The ever-entertaining Mark Bittman of The New York Times has done some photojournalism in Rome, and his slideshow of the Campo de' Fiori market includes the vegetable man we saw years ago on a family trip. Bittman calls him, "A man so enamored of his fancy peeling device, he couldn’t be bothered to talk to customers." But certainly, Bittman must not have been trying hard enough. Did he even approach the man?
Because I remember this vegetable man - he made me "earrings" out of the shavings of carrots and we took many toothy pictures together. He shook our hands, patted our backs, gesticulated to our stomachs, eyes, hands and incessantly muttered in Italian, sometimes to us and mostly to himself. We bought an arsenal of plastic devices in an effort to repay the man for the experience, and we still use the mandolin. Ever after, when I hear the Jesus and Mary Chain song, "Vegetable Man," he comes to mind. "Vegetable man, vegetable man, He's the kind of person, you just gonna see him if you can, Vegetable man." I mean, Bittman must have caught the guy on an off day.
I really love farmer's markets, and there's one coming up next week here at school. I buy relish for my mom from this one couple every year. It has a little bit of red pepper in it - so good. And when Mackensie worked at the Westport Market, I loved getting gooseberries and sampling goat soaps with her. But my heart belongs to daddy - the markets of all markets (I've seen) are in Europe. Here's a collection of photographs I took a few years ago in France. The market was on the side of a highway, D-90 or something like that. It wasn't the most picturesque of the markets I've seen, but every one of its vendors was a character. For all the buzz these days about gloriously fresh produce and the benefits of a locavore conscience, I have to admit, I'm also in it for the people you meet. If you click on the pictures, they get larger so you can see them better.