Produce Promenade

A dazzling summer crop of stylish shoppers visits Waverly's farmers' market

August 01, 2004|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Where is eggplant an accessory?

When is arugula a fashion statement?

Can orange cherry tomatoes go with white peaches and yellow plums?

Is corn silk only worn in summer?

To answer these questions and a bushel basket of others, visit the Saturday morning farmers' market in Baltimore's Waverly neighborhood.

The market is not just a place to buy a week's worth of baby squash, artisan loaves and habanero-flavored cheese, or to munch vegan pizza and sticky rice with mangoes. It's not just a place to see friends, catch up on neighborhood intelligence and revel in community spirit.

For more than a few habitues, the farmers' market is like the boardwalk or town square: It is a place to promenade in their Saturday best.

"I dress up every day," says Imani Moreland, of Cedarcroft, while munching a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich and sipping a Moroccan green iced tea. "I'm actually dressed down," says the 20-year-old junior at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.

That's hard to believe. With her oversized mother-of-pearl hoop earrings, white halter top and flared white skirt, Moreland is no garden-variety shopper.

Nor is Ami Dougherty, a 26-year-old dog walker who lives in Hampden. Somehow, the sum of her retro sneakers, cargo pants and black T-shirt is way cooler than its parts. Dougherty's dark amber hair, cut in a striking wedge with short bangs, adds a "soigne" touch, in the manner of one of her heroines. "She watched all the Audrey Hepburn movies when she was little," says her father, Terrence Dougherty.

Nearby, a wedding party compounds the weekly spectacle. In Goodwill splendor, Matt Porterfield, and Sara Gerrish, married a day earlier at Baltimore's City Hall, are strolling with friends. The groom, a filmmaker, wears a white shirt with turquoise polka dots. The bride, a city school teacher, wears a white and turquoise striped shirt and white skirt. She carries a bright bouquet of flowers from the market.

For Thelma Davis, 77, Saturday is like any day. "I dress up all the time. I'm a Leo," she explains. Davis, a retired crossing guard, wears a violet visor, eye shadow to match, and a colorful pants suit that goes nicely with her bounty of cantaloupe, tomatoes, green peppers and squash.

Elke Wardlaw, a 27-year-old vegan baker, is all thrift and vintage. In a kid-sized Bahamas T-shirt, a pleated short skirt, knee-highs, sneakers and "huge obnoxious sunglasses," she resembles an AWOL cheerleader. It's an incognito look that's ironically hard to miss. And, "actually, honestly, it's what I wore yesterday," she says.

As she makes her way through the market, Mary L. Washington, president of the Abell Improvement Association, meets someone she knows at nearly every step. "Some people have golf courses and spas. This is where we talk and make decisions," she says.

Washington, 42, is dressed accordingly, in a loose, but tailored, green blouse and striped pants, a bead necklace and African-inspired earrings. It's an "elegant ethnic" style that suits Washington's love of diversity. Surveying the market crowd, a mix of "colors, ages and orientations," Washington, director of the HousingStat office for Baltimore's housing authority, says, "This is why I stay in Baltimore."

Melanie Freebairn, a costumer with a theatrical production company, is at once exotic, severe and fey. Her black striped shirt was bought in Shanghai, she sewed her black, pleated skirt, and her cloud of blond hair is enhanced by "a little bit of pink, a little peach, a little bit of orange, and a little bit of bleach. You mix it together and it's my hair," says Freebairn, 24, who also wears a sprig of dried flowers, originally bought fresh at the market, in a hair clip.

At work, Freebairn wears clothes she can get paint on. "I do get dressed on Saturday," she says. "It's a break from the work week. It's sort of a celebration to get dressed a little bit."

The 32nd Street Farmers' Market (Waverly), in the 400 block of E. 32nd St. (near Greenmount Ave.), is open from 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays, year-round.

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