There are farmers markets and there are farmers markets. The first kind is where you meet people with dirt under their nails. If you scratch the surface about the produce they can talk for hours on end with knowledge and insight; maybe telling you about why this variety has come on this year and this one hasn’t; informing you about the best way to look after it before you cook it (which really should be tonight). This is genuine farm to table. The second kind of farmers market is where there are people who have already prepared food – the kind where there are ten different types of olive oil at a stand; the ones with dips that range from a simple hummus to a pumpkin, feta, spinach number that contains more ingredients than you thought possible; the ones with all kinds of smoked meats ready for you to eat right then and there where they have samples pre-prepared waiting for you to snaffle as you walk past. These two types are, of course, ideal types of farmers market, for there is no pure one that is just like this. All farmers markets tend to have a mix of produce and finished product, of raw ingredients and ready-to-eat dishes, being greater than the sum of their parts.
We have a very good one in Margaret River where we stop in for a sausage sizzle as soon as we arrive, putting our $3.50 towards a local charity be that Margaret River Karate or the local theatre company or the Lions Club. Then we do the rounds, picking up local meat, the best potatoes going, kale if we have raided the veggie patch a little too much since last week. This time though, we were up in Perth, seeing family and getting ready for the school semester. That meant we caught up with cousins at Subiaco Farmers Market. They live around the corner and not too far from us, and we joined them on a cloudy Saturday morning, the drizzle falling, making the dogs damp if not wet. There were dogs everywhere from puppies that looked like teddy bears to pugs impersonating wombats with their snuffling to border collies patiently waiting for treats. Some of the dogs, like some of the people, listened to the jazz band jangle their way through harder standards, not the easy muzak you used to get in elevators, but bebop and freeform like they were listening to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane at home, not only Louis Armstrong. Everyone got a coffee and we wandered round. As is our want, K and I got bratwurst, and the cousins got corn fritters with haloumi on top.
We bought fresh pasta, and apples to make a pie with, walking past bakers with their cakes, tapas stands telling us to take some home, and butchers who had racks and racks of dry aged steaks behind them in refrigerated cases that looked like museum displays. And on we wandered, stopping to pick up a plant and watching the 30 members of SUFFA (Subiaco Ukulele Free for All) sing out Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’. They were infectious, enthusiastic, joyous, making the sun with their voices while the drizzle continued to fall. And the dogs stood there and watched, nonchalant as they had been with the jazz, nonchalant as though the farmers market was no big deal at all.