Editor’s Note: Food for Thought
A Sunday trip to the Civic Center market yields amazing eats and even better conversations.
INTRIGUED BY Lynda Balslev’s online series on local farmers and her story in this issue, I found myself inspired to start going to the Civic Center Sunday farmers market again. I tried it a couple times when my girls were in a stroller, but the cost and hassle were too much. But now, a few years down the line and with a stronger conviction to support local purveyors and strengthen community connections, I’m back.
I aim to be there by 7:30 a.m. when most of the booths are ready to go; however, the team at Brickmaiden are usually still unloading their white van in front of a patient crowd, confirming that bread is not dead here in Marin. Cup of coffee in hand, I plan on seeing friends like Eva Claiborne and her dapper husband, Keith, whose outfits put the rest of us to shame. I see chefs I know, like Roland Passot (La Folie, Left Bank), who holds court with purveyors, tasting cheese and winding his way through the aisles. Mark Pasternak from Devil’s Gulch is always having a good time and usually eating something. Ged Robertson, of Shoreline Coffee Shop and newly opened Watershed, can be spotted perusing the stalls from behind his aviators.
It’s a scene, a good one. Hence, people-watching is almost as fun as the shopping and eating. My favorite are the grumpsters. Rolling their eyes when someone asks the difference between a regular and a jumbo egg. Line police are also fun: when my friend swooped in and took my place in the queue to order bread a few weeks back, a fire hydrant with lipstick hissed, “I hate people like you.” OK, I thought, good morning to you too.
Then there’s the matchy couples. I’d like to start a hashtag because they are so cute, and most of the time they probably don’t even mean to both be wearing blue stripes or green tracksuits. The kids are even cuter — strolling by in a stunned state of half-sleep, arms reached out as if to say “Where’s my next treat?” My heroes are the elegant older ladies; you’ll find an abundance of beautifully coiffed 70-plus women filling their baskets with Star Route little gems, snap peas or eggs — yes, good food is medicine and these women are proof.
Back to the lines. I generally won’t stand in line for food; not that I don’t value it, but I value my time more. Here, however, conversations bubble up and eavesdropping is a sport. Recently I learned that the natty guy in the fedora I see every week is actually the front house manager of Bull Valley Roadhouse in Port Costa. I’ve also learned that Allbirds shoes are really comfortable and if you are following the Bucks Institute’s protocol for staving off Alzheimer’s, you need to eat your gluten early in the day.
The true challenge for us type A’s is the line that forms in front of Tru Gourmet Dim Sum. Luckily, there is usually toe-tapping live music playing. By the time I take my place in line, I am typically about five people back, among moms with strollers and kids holding Tupperware, laudably preventing container waste.
But last week my patience was tested by my least favorite “person type” at the market. The-all-too common “I’m the only one on the planet” person. This one materialized as a compact buttoned-up dandy and was spending way too much time chatting up Cathy, who runs the dim sum tent. A sizable line had gathered behind him as I waited, and waited, for him to turn around and see the line that he created. Nope, he didn’t think to turn and look; he handed over his cash, got on his phone and walked away.
It takes a village, and the one we live in is varied and fortunate and wide, and the Marin County farmers market reminds me that I too am lucky to live in this village. Here at the magazine this month, we’ve dedicated the entire issue to food throughout our county, including the farmers, markets and international grocery stores. We hope you enjoy this peek at the bounty of our county as much as we had fun assembling it for you.