The Santa Rosa farmers market in early fall could not be more beautiful. Strolling through dozens of stalls marveling at the colorful abundance of the season, I cannot imagine a happier place to be.
All markets have their own character and over the years, the year-round Santa Rosa market has developed into exactly what it should be, a bountiful celebration of our region?s best agriculture and the talent of so many who are inspired by it.
Recently, the market seems to have matured to a new level, with farmers expressing their personalities in more vivid ways than in the past. For example, there?s Canvas Ranch, the farm in Two Rock that is well known for its CSA program and its weed-eating miniature sheep. Their market stall reveals the thoughtful aesthetic of farmer Deborah Walton, who could give Martha Stewart a run for her money when it comes to displaying just-harvested vegetables and fruits.
Nearby is the French Garden stall, with a nearly completely enclosed tent that has a sort of secret salon-like feel to it. Peering through the opening, I wasn?t sure if I would find vegetables or a fortune teller. Of course, on one level, I knew exactly what to expect but, still, there is an intriguing flourish of mystery in the set-up.
Mostly, though, I notice all the colors, huge rainbows of peppers and tomatoes punctuated here and there with plump melons, including exquisitely delicious yellow watermelons, and the season?s first winter squashes and fresh shell beans.
There is one development that does not please me so much. As I was searching for a perfect pomegranate, one with an unbroken crown and good color ? it was to be a gift to someone who appreciates the beauty of the pomegranate as much as I do ? I started to ask a question when I noticed the cell phone at the vendor?s ear. I tried to make eye contact but to no avail. Eventually, the call ended, but a few minutes later, a similar scene unfolded at another booth. The intimacy of the market was suddenly infected by that strange form of commerce ? point to this, point to that, while you talk to someone other than the person in front of you ? that has come to inform so much of the public sphere.
I don?t love the Santa Rosa farmers market any less. I think it is a glorious market, one that we should all treasure and be proud of. But could vendors please put their phones down when they have a customer? If you have to take or make a call, walk away.
This recipe is adapted from one I found in ?Farmers Market Cookbook,? by Neill and Fred Beck. It was published in 1951 and includes an introduction by M.F.K. Fisher.
Farmers Market Baked Eggs
Makes 4 servings
4 bacon slices
? Butter, at room temperature
2 small ripe heirloom tomatoes
? Kosher salt
? Black pepper in a mill
4 large backyard eggs
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
4 tablespoons heavy cream or creme fraiche
4 to 8 slices sourdough bread, toasted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Fry the bacon until it is crisp; set on absorbent paper to drain; crumble and set aside.