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caldwelld


Apr 17, 2006, 9:54 AM

Post #26 of 41 (3928 views)

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Re: [geri] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Used to be Mexican markets were better than NOB - largely to do with climate. But, darn it all, that changed over the last thirty years after the folks NOB got a “taste of Paris” (and Oaxaca, Puebla and the rest). On their return from “Paris”, they started rewarding supermarkets and green grocers with their custom, if they could deliver decent looking and tasting produce in wider variety. These same folks brought back from their travels an interest in new tastes and better food presentation. Being the richest of them all, there was no stopping them and they rewarded and rewarded until they had the best of everything.

And that just about sums up what has happened in the markets and food courts and restaurants NOB over the past 30 to 40 years. I can well remember when you couldn’t get much good to eat anywhere in the US and Canada once you left the big city. Sure there were a few regional specialties (available in those regions) that were to die for but beyond that the entire area was a foodie’s wasteland. Europe wasn’t much better in some respects even tho they looked down their noses at US and Cda offerings. You could get good (no great) French food in France but try to find Italian, Thai, or Chinese and the choices all of a sudden dried up - fast. And let’s not even talk about England. Now days, one can actually get a reasonable Italian meal in Paris, and London has some of the finest markets and food in the world – notably Indian and Chinese.

So back to Mexico, just to keep the string relevant. What we have going on here is really a question of supply and demand. Bubba can’t find his parsnips and Jonna’s pissed at the tomatoes because there are not enough Bubba’s and Jonnas around to make a difference. (Some would say this is a blessing.) But what the little tienda on the corner is servicing is the baseline market. And given the lack of customers and decent storage capacity, if he does not sell it he “smells it” – as they say in the fish biz.

Whither the Mexican markets? They will go the same way of markets NOB and in Europe. No decent city NOB is without one but it is less a tourist attraction than a business, (indeed not much to see except boxes). They get the stuff to the widest possible customer base in the least amount of time in the best condition. Indeed supermarkets have replaced smaller tiendas for the simple reason that they can deliver a better product, cheaper and faster. And if they can expand their customer base significantly they can afford to carry (tothe delite of many of us) stuff like parsnips, yellow onions, fresh sage, sweet corn, bread and butter pickles, and breakfast sausage because they won’t have to smell it before it sells. Viva Wal-Mart!!! Pocks on your organic tiendas as they too will be replaced by the big guys! It is called a market economy and we like it because it delivers parsnips.
dondon

(This post was edited by caldwelld on Apr 17, 2006, 10:07 AM)


Bubba

Apr 17, 2006, 10:33 AM

Post #27 of 41 (3915 views)

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Re: [geri] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Now, jeri, Bubba is quite fond of Oaxaca State and will, in fact be dancing in Teotitlan del Valle this December. You must come out to make fun of the fat bozo.

I ain´t eatin´no grasshoppers but I can be persuaded to eat a mescal worm.


Gayla

Apr 17, 2006, 10:47 AM

Post #28 of 41 (3913 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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No, darlin', I don't think I missed your point. I just assumed you'd had an extra Easter mimosa. And, actually, I think you missed my point, or at least perhaps misread my post. I didn't compare Mexican produce to American produce, I said that with the exception of the abastos market in Oaxaca, the abastos markets in Mexico that I had been to were much like the produce terminals in L.A. or San Francisco. The produce terminals are not the same as the farmers markets. The produce terminal in S.F. is on the northern fringes of Bayview-Hunters Point the L.A. terminal is downtown, most of them are open to the trade only and civilians would probably not be welcomed with open arms.

As you've rightly pointed out the farmers markets in the Bay Area can be exceptional. Having lived for nearly 10 years in Marin County I often frequented the Sunday market at the Marin Civic Center, which was by far better than the Thrusday market on 4th St. in San Rafael. And yes, there was a tomato vendor at the Sunday market that had the most spectacular tomatoes, a line 3 and 4 deep and was usually the first vendor to sell out. But there was also an element of sticker-shock as well; we paid well for what we purchased. The old farmers market at the ferry plaza has been completely and totally redeveloped along with that entire stretch of the Embarcadero. The ferry building has been turned into a warren of specialty shops and stalls and the whole thing is one extraordinary, flashy and expensive food extravaganza. Think Pike's Market done in San Francisco style without the pervading odor of fish. It would be worth a trip back to your old stomping grounds just to revel in it.

Now, the farmers markets here in San Diego are another story. While good, they certainly do not approach the quality or qantity of products that those in the Bay Area do, and some of the produce is simply being resold. But then, San Diego isn't exactly a foodies paradise. And the produce at Whole Foods here - or Whole Paycheck as it is called - here in San Diego is not any better than that in a Mexican mercado, and it grossly over priced for the quality; although I have to say the fish at their fish counter is really good. San Diego is an agricultural county. It is the largest producer of avocados and kiwi fruits in the U.S., as well as other crops. It's also the #2 producer of macademia nuts, of all things. It's the home of the vaunted Chino Farms, where you can't touch the produce to select it and you need to mortgage your house to buy it. But mostly the produce we get in San Diego sucks. It's underripe, won't ripen and pretty much flavorless.

I've spent 30 years in the food business. I've bought a lot of produce in the course of 30 years. I've also toured a lot of produce facilities and spent time in the fields in Moneterey and Salinas. Proudce is about big business these days, about producing fruits and veggies that will tolerate early picking, mechanical handling and long haul transportation. It's not especially about flavor or taste. It all depends upon what your value. The Japanese contract with the big lettuce growers to have their lettuce packed directly in the field and flown out immediately so that it arrives in Japan about 24 hours or so after picking. By contrast, the same lettuce, picked in the same field but destined for the American market is tossed into large bins for transport to a packing house, to be repacked and sold to a distributor who then resells it again. The same lettuce is at least 36-48 hours before it hits the American market.

One of the most interesting tours I ever took was of one of the packing plants in Monterey. We followed a truck from the field to a processing facility where the produce was off loaded into a refrigerated warehouse about the size of a football field. From there it was sorted and put on conveyors according to the type of produce it was and what the plant was processing at that time. Once on the conveyor the produce passed by women who did nothing for hours on end by core lettuce or cabbage for hours on end (boy would I hate that job!). It was also the only time the produce was touched by human hands. From coring it went into a wash, then a spin dry in giant 55-gallon salad spinners. The produce was then dumped onto a second conveyor which led into the chopping machine, then out onto another conveyor and then premesaured portions were deposited into waiting cello packs and finally sealing and packaging. The most amazing thing about this whole process wasn't that it was all automated and completely impersonal, it's that once the deal was done in Monterey, the entire plant was disassembled, put onto railway flat cars and semi-trucks and moved to Yuma for the beginning of the deal for the Imperial Valley growing season. We can't balance the budget, win an unpopular war in Iraq, but by god, we can disassemble an entire processing plant, truck it 700 miles away, reassemble it and crank out prepackaged salads and cut produce for a market hungry for the product AND MAKE A SIGNIFICANT PROFIT AT THAT.

And THAT, my dear Bubba, is the difference for me. I have no qualms about business making a profit, that's the American way, is it not. My problem is with the dehumanization of the process and the growing lack of connection with the land and the food chain. Yes, I know that most of the produce sold in street markets in Mexico are resales, and yeah, some of it probably doesn't measure up to the so-called quality produced NOB, or in other first world countries. Although, I really think the fruit in Mexico is far superior because it's actually allowed to ripen on the vine or the tree. I've not really had a terrible cantaloupe in Mexico; I've had plenty of hard, tasteless cantaloupes in the U.S. because they were picked underripe and the sugar couldn't develop properly in them. And don't get me started on the overly sweet, hybridized corn in the U.S. I love corn on the cob, I don't love the achingly sweet corn which is all you seem to be able to get these days. My Spanish is the best in Mexican markets and I appreciate the interaction I have with the vendors. Some of them like me and will humor me when I ask questions. Other just stare blankly. The point for me is the human-ness of the interaction.

And one last point because I really do have to do some work today. One of the most exciting concepts to develop recently are CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture. Ordinary people buy "shares" of a farm, in return they get regular boxes of whatever the farm is producing, and at intervals that they chhose such as weekly or bi-weekly. This allows small farmers to have a direct outlet for their product, get a fair price for what they produce and to farm their land responsibly rather than depleting it. Sometimes what you get in the box might not be what your fond of, like rhutabagas or some other uncommon veggie. But the upside to that is that if forces people to try or reconnect with food items with which they are unfamiliar.

So, basically for me, the whole point with Mexican markets isn't so much that the produce is equal or better, it's as much the experience and human contact as anything.


Bubba

Apr 17, 2006, 11:59 AM

Post #29 of 41 (3900 views)

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Re: [caldwelld] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Gayla & Caldwell:

Y´allsúns is confusin´Bubba by sayin´too many words for Bubba´s brain to process while Bubba remains in the awoke state. So let me see if we can condense history:

Historically, food was brought to the community by farmers who sold those foods in what were traditionally known as curb markets and folks et whut the town butcher butchered which was the animal(s) the farmer delivered to the butcher ´cause the unfortunate beast had arrived at that state of ripeness valued by human blood freaks defining themselves as deliverers of the Lords commandants on this sorry veil of tears and, over time, as refrigeration was developed, curb markets gave way to grocery stores and as trucks and trains carried Jimmy Dean´s lettuce from the Salinas Valley to Birmingham we all rejoiced in iceburg lettuce that constructed a base for our radish florettes and contaminated blue cheese dressing and, Thank You Jesus, then we moved on to Safeway and A&P and Piggly Wiggly and lo and behold then came Sam Walton who taught us that we could enslave Chinamens to make the plastic wrap that enclosed the broccoli picked by our ïllegal Latinos who could shit in the vineyards for all we cared and send a few cents back to some craphole in Zacatecas State until one day when we woke up and discovered that they were us and, just as the corrupt sheiks of the UAE discovered, they suddenly outnumbered us and without them there would be no lettuce on the table and I will tell you this;

Rosa Parks rode in that back bus seat in Montgomery until one day when she didn´t.


(This post was edited by Bubba on Apr 17, 2006, 12:06 PM)


Gayla

Apr 17, 2006, 1:56 PM

Post #30 of 41 (3881 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Okay..............so I just passed half a can of diet coke through my nose. You do have interesting creative writting skills :-D


Gayla

Apr 17, 2006, 2:08 PM

Post #31 of 41 (3876 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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A little more food for thought. Not exactly your handy-dandy next door street tianguis.

http://www.usatoday.com/...n-supermarkets_x.htm


Anonimo

Apr 17, 2006, 2:32 PM

Post #32 of 41 (3872 views)

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Re: [Gayla] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Very nice reply, Gayla. It's something to study and ponder.


Marta R

Apr 17, 2006, 7:13 PM

Post #33 of 41 (3840 views)

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Re: [Gayla] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Brava, Gayla. As succinct a discussion as I have seen, and well written to boot.

Your point about farmers markets in particular is well taken. When I hit the farmers market in Santa Rosa or Petaluma or San Francisco, I know that I'm not buying produce so much as I'm buying lifestyle. It's an important distinction, and I'm not sure that something comparable exists in Mexico. Or does it?

Marta


Gringal

Apr 17, 2006, 9:02 PM

Post #34 of 41 (3819 views)

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Re: [Marta Randall] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Please - tell me how to buy "lifestyle" at the Farmers Market in Petaluma. All I ever got was the veggies. They were good, though.


Ron Pickering W3FJW


Apr 17, 2006, 10:09 PM

Post #35 of 41 (3811 views)

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Re: [Gringal] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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'scuse me for butting in, but, I think that means going to the market with ones nose held higher than normal and paying a higher price with no haggling. Just my 2 centavos worth.
Getting older and still not down here.


Bubba

Apr 18, 2006, 6:06 AM

Post #36 of 41 (3795 views)

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Re: [Marta Randall] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Right on, Marta:

Despite your detractors, I will state as one among the all time non-snob down home redneck southern son of horse thieves whose ancestors moved to Alabama from the Carolinas two steps ahead of a posse that one will rarely find anything in Mexico akin to the farmers´markets in Petaluma, Santa Rosa, St. Helena or among 100 other towns all over Northen California where real farmers sell produce and artisanal products from cheeses to jams and nothing one sees there comes from any wholesale produce or meat market and people who would try to purvey produce bought in Downtown Oakland are summarily ejected from the premises.

On the other hand, the folks at ACA in Jaltopec on Lake Chapala put out some great organic produce such as the basil Bubba will be using tonight to make some fabulous Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with other ingredients bought at the Ajijic tianguis including cilantro, ginger, serrano chiles and so forth and so on. I might add that that dinner will be accompanied by some fabulous rabbit rillette made by this Belgian fellow who also sells his products at the Ajijic tianguis. Oh, and don´t forget the Thai Coconut Milk and some other exotic ingredients from Super Lake in San Antonio Tlyacapan.

On the whole, Lake Chapala presents the best of both worlds and has the best climate on earth despite what Cuernavaca Rex thinks.

The Kaffir lime leaves still come from Paris so stay out of my kitchen.


(This post was edited by Bubba on Apr 18, 2006, 6:20 AM)


Gringal

Apr 18, 2006, 11:16 AM

Post #37 of 41 (3749 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Now Bubba - are you trying to tell me with a straight face that they have the real deal there in Peoria-at-the-Lake; organic produce at a Farmers Market? Where you can park within three miles? I'll believe it if you say so, but I want some lifestyle with it at no extra charge.


(This post was edited by Gringal on Apr 18, 2006, 11:27 AM)


Bubba

Apr 18, 2006, 11:44 AM

Post #38 of 41 (3737 views)

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Re: [Gringal] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Gringal:

ACA ia a fine organization that provides us in the Lake Chapala area with wonderful organic greens and sweet corn in season. I love their bok choy, salad greens of various varieties, sugar peas, green beans, collards and all sorts of herbs and on and on. Everyone makes fun of Super Lake but they probably have the finest selection of all sorts of groceries of any store in Mexico or Utah for that matter. I can drive 45 minutes to Guadalajara and buy the best meats and sausages and poultry and wine from local producers or Europe.

I´m surrounded by eight foot walls and that keeps out the Peorians. I´ll shoot the first one who ventures onto my property.

I did like those fried oysters at Harry´s, however. We ain´t got nothing like that here.


RonMader


Apr 29, 2006, 4:03 AM

Post #39 of 41 (3647 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Gayla, thanks for posting the link to the USA Today story. Very interesting!

Also, updated on Planeta.com is this essay on 'certifiation' at a Oaxaca market
http://www.planeta.com/.../06/0604pochote.html

(This post was edited by RonMader on Apr 29, 2006, 4:06 AM)


sfmacaws


Apr 29, 2006, 11:19 PM

Post #40 of 41 (3608 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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I just had to respond to this thread since I am sitting here in Petaluma and will be here for about a week while seeing the tax lady and the annual doctors visits. I will have to find out when the Petaluma Farmers Mkt is so I can experience it. Being from Marin, I only went to the Civic Center market and the 4th st market. Last year I spent some time at the new Ferry Building market in SF. All those years I commuted on the ferry and walked through the construction rubble and they finally finish it after I'm gone. It is really nice, really expensive but not out of range of the rest of the area. It also has a Peet's coffee which is the only really important reason to return to California.

I also drove through your old stomping grounds today Bubba, we came in the back way from the east through Napa. The grapes are leafing out and the roadside roses are in full bloom. The hills are a gorgeous emerald green, all this from the tons of rain they got this winter. It is truly beautiful but I am eternally grateful that I spent the winter in Mexico instead of here in the rain.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán




Bubba

Apr 30, 2006, 6:56 AM

Post #41 of 41 (3592 views)

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Re: [sfmacaws] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Jonna:

When living in San Francisco, I lived for Peets coffee - far and away the best in North America. Peet trained the dudes who started the, unfortunately, mediocre Starbucks wan-a-bee chain of which Seattle is so foolishly proud. If they would ship Peets down here that is all I would drink. Black, straight and strong as hell. The Starbucks folks tried to get Peet to branch out a-la Starbucks but he was determined that that would compromise quality. Talk about prescient.

Yesterday, I was in the upscale and impressive Grand Plaza shopping mall in Guadalajara which has, as one of its centerpieces, a new Starbucks with the layout reminiscent of a San Francisco Polk Street post-hippy coffee house right down to the antiqued overstuffed chairs supposed to conjur up images of Northern California laid-back ambiance and, when I went to the counter for my outrageously overpriced and underflavored double espresso, the clerk asked me my name and where I was from. What the hell has that got to do with my need for a double espresso? Anyway, I informed him in Spanish that I was Roberto from Lake Chapala. He said, no, where are you really from? I told him San Francisco since that is what he wanted to hear and that made him happy. I had this sudden flashback to 1980 and expected him to say something like, ", Hi, Ï´m Guillermo and I will be your barista today. Would you like some caramel syrup and whipped cream with your coffee Roberto? How about one of our wonderful lemon tarts fresh from our special subcontractor bakery in Zapopan? "

I ran screaming from this scene and it followed me all the way from San Francisco to Guadalajara. They had so much rain in Northern California this winter that whole highways are falling into the sea but Starbucks was not deterred. If I am not mistaken, they now have about six fru-fru joints in Metro Guadalajara alone and they may soon be as ubiquitous in urban Mexico as WalMart. They charge twice as much for coffee as a dozen places in that city that make much better coffee and they seem to be attracting a following.

I can see it now. Soon I will drive into San Cristobal de Las Casas and, there in the main plaza will be Comandante Zero having a double latte and bran muffin in the new Starbucks while planning his next political rally. Maybe I´ll join him - apolitically, of course.


(This post was edited by Bubba on Apr 30, 2006, 7:01 AM)
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