Well. It’s been quite a week for the folks that love and hate the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market. First, there was the revelation that a new book by Carlo Petrini (the founder of the Slow Food movement) was downright rude about the farmers and their customers, who work, shop, and food-stroll their Bay Area Saturdays away.
Then there was the CUESA follow-up meeting that attempted to get stuff hashed out between the offender and the offended.
This was followed by blog reaction all over the Bay Area and possibly the country. And finally, yesterday came some signs that maybe Alice Waters was Jimmy Cartering her way through the ugly muck and hurt feelings; possibly composting what was said and using it to feed new growth. Mum until just recently, Alice Waters was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday as weighing in with her opinion on the whole nasty mess.
“I don’t think he was wrong about his perception that food is more expensive (at Ferry Plaza),” Waters told Scoop on Monday. “But I think he’s wrong in his analysis of why it was.”
The cost of raising good, fresh food and hauling it to market in the city “is something that’s important for all of us to talk about,” Waters says. And while she wishes Petrini hadn’t written what he did, she supports him 100 percent.
The Chronicle notes that Petrini had apologized in what they term a “politician’s type of apology” by saying he was sorry “for any offense caused by this passage.” Which, I have to agree with the Chronicle, is sort of like that old wheeze, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which definitely removes the offender from acknowledging any blame whatsoever. As to the poor surfer-farmer that Petrini “outed” as specifically gouging customers just to support his surf habit?
Petrini insists he meant to give a “positive impression.” He blamed his writing, and the translation, for distorting his efforts to illustrate the complexities of slow food in a fast world.
So…maybe what Petrini needed was a better editor? Interesting defense.
So far, I haven’t subjected anyone to my own opinion about the kerfuffle. For one, there are plenty of opinions to go around and I’d just be adding to the noise, but for another, my opinion isn’t really incendiary or original.
I frankly adore the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market. Back in Boston, we didn’t really have an equal to it. I mean, there was the one in Haymarket, but it smelled so much of rotting fish the one time I passed by that I never really wanted to go back.
However, the FBFM is so…pretty. Even in dank and drizzly weather — my favorite time to shop there, actually — it’s just painfully beautiful to amble by the delicious, nourishing sculptures gently coaxed out of the simple dirt. The visions of bright tassels of radishes, the soft green piles of lettuces, shiny unblemished peppers, peaches that make you feel warm all over just by touching them. Even if I never pull out any money, I just feel at peace gazing at so much earthly beauty as the water laps the pylons. It’s my art museum, and I can’t get over it. I hope I never get over it. But maybe I’m naive or satisfied by simple things. After all, I still hunt for four-leaf clovers and hold buttercups under my husband’s chin to see if he likes butter. (He does.)
Is the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market expensive? Well, yeah, but so are Jimmy Choo shoes and Hummers and diamonds and memberships to Slow Food. It just happens to be where I choose to spend my money. Would it be nice if prices were lowered? Duh. Of course it would, but until I completely understand how much it costs to coax a small, organic farm to produce, transport, and sell the lovelies I put on my plate, I don’t feel qualified to complain about it.
In fact, I’ve always been chuffed by the fact that my knowledgeable mother-in-law — who can keep a vast number of figures in her head — looks at the prices at our farmers’ market and pronounces them to be competitive with what she pays at her farmers’ market in Washington, D.C.
As other people have pointed out, if the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market prices are so repugnant to people, there are so many other places to get good produce: Alemany, San Francisco’s Civic Center, Marin — and that’s just the few I know about.
It just doesn’t seem like the most productive plan of action to attack and tear down farmers and shoppers, call them names, assume motives and wallet size, and backbite.
I know what the real problem is here: we’re all just crabby because the summer tomatoes haven’t quite come in yet.