Sunday, 9:59 AM, we will be standing in the midst of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market waiting the 10:00 AM chime.
Earlier this week, we sent out our "Dear Produce Manager" letters informing them that the Chesters are no longer fit eat. Yes, we can pick some reasonable facsimiles, nice black berries, but they have lost their essential character. Fortunately, we have bunch of really good stuff coming to market.
Tomatoes: We will have a generous supply of own sauce tomato, Astiana, at this market and probably the next two as well. Earlier this week, a frost fell on the lower parts of the farm, reminding us that October is getting closer, but the upper bench was spared. We will have some boxes on hand that you all can fill with tomatoes, or you can bring your own box. It will be ideal processing weather for the ideal sauce tomato. If you have room in your freezer, Astiana also freezes beautifully because it is much drier than most tomatoes. In the middle of winter, that bit of fresh tomato makes the saag or stew brighter.
Dry pulses and grains: chick peas, zolfini, and naked barley. We have given up trying to keep our barley varieties separated. It is now a mix of Arabian Blue, Dolma and the black Jet type, and some other long forgotten types. Two-row and six-row all mixed up. Sometimes it is important to keep varieties separate as in the beans and corn, but other crops, such as barley, we have decided are better as a mixture.
Fresh shell beans: flageolet, cranberry and johnson (aka soldier)
Table Grapes: Mostly green types such as Interlaken.
Plums: prune d'Agen, Pozegaca, Fellenberg (Italian), prune d'Ente, Royale de Vilvoorde, Reine Claude violetta, damsons
All four of the prunes dry well. Pozegaca is the prune used to make the Balkan eau de vie Slivovitz and the plum paste Slatko. It has a pleasant astringency and the same distinct fragrance as the eau de vie. Probably the widest selection of plums found anywhere in the United States, so revel in our plummy obsession.
Gathering of Dusty Feet
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.
Markets must also have rules of trade. When Adam Smith was contemplating his "invisible hand" in the late 18th century, he recognized three conditions necessary for an efficient market. The first is the requirement that buyers and sellers have free will, no coercion, no big clubs. Second, the market is composed of atomized buyers and sellers, in other words everyone is operating at the same scale and no entity can dominate or monopolize the market. Third is the notion of perfect information. These are sweeping conditions impossible to fully meet. Ideally, rules and regulations nudge the market closer to meeting them. For example, standard weights and measures are there to help the market advance towards the third condition, consequently we must use an inspected and licensed scale to conduct trade at 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.
As soon as rules and regulations supplant the big wooden club, the need for a means of a club-less resolution of disputes arises. Probably from the time of first organized markets an organic and rational system of justice arose, ultimately giving rise to merchant law. In England during the time of the Saxons, market charters granted the right to "sac and soc and tol" and "infangthef." This meant the owner of the market could investigate (sac) and adjudicate (soc) claims, and exact goods and money (tol) to satisfy a claim found legitimate. The right of infangthef allows the owner of the market to purse and apprehend miscreants within the market or fair boundaries.
With the Norman conquest, these rights evolved into the Court of the Piepoudres. The name "piepoudres," in its various spellings, is derived from the French/Latin words for "dusty feet," a reference to the long distances traveled by the merchants as they walked between markets and fairs. The merchants may have travelled from France, Spain, the Low Countries or Ireland, as well as other parts of England. They were a transient population, and needed to move on as soon as the market ended. Consequently, these courts displayed a streak of practicality. The investigation and trial had to be completed within a fixed time, typically a day, or in the case of seafaring merchants, three tides. The proceedings relied on evidence rather than testimony regarding characters of the plaintive and defendant. The tribunals included merchants and customers. When an alien was before the court, an alien was also seated as a member of the tribunal. We have in these courts the inkling of a jury of peers. The Courts were administered by the market itself, a separate and limited jurisdiction distinct from the town or borough in which they were located.
Over time, a body of merchant law developed and the need for a separate court within markets and fairs faded. The very last of these courts was seated in middle of the 19th century. Though, in the United States, the modern tradition of small claims courts shares the spirit of the dusty foot courts – expedience and practicality. If you are interested reading more, Charles Gross discussed the court in The Quarterly Journal of Economics (1906), vol. 20: 231-249 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1883654). 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 degrees F.
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.
Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons melted butter
and 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.
Style Manual for Market Farm Newsletters (3rd Edition) satisfied, that's it.
Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm