New Jersey is nicknamed the Garden State. It was no less a sage than Benjamin Franklin (a U.S. Ambassador to France) who likened the state to an immense barrel, filled with good things, open at both ends, with New York eating out of one end and Philadelphia eating out of the other. So for the Tour de France KAL second intermediate sprint, the regional challenge, I'm taking the cycling option and showing a favorite local destination, the Montclair Farmer's Market.
Serious shoppers require serious equipment for such a trip. I zip-tie a milk crate to my rear rack, which accommodates two full-sized grocery bags. There's even room for a small cooler, should I purchase something that should be kept on ice. A cargo net protects purchases from shifting and from road grit on the way home.
There usually are 12 vendors at the market, offering a dazzling range of New Jersey produce – fruits, vegetables, fish and shellfish, fresh meat and poultry, sausage, bacon, eggs, honey, herbs, flowers, baked goods, and prepared foods and wine. Almost everything is locally grown or harvested; some vendors accept WIC coupons. The market is handicapped accessible. There's live music. Parking is free; unlike drivers, cyclists have their pick of the shady spots.
I love the market. Not only are the goods exceptionally fresh, like these choice fruits
or like the impeccably fresh dayboat fish and shellfish,
or are hard-to-find, like these red currants,
but even the most ordinary items, such as these bulb onions, are presented in ways one never sees in grocery stores.
There's certified organic produce from Starbrite Farm, managed by the sexy beast of the farmers' market, John Krueger (not my type, but you oughta see the way some soccer moms drool), and much more.
But perhaps the most exciting thing about the farmers' market is how it allows people to eat both well and good, how it reconnects people with the land and its seasonal rhythms, and how it supports small, local farms. French people have always known about the gout de terroir, have always been discerning to the point of fanaticism about regional specialties. It's a more recent learning for many people in the U.S., a shift from the relentless drive that equates cheaper with better and ultimately reduces everything – even living things – to a product for mindless consumption.
I like to think knitters (and cyclists, too) have an intuitive understanding and appreciation of creativity and produce over and against ravening consumerism. It may be as mundane as a desire for healthier, tastier eats or as profoundly radical as stewardship of the earth – however that may be, Allez les bleues!