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Betsy Block

Stories without recipes

Dirty Little Secret

The Dinner Diaries is officially launched! To read more about it, go here.

Otherwise, I wanted to tell you about:

The Dirty Little Secret of Clean Food
It's farmers' market season again, and we all know what that means:  local, organic, sustainable, clean, hip, happening produce served up with an undercurrent of latent hostility, judgment and gossip.

Oops, did I say that? I love my local farmers' market as much as the next soccer mom. But I have to confess: sometimes, when autumn rolls around again, I'm just the tiniest bit relieved I won't have to worry about being hip-checked while buying an apple, or getting sore shoulders from carrying all that food.

As someone who has been a regular at the market since it opened more than a decade ago, I think I'm qualified to offer some helpful advice to shoppers. First, come loaded with coin. Second: put your best New Yorker hailing-a-cab-in-the-rain face on, because paying for what you've picked out can feel like general admission at a rock concert. Woe to the frail, elderly, or anyone with small children trying to buy an heirloom tomato or some mustard greens.

Finally, take a lesson from a woman I know who helped herself to some just-picked, sun-warmed cherry tomatoes last summer and ended up in the hospital. Even food from the wholesome, holier-than-thou (sorry, I mean holy) market needs to be washed.

But wait, there's more: Look behind the piles of colorful produce gleaming in the sun and you'll see some serious eye-rolling among the farmers as that pain of a customer walks away after having complained about the prices yet again. Or how about the incessant trash-talk? Take that farmer over there. He obviously trucks boxes of food in from other states because everyone knows corn isn't growing around here yet. And that guy? He claims he uses IPM, but his apples are so rife with pesticides they make the organic farmer feel sick; then again, the organic farmer is the one who's been banned from the market because he has a year-round farm stand, which is obviously just wrong.

Or how about the farmer who, once he's returned to his stand, gets accused of being a letch? (I haven't seen it, but then again, I'm no longer a recipient of leers.) Then there are the manager's rules about only allowing local businesses into the market, except for that stand run by the out-of-town bakery over there – you know, the one that uses way too much almond paste in everything? – because they have friends in high places.

And so it goes.

No matter how the food is grown, wherever you find people, you'll always find at least a little poison. But while the atmosphere at my quirky yet beloved farmers market might not be wholly pure, it definitely doesn't get any more organic; that is to say, human. As for me, I wouldn't have it any other way, but then, I love a side of gossip with my greens.

(Recently Andy and I were sitting in the front yard watching the kids and Roxy frolic. The sun was streaming down on our little corner of the world, and seeds were beginning to sprout all around us. We were soaking in the beautiful day and the sight of our beloved children and our spunky dog when Andy said expansively, "Bless the beasts and the children."

"What's the difference?" I asked.