Farmer's Markets - Guest post by Joe
This little post was written by my boyfriend, Joe, who recently had a fit of writing fever. Although he's been a co-writer for TheSweetArt for years, this is officially his blog debut :)
There are things in your life which you’ve never done, and things which you don’t do enough. For me, both are happening right now; for the first time in my adult life, I’m not in school (taking a year off from medical school to do research), and I’m finally taking some time to brag about my fantastic baker-extraordinaire girlfriend, Amrita.
As many of you know, Amrita recently took a big step in developing her small business. For the last 2 months, she’s been braving 100+ degree heat in rain and shine at the Tower Grove farmer’s market off of King’s Highway and Magnolia. Her stall has been doing great, and we’re so grateful for the many loyal dessert lovers who show up every weekend to support her. In every way, her gamble on the market has paid off, and I’m incredibly proud of her. However, I wasn’t always convinced that doing the market was a good idea.
Until I moved to St Louis, I’d hardly ever stepped foot into a farmer's market. My only experiences with marketplaces were during my visits to China, when I'd watch my grandmother haggle for fruits and vegetables. From the crush of people jostling their ways around colorful tents to the symphony of vendors crying their wares, the experience of a market was something that filled every one of my senses, a delightful blend of tastes and smells. But it was something I always associated with China, and never imagined I'd find state-side. To me, America was the place of air conditioning, vegetable sprinklers, and grocery carts pushed down identically tranquil rows, whether at Kroger or Publix or Shnucks.
When I first went to Soulard’s in downtown St. Louis, it felt like I had left the US. The air was pungent with the smells of spices, meats, and vegetables mixed in with the rich scent of soil and earth. People were everywhere, music was coming from all corners, and prices were so low that even a miserly Chinese-American like me couldn’t complain about costs. It was completely unexpected, and I immediately fell in love with it. However, it didn’t feel like the right place for a macaron stall. The farmer’s market at Soulard was wonderfully uncouth, and I simply couldn’t see the delicate tastes and textures of a French macaron doing well in such a raucous place. As a result, I had some serious reservations when we went to visit Tower Grove.
Tower Grove, though, was something very different. Like Soulard, people crowded around stalls and tables as voices and smells wafted through the air. But that was where the similarities ended. Where Soulard was filled with the shouts of vendors and prices inked in black sharpie, Tower Grove boasted chalkboards lovingly drawn in pastel colors and vendors chatting amiably with customers.
Where Soulard had mountains of half-washed tubers and greens teetering on the edge of landslide, Tower Grove had neat rows of cheeses, pies, and sandwiches. It felt as if Soulard was the brash child of the soil brought straight from the farm, and Tower Grove was the refined younger brother who’d been sent to school, taught table manners, and dressed to impress. I could tell that Amrita’s baked goods would fit in well here, where she would have time to chat with all her customers and show them her dozens of flavors.
When I go to the market now, I’m still reminded of the feelings I’d always thought belonged to China. But there’s a new feeling too, a fullness of the heart, and a lifting of the chin. As I watch Amrita smile and laugh with customers, I can’t tell what I’m more proud of— my wonderful little lady building her business or all the happy dessert-lovers who leave her stall with brightly colored boxes in hand, waiting to be opened so they can share new flavors and fond memories.