Thursday, August 5, 2010
Handcrafted Food - Another generation gap?
This week, August 1st through the 7th is apparently National Farmers Market week. As frequenter of farmer's markets wherever I travel around the country, I am a happy celebrant, and am equally happy to have read the USDA's recently released report that the new number of farmer's markets in the U.S. has grown to 6,132 from 5,274 last year! California leads the way with 580, and Wisconsin has grown to 204! I love that the enthusiasm and apparent demand for fresh, local food is growing in this country, and hope that somehow this will eventually lead to better produce being delivered to the likes of Safeway and Walmart.
That being said, there is no doubt that these wonderful farmer's markets cater to those who can afford them. When that perfect peach can cost upwards of $1.50, and that heirloom tomato perhaps even more than that, it is a select audience that can try these glorious foods. And this is not so different from what goes on in the art and craft world, where there is a similar hunger for quality and disparity in spending ability leading to a generation gap in experience.
However, just as the Renegade Market is to the American Craft Council, so is there now an Underground Food Market to the Ferry Building farmer's market in San Francisco. Grittier, sometimes grungier, smaller, more experimental and, oh yes, less expensive, the Underground Food Market offers a place for small makers of artisanal food to sell their wares to the public. Often produced in their kitchens or grown in their backyards, these foods are the creative results of individuals passionate about food but unwilling, unwanting, or unable to develop a full-time business from them. The market is kind of an Etsy-like marketplace for food, and the attendees of the market look, not surprisingly, more like the attendees at the Renegade Fair and less like those at the Marin and Ferry Building markets.
Happily, there is room for both, for Humphry Slocombe ice cream in San Francisco with its long lines and for the young lawyer at the Underground Market proffering her small quantities of coconut-saffron ice cream. And maybe, just maybe, it will all affect what is found on the shelves of supermarkets for a future generation, which is, after all, the great by-product of a generation gap.