Common ground on 33rd


June 23, 1999|By C. Fraser Smith

WE GO for the "good" bread and for the subtle coming together of city and country life. Our Saturday morning farmers market on 33rd Street is a cosmopolitan affair, actually, and a gustatory adventure. The choices are legion: a wedge of homemade cheddar or a thick slice of country ham, a lemon poppy-seed muffin or an elephant's ear from the French baker -- or perhaps a samosa from the Somalian lady in the long batik dress, who hugs her customers as if they were family. A plume of smoke and pungent aroma tells us the goat cheese and mushroom sandwiches are ready, too.

Our primary quarry is the bread -- good, we say, because it's a dense Italianate loaf with an al dente crust, maybe slightly burned on the bottom. Our bakers call it casariccia. We always seek out the family size.

Last Saturday, as always, we stopped by to chat with our friends from Baltimore County, a farmer and his family who've been coming to the 33rd Street market for at least 11 years, years in which babies have grown to near teen-agers and elders have died. We mark these passages with due solemnity.

We noticed our friends have a more relaxed look about them, but we ask about rain anyway. In recent weeks, they've been worried. On Saturday, though, they were as optimistic as apparently farmers dare to be -- and grateful for our inquiries. It is something of an abstraction to say, amid a downpour, that wet as we are, "the farmers need it " For us, in those few seconds at the market, it's a community concern.

Certainly we are hoping for rain so we can still buy their bunches of basil, the clutches of leeks and, from the lettuce lady across the way, arugula or colorful stir-fry -- maybe even a few edible flowers.

If there's a gap in the backyard flower garden, it can be filled. Maybe the miniature roses will prosper this year. A little more sun would help and, of course, we're all going to need more rain.

Pub Date: 6/23/99

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