Just back from the farmer’s market, where I collected the bounty for tomorrow’s July 4th feast. On the menu: grilled pasture-raised pork tenderloin from my friend Richard White, prepared with Beth’s excellent citrus-cumin-garlic-oregano marinade with her citrus-ginger glaze on the side, sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, okra, and a truly fantastic watermelon from my farmer friend Abraham Carpenter, with whom I worked many years ago in getting an Arkansas Department of Agriculture finally established. I also got a bunch of fresh basil, which I’m going to combine with natural mozzarella and the tomatoes for a tasty caprese salad. Abraham, being the stand-up guy he is, also threw in a beautiful half-cantaloupe; I didn’t have the heart to tell him that cantaloupe melon is one of the handful of foods that I like that doesn’t like me (the others being avocado, raw spinach, and honeydew melon. They must all have some common protein that I just can’t digest). Since my mom loves cantaloupe, it will go to good use and be enjoyed as it should. My brother-in-law Bob will be making the potato salad; several years ago he made it for us once and since the general agreement was that his was better than anyone else’s, the potato salad is now his job.
You know you’re getting old when all the holidays that were once a great excuse for drinking beer on a party barge all day you now look forward to for the food.
I do have to say it’s gratifying to see the growth of our farmer’s market. When I first moved here just over 20 years ago, the farmer’s market had just started and was housed on the ground level of the 6th Street municipal parking deck. These days, it takes up both pavilions of the River Market, just a few blocks down the street from the Clinton Library, and the offerings include everything from the previously mentioned pastured meats to fresh Asian speciality vegetables, heirloom vegetable varieties, and herbs and flowers as well. In addition, a number of vendors offer homemade soaps, handcrafted jewelry and other items in the open-air adjunct to the River Market hall. The only thing they still need to get under control are the vendors who bring in produce raised out-of-state; typically you can sort them out from the home-grown farmers early in the season, when they are offering tomatoes they advertise as “Arkansas-grown” a month or more before any tomato grown in-state has started to ripen. Most farmer’s markets have rules against this type of thing – I’m hopeful that with the burgeoning popularity of our market, the faux-farmers will soon be crowded out.