Boulder Farmers' Market: Thirteen ways you know you're a true "foodie"

Saturday's Boulder Farmers' Market boasts loads of bedding plants, including tomatoes and basil for the hopeful and optimistic. Best not to plant these out too soon, though, with colder weather expected to linger. Sue and Mark Parsons have brought their vibrant tomato plants. Rocky Mountain Fresh, a farm outside Lyons, is selling greenhouse-grown heirloom tomatoes and bright cherry tomatoes that balance perfectly between acid and sweet, Miller Farms has resumed selling asparagus -- they had none last week. The first root crops are here alongside the greens: bright radishes at Aspen Moon, and tender, sweet little turnips. Speaking of frost: Last week farmer John Ellis predicted a fine apricot crop -- happy news for those of us who grieved the loss of apricots last spring. Now he tells me his crop is gone: blossoms and tiny beginning fruits were all destroyed when the temperature dropped to 28 degrees one night. A farmer's life is never secure.

Around 9:30 a.m., the crowd starts to pick up. I hear someone introducing his visiting sister to the regular vendors at Silver Canyon Coffee. Someone else strolls past, saying to a companion, "I think we should recall the arts commission," and I don't need to eavesdrop further to know he must be talking about the big red aluminum YES! that's been commissioned at a cost of $150,000 for the curving window of the downtown library branch. (A reader, Dave Woods, had a pithier response in a letter to the Daily Camera. Having acknowledged that "putting a big red word on the side of a building in an eye-catching font is arguably the greatest artistic concept since the invention of paint," he pointed out that unfortunately "Boulder already has at least two previous incarnations of this artistic vision: the Staples Art Museum and Office Supplies at Twenty Ninth [sic] Street, and the Target Art Institute and Stuff on 28th Street. The Target Institute [pronounced in the French manner, 'Tar-jhay'] develops the concept further by adding the ancient and mysterious bull's-eye symbol in the same ethereal hue.")

I overhear Sheila Payne of Far Out Gardens explaining to someone that she and her son Jesse, who have been fixtures at the market as long as I can remember, are taking a sabbatical next year, perhaps a permanent one. In fact, as she eventually explains to me, they're moving to Durango -- though Jesse may come back. This is sad news: Sheila fills clogs and childrens' shoes with succulents to create unusual houseplants; makes delicious salsas you can duplicate, since she'll sell you a bag holding all the necessary ingredients in summer; arrays the market's most astounding display of tomato and eggplant varieties on her stand; and creates small, beautiful bouquets of seasonal flowers. Far Out Gardens is always one of the most original and interesting stalls of the market, and this feels like a huge loss. But at least we get to enjoy Sheila's food and creativity for the rest of the season.

I run into Julia Joun and ask her about the fall Flatirons Food Film Festival, which she organizes. She's planning a documentary on craft beer, along with three more documentaries and a feature film. Julia is a serious and sophisticated cook. She arrives at food swaps with exotic jams like red pear lavender and blueberry apple with fennel and bay. I make jams every year, and they're simple mash-ups of fruit, sugar and a touch of lemon juice; my intention is to preserve the fresh, clear, straightforward tastes of summer peaches and plums for the winter. Julia's process and approach are far more complex -- and she promises to share them when jamming time arrives. Keep reading for the thirteen ways you know you're a true "foodie." I taught a writing class called Food, Glorious Food at the University of Colorado for twelve years, so it's not unusual to bump into a former student at the market. This week, it's Nelson, returned from various exotic travels to stroll 13th Street and check out the produce. I knew Nelson was going to be one of my most interesting students when I read his very first paper, a personal essay that contained the phrase "eating pad Thai with cunty fingers." He said it was a riff on something he'd read, but clearly he was a writer of verve and style. In the years since, we've followed each other on Facebook, where he frequently posts photographs of dishes he's made with comments like, "A special meal is not just about the skirt steak or aduki beans or sesame ramen noodles. Sometimes it's about the dinosaur spoon." And "Fancy fried rice with easy egg and oyster with pickled pepper and ginger"; "Lobster tails getting the marrow and prosciutto bath. Bubbles didn't make it"; "Oyster shucked with can opener, topped with prosciutto fried in beef marrow, finished with dash of fish sauce infused with chile and ginger. Yup".

All these encounters make me ponder the word "foodie" -- a word I tend to dislike, because being a foodie can mean so many things and so many kinds of foodiness annoy me. Annoying foodies watch the Food Network for hours but never use their own ovens for anything but storage. Or build expensive architectural kitchens full of top-of-the-line equipment that never gets dirty. These foodies follow trends with breathless attention, salivating over New York Times articles about new ingredients, always racing to the next critically acclaimed restaurant. They buy heavily into chef celebrity culture, worshipping national stars and taking it as gospel whenever some lordly twenty-some-year-old who happens to cook in a restaurant gets interviewed and lays down the law about the one-and-only correct way to scramble eggs. Then there are people you can't invite to dinner because there are so many things they won't eat. I'm not talking about those with genuine health problems or who are vegetarians out of deep-seated moral conviction. I'm talking about people who adopt every new intolerance, allergy, dietary theory or general prohibition they ever read or hear about -- and expect everyone around them to accommodate.

I have come up with thirteen ways -- obviously entirely subjective -- to figure out if you're a true rather than annoying foodie. Agree with four or five of these, and you can claim the title. And please feel free to add to -- or contradict -- this list. 1) You think about food many times a day, drift off to sleep contemplating recipes you want to try, or entertaining the image of oil and vinegar slowly emulsifying around the tines of a whisk as a way of lulling yourself into peacefulness.

2) You're always happy in a kitchen. 3) You caress eggplants, marvel at the shape and color of sweet peppers and generally get a sensual kick from food.

4) You love feeding your family and friends. 5) You love being fed by family and friends.

6) The minute you hear that someone you care about is hurt or unhappy, you start thinking about a dish you can make to help them feel better.

7) You improvise in the kitchen a lot, but you also enjoy reading food blogs and recipe books--for ideas, and as a way of communing with fellow obsessives. 8) You remember important moments of your life by what you were eating or drinking at the time they happened -- even if it was just a cup of Folger's or a cheese sandwich. 9) When you visit a new town, you make a note of all the candy, cheese and liquor stores you pass, and stop to read posted restaurant menus. And, of course, you consult local reviewers to figure out where to eat.

10) You know you can glean a lot of interesting information about a new acquaintance simply by asking what he or she likes for dinner. I once got a terrific description of how he built a home smoker and tips on preparing ribs from a man sitting next to me on a plane who'd seemed completely boring on first glance.

11) You're always interested in finding new tastes.

12) You can appreciate a just-picked ear of corn with butter and a sophisticated restaurant dish presented with artistry and crafted to perfectly balance tastes and textures because you know that loving both home cooking and haute cuisine is no more contradictory than loving Mozart, folksong, musicals and heavy metal.

13) And it goes without saying: You shop at farmers' markets.

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