Monday, May 30, 2011

Oh, San Francisco. Your year-round produce, ocean shore, cypress air and sunny skies charmed me once again. I spent most of my free time during my stay in the city at the Ferry Building, lucky enough to catch one of the weekly farmers markets held there. The building itself offers so much for the visually and viscerally hungry, and even more so on market day. I ate apricots and marveled over ripe heirloom tomatoes of all colors.

"San Francisco always cheers me, for there is such an array of produce in the markets. There is no longer a great central market...There is one especially good one on Market Street where the quality and variety of merchandise are beyond belief... The vegetable section is equal to the fish and meat departments, and I will not enumerate the beautiful specimens to be found there, but a selection of them was provided for a special food demonstration I did in San Francisco last year. They were so handsome and so photogenic I have been grateful ever since to the gentleman in charge of the vegetables." - James Beard, from "Delights and Prejudices," c. 1964

Yesterday in Portland, I joined Robert Reynolds on a free walk that he led in honor of his late friend James Beard's birthday. He read passages from his book, "Delights and Prejudices" along the way, following Yamhill Street from Pioneer Courthouse Square to the waterfront, where formerly existed the grand Yamhill public market. This was where James Beard followed his mother as she shopped for the hotel that she once owned, and he developed his legendary palate. In "Delights and Prejudices," Beard laments the fall of the public market after the introduction of the supermarket in America, writing of them as an institution gone by. We are so fortunate that markets like the Ferry Building, Chelsea Market and Pike Place Market have revived this culinary tradition during our time. Work is being done to build a James Beard Public Market in Portland, and I hope that those decades-long plans eventually come to fruition.

"Nowhere in America does one see finer vegetables than on the West Coast, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland," James Beard.
Morel mushrooms at the Hollywood Farmers Market in Portland. The photo at the top is of the sunset from Alcatraz.

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