Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Green City Market, or, Movies I'm Kind of Embarrased to Know This Much About

Rejoice! Green City Market has finally come to the point at which it will stand all summer, and if that’s not a good sign for Chicagoans still bitten by the long, hard winter we just came through, perhaps frostbite has settled in and a trip to the equator is called for. Sure, the market has been going on all winter in the Nature Museum, but as much as we love the baked goods and cheese and squash that provided, we looked ahead to the market in warmer weather: the grass and the smells of the grill and the crepe stand; the greens and asparagus and that guy who plays that thing involving drumstick-like sticks (great description, I know) with little balls on the end striking metal wires tightly strung across a board standing, slightly slanted, on a podium-like surface at about waist level that makes music that, when mixed with the sounds of milling feet and murmuring crowds makes me feel as though I am in Endor or Middle Earth or a nice garden like the one I imagined that friendly British worm in the movie Labyrinth would have taken Jennifer Connelly to, to meet his wife had she accepted his offer of tea. Digressions aside, can someone explain to me what this instrument is called?
MOVING ON, we’re all psyched that the market is back. And it’s not full yet, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? After all, we’re in the Midwest, and as I wrote in my rant about CSA’s, the idea is that we support the farmers in their earnest efforts to cultivate what is cultivate-able here in the areas surrounding Chicago. Which means no tomatoes for awhile. Ramps are going to be gone soon. And strawberries will only happen for a certain bit. So I encourage everyone, whether you’re in Chicago or not, to visit a local market of some sort (a great thing I experienced while visiting the small towns of Iowa were these little baskets of assorted garden vegetables people would leave out on their lawns or in their driveways or wherever, along with a little lockbox and a sign that said something like “50 cents each” and you’d take a cucumber and a tomato and drop a buck in the little box) and talk to these people and get familiar with what is growing, when it’s growing, and why. Get to know the troubles they’re having (a ton of rain, for instance, has prevented one farmer friend from planting very much yet) and the successes on the way (another friend had maybe five or six items this week; by mid-summer they will have one of the biggest stands in Lincoln Park).
As for me, this week I picked up six gorgeous duck eggs, all varying in size and color (that’s right, blue and brown and white, and there may have even been a little straw on them still, too), a couple big handfuls of great, new asparagus, still purple around the crests (what better meal is there than asparagus cooked in butter, topped with a couple of poached eggs, sea salt and a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano?), and some incredibly flavorful spinach, fertilized by the hard work of the farmer’s army of earthworms (I love earthworms and their ability to make a ton happen in the world of growth--and this is coming from a guy who is absolutely terrified of worms). Oh, and cat grass. Can’t forget the cat grass whenever I’m down there. Otherwise, what would my guys have to throw back up ten minutes after eating it?