by Jamie S.
I spent the weekend before last in St. Louis for a wedding. I had Saturday morning free, so on Friday night I started plotting with a friend to go to the historic Soulard Farmer's Market. A local friend overheard us and shrugged. "Eh," she said. "You won't like it."
We went anyway, because--well, because I'm stubborn. And although a lot of it was the usual sprayed, buffed, shrinkwrapped, off-the-truck produce from who-knows-where, there was plenty of fantastic Missouri and Illinois produce too. I only managed to get about 15 feet into the open-air building before I was waylaid by a paper bag of locally grown Concord grapes--the last of the season, the seller said. I bought them immediately and sampled a few as we walked, discreetly spitting seeds.
Every stall brought something new and interesting to our attention. There were a lot of locally cured pork products, from sausages to crispy smoked ears (for dogs or for people? I never did ask). Homegrown eggs abounded.
I was particularly charmed by a pile of really freakish sweet potatoes, the likes of which you'd never see in a regular grocery store. I paused to take their picture.
They reminded me of Christina Rossetti's poem "Goblin Market":
We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?
I was awakened from my reverie by a cell phone call. Another of my friends, who had heard the previous night's conversation and made a foray of her own, was calling me from a different part of the market shed.
"I'm at the Soulard Market. You have to come here! You'd love it!"
"I'm already here! I'm by the weird sweet po--"
"Aaaaaaah! Ohmigod. I saw those. I took a picture of them."
Great minds think alike, apparently! What a joy to know that even if there are people out there who don't "get it," there are also many who do--with great enthusiasm.
I surely would have bought every one of those goblin sweet potatoes, too, if I hadn't had two baskets of my own curing in the pantry back in Georgia. As it was, I bought a sweetly fragrant bar of homemade soap, then we washed down some still-hot mini doughnuts with a bottle of local cider. From there, we went to see the arch--as you do.
Jamie S. lives in rural Georgia and writes 10 Signs Like This, a blog that's part gardening journal, part cookbook, part sustainable lifestyle, and part short attention span.