Saturday, September 12, 2009

Putting Things in Perspective

I received this newsletter a while back from my friend Ruth in Asheville and was so intrigued with the pictures and the prices (not to mention her excellent writing) that I asked if I could share it with you all. (I'm pre-posting this as I'm at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival today and tomorrow and, depending on internet access, I may or may not be able to post and moderate comments. I'll be back Sunday night.)

Dear Tailgate Market Fans,

President Obama came out in favor of tailgate markets big time! Here's the quote:

"One of the things we're trying to do now is figure out, can we get a little farmers' market...right outside [near] the White house...[doing] that is a win-win situation. It gives suddenly D.C. more access to good, fresh food, but it also is this enormous potential revenue-maker for local farmers in the area. And...those kinds of connections can be made throughout the country, and...has to be part of how we think about health."

Wow! I have to say it's pretty amazing to imagine that the president is even thinking about tailgate markets. With everything else on his plate right now, I find that pretty inspiring. The general discussion leading up to the quote was concerning health care, school children, and the ramifications of obesity in our country.

Not only do the Obamas have an organic garden at the White House, but I recently read that the Queen of England has one at her house too. I guess that shouldn't be too surprising considering how involved Prince Charles is with Sustainable Agriculture in England. This is so heartening. The figureheads of two important counties have publicized their organic vegetable gardens.

Referring back to a subject from a few letters ago, I attached (sorry dial-up tailgate fans) a picture of some cantaloupes my daughter and I saw while visiting my sister in Japan. Notice the price posted by them is 2100 Yen. That is around 22 US dollars. That's right, $22. in cash for one single cantaloupe! My sister explained to me that fruit is often given as a gift in Japan, and that these are absolutely-perfect cantaloupes. Look at the elegantly trimmed stems and the flawless skin. Someone else told me that they remove every fruit, but one, from each cantaloupe vine and then grow out one exquisite melon per vine. There were peaches, each swaddled in padded netting that wass "just right" for peaches that size. Very large and round with pretty color, and Y1050 per peach. That translates to about $11.50 per peach. They also had cube shaped watermelons.

During our visit, my sister Nonie, and her family, received one ultra-perfect bunch of green grapes as a gift. The archetype of grapeness it was, as a bunch and even each individual grape. They arrived in a colored cardboard box obviously designed solely for housing and presenting grapes like this. I shudder to think what the cost was. Luckily I had not yet seen the fancy melon with the fancy price, or I would have hesitated to eat the grapes at all. My sister says nothing is inexpensive in Japan and this fruit was probably priced as a gift. However, it certainly gives us pause for thought when we complain about food prices in the USA.

We tried to locate a Farmers Market in Tokyo, but it was the wrong Saturday. We did go to an amazing market in Kyoto; the seafood in particular was striking by virtue of its variety and its freshness. Every fish eye was clear, and there were lots of unfamiliar sea creatures. That same market had an incredible cooking shop that could be very dangerous to enter with a credit card in your pocket. Oh, the array of knives and the sparkling copper cookware; and oh the price. Lust was in my heart.

Bakeries in Japan are a great place to find an inexpensive snack. To my surprise, the loaf breads looked very European artisan-style to me. At the bakery counter, the only thing we could read (it is all written in a different alphabet than ours) was the amount of Yen it would cost; so we weren't always sure what we were about to eat until we took a bite. Eggplants and cucumbers are harvested when very young and tender in Japan. In the USA, we are accustomed to Japanese cucumbers that are about 8"-12" long. Their cucumbers are 6" at most, and Japanese eggplants are maybe 7" long.

One last thought...if you want to put anything by for winter, it's time to start planning your strategy. Get those tomatoes for salsa and sauce before the blight destroys most of the tomato crops in the area. Stock up now. Throw them in the freezer if you can't get around to it quite yet.

Enjoy the nice warm weather,
Ruth Gonzalez
Tailgate Market Fan Club
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KarenB said...

So is fruit only for special occasions in Japan? What happens to not-so-perfect fruit? I know very little about Japanese culture but find it very interesting.

I hope the literary festival goes well, Vicki!

Vicki Lane said...

I think that the not-so-perfect fruit (much more expensive than what we're used to) is for everyday use -- these beauties are meant as luxury gifts.

The festival was lovely and I'm back home now, drinking coffee and catching up on email.