Market Malaise

This past Saturday I took my five-year-old daughter Hannah with me to the Second Street Market in Dayton. The Market is crowded on Saturdays, which can be annoying if you are fighting your way upstream through the schools of people. Crowds, however, are a good sign. Lots of people means lots of business and precious revenue for these local vendors, so I try to check my annoyance at the door, knowing that most of my frustration stems from the fact that I am patience deficient.

Hannah, being a five-year-old, declares immediately that she is hungry and would like a snack. I let her make the decision as to what we should eat, knowing that I have full veto power to override any choice deemed unappealing to me. Being the vegetable lover that she is, we go for the zucchini “pasta” with pesto from the raw food stand and head outside to the picnic tables to enjoy the beautiful weather.

We had not been sitting long when a husband and wife seat themselves at the same picnic table, only a few feet from us. No sooner had they made themselves comfortable than they began to complain about the Market, basically in its entirety:

Why aren’t all the vendors at the Market every day it is open, instead of just on Saturdays? Why can’t the produce vendors be there every day?
Why does it have to be so crowded on Saturdays?
It’s so annoying to have all these strollers and families everywhere.
Why do people bring their kids to the market?

And then she said it, the thing that caused my temper to rise and my fairly nonexistent patience to evaporate completely:

“I mean, I don’t bring my DOG to the Market.”

Are you freaking serious??? This lady did not just compare children to her pet.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have seen plenty of children that act like hairy, ill-mannered little animals, but that I blame on their parents. This lovely couple was issuing a blanket condemnation on all children, even the well-behaved ones like my daughter, who just happened to be sitting a mere few feet away from this malcontented duo. At this point nothing would have given me greater satisfaction than to go over and slap the contempt right off their faces. Knowing that this would probably not be the best example to set for my daughter, I laughed instead.

“What’s so funny Mama?” Hannah asked. “The ridiculousness of other people,” was my reply.

Here’s the thing about the Second Street Market, a tidbit of obvious information for seemingly everyone else in the greater Dayton area save these two sour grapes: this Market is specifically geared towards families. Shhh, don’t tell anyone! Seriously, how could you miss the clown in giant shoes making balloon sculptures for all the kids?

To me, the importance of creating a family-friendly atmosphere in a marketplace is of great importance. Here is an invaluable opportunity for me to show my daughter an alternative to shopping in a “big box” store or grocery store where tomatoes are shiny and show no dirt and eggs are without feathers in chilled cases. Here at the Market she can see how all these lovely vegetables look as soon as they are plucked from their soil beds by the hands of the farmers who grew them. Here she can see rainbow eggshells that when cracked will yield yolks of beautiful orange. Here a proud vendor will whip out his pocketknife to let us sample his wonderfully earthy tomatoes, his eyes showing pride and excitement. Here we can buy our couscous and quinoa from an ornery man who is always ready with a silly story. And here I can hand my folded bills to the sweet Amish man who sells us chow-chow and bread-and-butter pickles canned by his own family.

This type of camaraderie and transparency are so crucial in the marketplace both for vendor and customer; each has a vested interest in the product as creator and consumer. It is this interaction with both vendor and vegetable, merchant and meat that I see as invaluable in forming my daughter’s attitude towards food and the means of procuring it.

If you can’t see the importance of teaching such lessons, stay the hell home, shop at “Big Bob’s Wonder Food Emporium” In addition, if you can’t recognize that farming is a more than full-time job which requires you to actually be on the farm working the land that supports your market wares, thusly making it impossible to be at the Market several days a week, go through a Wendy’s drive-thru or eat a frozen dinner. Don’t come to the Market anymore.

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