived at 9:55, and to my surprise, as I drove up Trophy Trail, where the market is, I saw plenty of parking, and not many people. The view was breathtaking, there was a lovely wood-furnished children’s playground, and the little square opened up before my eyes onto a small but sweet Southland Farmers’ Market. I got out of the car and I looked around me. I was happy.

I took a deep breath: “It looks like Champoluc,” I thought, noticing subtle similarities with the small mountain village in the Aosta Valley, where I grew up and spent my formative years. My grandparents had a house there, I call it home, and I visit whenever I can.

Did I say I was happy? Oh, believe me, I was.

Browsing the seven (or eight?) stands, I bought French Baguette and one big pain au chocolat; I thought about getting fish for dinner, but then I remembered I wanted to make bread and tempeh meatballs.

I was farmers' marketsurrounded by a cornucopia of colors.

I also wanted to buy produce for the week, so I stopped at a stand that gave me a good vibe. The bell peppers looked like a kaleidoscope, green, yellow, red, orange, purple — Arlequin on the table. They released a late summer essence that I wanted to experience one more time, before butternut squash and yams would hit the oven for the autumn season. The zucchini looked just like the ones that Madri, granny, baked in the oven and stuffed with meat, eggs and cheese, or that she’d dice for her signature zucchini and potato minestra — one of my favorites. The carrots were small and beautifully imperfect, as life is supposed to be. Strawberries and eggs I bought from the farmer at the opposite end of the little square.

The basket had grown heavier, so I rested it on the ground as I stood still to take in the beauty. Kids were playing, and the Santa Ana wind had just started to blow. The air was still crisp, but as it touched my face I could tell it would warm up soon.

I took a couple of photos, and then I went back to the first stand.

“Where is the farm?” I asked the blonde woman who has sold me the bell peppers.

“In Lompoc,” she said. She wasn’t wearing make up, and her hair was long, naturally straight. She had probably been awake since 4 in the morning, and yet she was radiant.

“How’s it called?”

Santa Rita Farm,” she smiled. Her name is Roxanne Renner, and she is the owner.

I had interrupted her conversation with another customer, so I thanked her and headed toward my car, careful not to break the 20 fresh eggs I held in a container in my right hand.

farmers' market“I should have stayed longer and talked to her,” I reprimand myself as I drove down the hill.

I was shy and felt like the new kid in town; I guess I am still self-conscious and fearful of new places. But I’ll go back the next week, and perhaps I’ll feel more comfortable and talk to Roxanne about the produce her beautiful farm grows not far from Santa Barbara.

Going to the Farmers’ Market is a great way to eat sustainably, support local communities, and treasure traditions. Also, a farmers’ market is truly the only place where to find fresh, organic, and locally grown produce, just like grandpa’s. There are more than 4000 around the country. Look them up and give yourself the gift of something authentic, flavorful, human, and just plain good.

Here’s a list from the Los Angeles Times: http://projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets/

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