Thursday, October 25, 2007

Farm fresh

I really like words, always have. My grammar can be a little idiosyncratic and numbers are just kind of a confusing blur to me but words, well they're an endless source of fascination and delight. Big ones (phosphorescence, obnubilated), little ones (zo, la), old ones (wimple), new ones (though not so much), the romantic (desire, fable), the prosaic (bum - say it aloud, bum) and words that sound like I've got it wrong (scumble, grabble, ruddle) - they're a joy in my life.

I grew up in a household of words: four kids talking, shouting, teasing; a father who is ruthless in Scrabble; a mother whose constant refrain was - is - "just wait till I've finished the chapter"; a grandmother who offered me up the joys of Georgette Heyer when I was ten ("La sir, that you would be so bold!"). So I admit, I can be a little precious, sometimes pedantic, and oh so slightly judgmental when it comes to which word is used where and for what purpose. Woe to those who are thoughtless in their use of a thesaurus (does that sound like something from Gilbert and Sullivan?), who replace one word for another with no regard for nuance or rhythm.

So it is perhaps not so very surprising that I was a little pissed off the other day when I bought some carrots from the little farmers' market down the road. It's a source of confusion and disappointment to me that Tassie, with its foodie image, has no exciting food markets. You can buy kites and Born to Ride t-shirts from an trestle table outdoors on a Sunday but it's impossible to locate a baby beetroot. So I was excited when the local deli set up a market in their car park. It's tiny but it has a cake lady for Lu and Nell (who like bright blue icing and sprinkles resembling shards of glass on their cupcakes), an older woman selling jams that make me stop still when I taste them, and a purveyor of Lost Seeds and intriguing herbs. It also has a seller of farm fresh veggies and wanting to buy local, I picked up some carrots. Farm fresh carrots. Fresh from the farm. But which farm? Turns out, one outside Toowoomba, which is oh, thousands and thousands of miles from where I live. And judging by the taste, they weren't so much carrots as woody orange things in a rudely amusing shape.

Caveat emptor and all that, but surely there's just a leetle false advertising going on here? I think farmers' markets are becoming less and less about promoting and personalising a connection between the producer and consumer and more of a general claim to worthiness, like 'all natural', which doesn't really stand up to close inspection. As the rise of Big Organic reminds us, any attempt to subvert the system just gets assimilated right back in. That's the genius and the horror of advanced capitalism, even when practiced in a small carpark in a regional centre at 10am on a Sunday morning.

I'll check the labels in future, and won't go back to that stall. But really, I can't judge the man too harshly - 'farm fresh' is a much stronger selling point than 'I couldn't shift them by 2pm yesterday and they'll be on the decline by Monday'.

1 comment:

traceyleigh said...

I can really relate to this entry. After living in Weipa, where the vegetables were extremely poor quality, highly priced and not even always available if the ship didn't/couldn't bring them, I was so excited to be moving to Launceston where I thought I would be in a fresh and local foodie heaven! How wrong was I?!! Ok, yep, I can get locally produced organic potatoes, but that's it save for the occassional time I have stumbled across something 'local' at Youngs or the like. It frustrates me, because we are still in a rental for the time being and I crave vegetables that taste like actual vegetables. I was so spoilt having the father that I did who grew everything under the sun, organically and beautifully.