Friday, September 5, 2008
Old Oakland Farmers Market
Every Friday morning until the early afternoon the Old Oakland Farmer's Market provides truck loads of excellent, diverse, and relatively inexpensive produce to the diverse populace of Oakland. A welcome relief really. I go to Farmers Markets all over the area and often leave with a funny taste in my mouth. Well, erm, actually the samples I eat do taste good. They seem expensive, a middle class indulgence, a crass recreation and fetishization of a pastoral fantasy world. Many conversations with vendors turn into conversations one might get at a wine tasting. Nothing is just everyday food anymore. Everything is a delicacy. I love to enjoy my food as much as the next, but sometimes I feel like I'm stepping into an exclusive club.
I had not intended to do a write up for this weekly affair so the photos are certainly lacking. But this morning, like many others, I got a great feeling of community. It's a market where people of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds can and do mingle and shop. There's a lower ratio of the convenience, prepared food to produce that one can run into at some other markets. Although, if you like, you can still spend close to ten bucks on a crepe. There are piles of produce and not just what one would find at the local Whole Foods. There are your everyday, and excellent tomatoes, stone fruits, berries, and squash, but there is also a large contingent of Asian vendors selling what one might see on the other side of the world, but grown here in the state of California. You can buy Italian, Thai, and holy basil. There are stands dedicated entirely to Vietnamese greens. In the midst of crumbling downtown Oakland, it feels like things are flourishing.
Today we didn't buy much really. Our weekly CSA box in conjunction with our garden haul leaves us needing very little, but we're planning to shop here in the coming weeks. Something of great interest caught our eye though. A small, busy stand was selling "banana dates." Seemed more like under ripe dates to me. I asked for a sample and was very pleased to get a fibrous and sugary treat. The stand was absolutely mobbed with people of various Asian descent. Maybe this is familiar to them...
Here they are in our kitchen. The owner procured a riper version that was fantastic. He told us to come back in a couple weeks and they would be plentiful. We will be back.
Anyhow, we were hungry so we broke down and bought some Tamales at All Star Tamales.
Now, I was very hesitant. I know a lot of places to buy cheap tamales off the street in San Francisco or in East Oakland without much fanfare. They may in fact be illegally sold, but that doesn't concern me. The restaurant lobby would like for you to be very afraid. Anyhow, I was pleased with what I received. A very competent chile and cheese Tamal.
Far too much packaging really. It's already wrapped, why the plastic? My only complaint in terms of ingredients was the lack of lard. Now I don't usually demand such things, but it's a given that if you eat one of these things in a heavily Hispanic area or south of the border, lard is included. It also adds a richness that can never be achieved otherwise. No matter.
Two tamales for $5 isn't too bad. I'm accustomed to paying about five pesos, although it's been a few years and corn prices are way up.
On the way home, Asian people kept pointing at my bag of dates. Did they think it was longgong? Did they recognize this date? I don't really know because I cannot find anything about them online. In a few weeks I'll go back and sample some more mature dates. Until then, there's work to do.