Tuesday, April 21, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

From field to fork: Visiting two of London’s Green Markets

By
From page A9 | February 22, 2012 |

It was a sunny day in London in the not-too-distant past, and Diane and I were enjoying a long walk to the Portobello Market in London’s Notting Hill district.

Our journey to London hadn’t exactly been planned. We both reached a benchmark birthday last year and hadn’t celebrated. So when friends called at year’s end to announce they’d found an incredible airline deal on British Airways, and had a flat lined up, and we’d never been to London, what do you say?

I was quite curious to see a Saturday produce market, London-style. I think we all know that Londoners care a bit these days about climate change, eating healthy and recycling.

Moreover, London’s restaurants are much better than in the past, in part because of the great number of immigrants in recent times. But it’s more than that.

DanKennedyW

Viewers of the wildly popular “Downton Abbey,” the PBS offering that just concluded its season, feasted their eyes on seemingly endless scenes of Daisy at work in the downstairs kitchen and the aristocrats dining exquisitely upstairs by candlelight. Such cuisine collapsed in World War I, never to return, according to a culinary blog recently posted on NPR titled, “Why British Food Was So Bad For So Long.” The economic crash of 1929 stepped on their wallets, as did fascism, World War II and a 14-year period of rationing that ended in 1954.

Fresh off my British Airways flight, what would I find at well-known Portobello Market, which appears on many tourists’ checklists, right up there with the Tower of London, the British Museum and theater in the West End?

The entire Portobello Saturday Market stretches for sixth-tenths of a mile on a winding urban street, considerably more than the two minutes it takes to traverse the Davis Farmers Market. This I had to see.

What’s more, the fruit and vegetable stalls at the Portobello Market came into business in the late 1800s. (Antiques dealers began to concentrate there as well, but that was in the 1940s, and the market now claims to offer the largest concentration of antiques vendors in Britain.) That’s 170 years of history, compared to our Davis Farmers Market, founded in 1975. They’ve had time to get it right.

My expectations were high. My expectations, however, were soon dashed.

What I found were stalls selling produce imported from distant parts, little different from the agricultural distribution system that we know so well from our supermarkets.

A kilo of peppers here, a small bag of potatoes there, bananas and carrots laid out colorfully beside each other — many of the stalls were visually enticing, with broader choices than one finds in any stall at the Davis Farmers Market.

Yet the boxes made clear that virtually nothing was local or from the type of small farms that make up artisanal markets in the United States. The boxes revealed, for example, that the cherries came from Chile, the bananas from the Americas and the grapefruit from Cyprus. Indeed, for local or regional fare, one does much better at the Davis Food Co-op and Nugget Markets.

But shouldn’t I account for the fact that by early winter, a lot of produce that might be grown locally is simply out of season? Of course. But winter squash, various root crops, greens made of sterner stuff — these might have been present.

I left empty-handed.

Disheartened, we took the Tube a few days later to the Borough Market in southeast London, close to London Bridge. We’d read that the offerings here were both artisanal and “local” in the sense that most everything sourced within England or Ireland. It’s open only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

This time we were not disappointed. Quite to the contrary. The sprawling Borough Market beneath railway viaducts was awash with booths that astonished.

Just to speak of seafood, for example, there was Applebees Fish, much of their offerings line-caught. Mureen Smokehouse offered salmon, eel, sea trout and more, smoked in the traditional way from Western Ireland. Richard Haward’s Oysters looked impeccable, as one would expect from a seventh-generation oysterman. Surely Mrs. Patmore, the cook on “Downton Abbey,” would have appreciated the variety available to please His Lordship.

Shall I mention Chegworth Valley’s bottled fruit juices, pressed from fruit grown in their orchards? I guess I just did. And what about the numerous stalls selling artisanal meats, meat pies and the like — even a vendor from an ostrich farm!

The variety and sophistication here, the long pedigree of many vendors, the ready-to-eat products, exceeded anything we know from the Davis Farmers Market, one of America’s best. But that’s as it should be, really. We’re talking about London, a leading world city, compared to the small population of our university town.

Prices, alas, were almost eye-popping. I failed to jot down any specifics, as I was too busy sussing out the market: Many booths were already starting to shut down. You’ll have to trust me on this. One would eat lightly, or infrequently, if sourcing one’s food from the Borough Market.

Happily, one of our party managed to convince a poultry vendor who had his stall’s gate almost down, and his birds packed up, to part with the capon that still hung in lonely fashion from a display hook. From this and other things we fashioned a dinner worthy of the servants’ table at Downton Abbey, where the staff ate real food.

— Dan Kennedy, a Davis resident, has a long history with the bounty of gardens and small farms. Reach him at [email protected]

Comments

comments

.

News

 
Woodland murder suspect claims history of abuse

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

Public forum will explore community choice energy options

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

 
Log cabin home is labor of love

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

The camp around the corner: Day camp benefits kids and families

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Ready to give a resident camp a try? Tips to ease the homesick blues

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Vote with your dollars at Davis Food Co-op

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
UCD study: Colorblind bilingual programs can perpetuate bias

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Davis Kids Klub offers a true summer camp

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Immigrant teens share their dreams at YIIN dinner

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Buddhist groups host SanghaFest on Saturday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

AAUW hosts Yamada speech on Tuesday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Round up at the registers for Davis schools

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8Comments are off for this post

Free Family Bike Clinic set Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Online courses a cure-all? UCD study says think again

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

Show tunes take center stage at sing-along

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Alternatives to violence explored

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

Paws for Thought: Hero dogs go above and beyond

By Evelyn Dale | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Rotary Club hosts whisky tasting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Spend a morning with the mayor

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Celebrate Mexican culture at I-House

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Achievement gap to be addressed at symposium

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

Suicide awareness walk set April 25 at UC Davis

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Tour de Cluck tickets on sale now

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

Patwin is ‘Where The Wild Things Walk’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

.

Forum

Gratitude all around for the Breakfast for Heroes

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

 
Broad new vaccination law is a must

By Tom Elias | From Page: B4

Seniors, you CAN get there from here

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
Hey, do you want that glaucoma fixed?

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5Comments are off for this post

.

Sports

DHS thunders past the Herd

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Wong leads UCD charge in Big West women’s golf tourney

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD boxing club making a name on the national scene

By Dylan Lee | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS girls basketball pioneer Iten dies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils edge closer to Delta League soccer title

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
.

Features

.

Arts

Rockabilly music will fill the park Wednesday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
One-man show ‘Buyer and Cellar’ brings non-stop laughter

By Bev Sykes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

Hear Wealth of Nations at winery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
‘Frozen’ Mini-Musicals to be presented

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Baldini to conduct Camellia Symphony

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
DMTC sets auditions for ‘Evita’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Stories told at Third Space

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
UCD assistant professor to give lecture at de Young Museum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Robert Leigh Cordrey

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

 
Ruth Rodenbeck Stumpf

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

Alice Catherine Micheltorena

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7