Saturday, September 22, 2012
Farm Bulletin: Gathering of Dusty Feet
I don't know about you, but when I go to the farmers' market, I just grab my shopping bag, jump in the car and go. As I walk the aisles looking for that perfect bunch of carrots or winter squash and talking with friends, neighbors and favorite vendors, I'm not thinking about how markets evolved or where the custom of ringing the bell to start the market came from. That's why I'm so glad contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm is there to enlighten me about the things I take for granted.
When the market manager's designated representative swings the bell on Sunday, it is a gesture steeped in history. Markets are regulated places of exchange. The antecedent to the market structure, a big and heavy club in order to whack somebody over the head and exact their goods, was woefully inefficient. The lump on the head approach of unfettered exchange requires double the number of transactions, and headaches all around. People of a libertarian bent rant about the need for "free markets," but that is an oxymoron. From the earliest times, the right to conduct a market or a fair was granted by the reigning monarch to an individual or institution by means of a charter. A critical component of the charter was granting of safe passage to and from the market or fair by the monarch. Without that guarantee from the government, there would be a paucity of vendors and buyers.
Hillsdale. A standardized opening time signified by the market bell is another gesture at meeting the third. In times past, the weight of a loaf of bread was also standardized, giving rise to the extra loaf in a "bakers dozen" to avoid the stiff penalties for coming up short.
The Quarterly Journal of Economics (1906), vol. 20: 231-249. It includes the proceedings from the mid 15th century case of Thomas Smith vs. the contumacious Cristina van Bondelyng.
Fortunately, the Hillsdale Court of Piepoudres sits very infrequently, and if all goes well this Sunday and there no infractions of the rules, we can hasten home and enjoy a tasty plum cake (Zwetschenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen) with a mix of the prunes we picked for market. This recipe is adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 11th Edition. As New Englanders, Fannie Farmer is where you go for basic recipes.
Butter a 9" x 9" pan. Preheat the oven to 375°.
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 &1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add to the first mixture alternately with:
1/2 cup milk
Cut plums in half and place cut side up close together in even rows over batter. The plum flesh should float slightly above the batter.
2 Tablespoons melted butter
Then sprinkle with turbino sugar, especially over the plums.
Bake about 20 minutes or so until the batter is cooked. Cut into squares.
The original recipe suggests placing the plums in the batter cut side down, and adding cinnamon to the sugar. Wouldn't look as pretty, and who needs cinnamon when you have a good plum.
The Style Manual for Market Farm Newsletters (3rd Edition) satisfied, that's it.