Friday, May 04, 2012

Farmer's Market on Airline Road

This week we went to Houston's Farmer's Market. It has been near downtown on Airline Road forever and ever. It isn't an organic market and it isn't what it use to be at least not the public part. But for me it is still pretty special. It is in a huge building and out back are covered stalls. But what is in the building are huge 24 by 72" sided tables. Each one holds one kind, at the most two kinds of vegetables. They also have some shelves of canned and preserved fruits, salsas and vegetables. Not canned by Del Monte or one of the big food companies but canned by small regional kitchens. It isn't  hermetically sealed and air conditioned. Instead it is cooled by giant fans. I love that fresh produce smell.

Okay, you may be thinking, why do you drive across town to go there when you have two grocery stores right near your apartment. There are several reasons. The first is that it reminds me of the mercados in San Miguel that I'm missing. Of course, since I've been going to the Farmer's Market on Airline for 40 years...maybe could be that the mercados in San Miguel remind me of home. Whichever way it works, this Farmer's Market makes me happy with its abundance, color and smells.

The second reason is I like to pick out each tomato, or okra, or ear of corn or cucumber. More and more in the grocery stores, food is getting packaged----four ears of shucked corn in a styrofoam box and wrapped in plastic, little plastic tubs of cut up melon and fruit, a plastic box of okra. I've never liked the prepackaged produce but now that we are starting to hear more about what can leach out of the plastic and into our bodies I like it even less.

While we were picking out okra, we struck up a conversation with another man who was also picking out okra. And that is the third reason I like shopping at the Farmer's The conversation was about what we were going to cook with the okra which of course led to talking about gumbo. He made my mouth water when he said that he had some crabs to put in his gumbo. It isn't unusual at all for a conversation to start up while you fill your bag, "My, these tomatoes sure look good." "Yes, they are. I think I'll make up a pot of tomato sauce." "That would be good. How do you make yours?" And so it goes.

I always see a lot of stately black women shopping there with their baskets filled with okra, greens, tomatoes, peas......Oh, I wish they would take me home with them. I know that I would have a meal filled with soul.

And the fourth reason I shop there is because they have produce that I can't find in the grocery stores. This week they had purple hull peas, lima beans, speckled butter beans, and pinto beans. They were blanched and frozen, just like I would do them if I bought a bushel of beans and shelled them. They are not the same as Swanson frozen black-eyed peas and they certainly taste differently than dried beans and peas. Have you ever eaten fresh pinto beans? They are so fabulous, the same with the speckled butter beans, fabulous. If I hit the market at the right time during May, I might be able to buy a bushel of fresh pinto beans and shell them like I use to do but that was back when we were a family of five. It isn't practical for just the two of us. So I'm really grateful to find them already shelled and frozen.

One other thing I love about this market, Food Trucks. I know that these days food trucks are the IN thing. As long as I have been going to the Farmer's Market on Airline, there have been food trucks and they have all had some kind of Mexican street food. We try to time our trips there so we can eat from one of them.

So now you know why I drive across town to shop at the old Framer's Market on Airline.


alcuban said...

The Iron Chef had a show yesterday that featured okra as the "secret ingredient". Never had it, but everyone on the show kept referring to its "mucilage-like" texture which made it sound pretty disgusting. They also said it was good to add vinegar to it to conceal some unpleasant flavor. It all sounded not very appetizing.


Billie said...

Al, yes it is slimey but so are nopales. There are ways to cook it that minimize that factor and I don't really know what unpleasant flavor they were talking about. Someday you will have to try it cooked by someone who knows how to cook okra...southern style.

Cynthia said...

I love that Farmer's Market too and just bought fresh limas that were there along with the pintos. I grew up near the Heights and can remember going there as a child. (I try to plan my trips on days the Houston Dairymaids are having tastings.)