If you want to see some confused looks, try declining on free bags the next time you're at the grocery store. One time, after the grocer asked if I preferred paper or plastic, I replied, "No, I'm good. You can use the ones I brought with me. I have thousands at home." I thought I was in the clear, and then got home and realized the young man had bagged the plastic bags inside the ones I had brought. If it was a joke it was a good one.
I've been taking my own bags since I was charged for each bag when I studied abroad in college.
That trend continued as a Peace Corps Volunteer for several reasons, but the most obvious was I had a small living area. Hundreds of plastic bags take up space. I don't want bags competing with pots, pans and hot sauce. I have priorities! I keep reserve stocks of hot sauce in case of a disaster.
One of the few places in Tulsa where you won't hear, "But, they're free, man. You can just take them back to Wal-Mart. They'll take your bags back there," is the local farmers' markets. It saves you the chore of taking "them back to Wal-Mart." The local vendors welcome it because they understand and care that your bag is saving them money. Maybe they have more than a fleeting interest in limiting our impact on the Earth, too. Maybe.
On the other hand, maybe they burn tires to spite Al Gore. I will say that if you think burning rubber will get to Albert Gore, Jr., you're just dead wrong, right? I've heard from very valid and mulleted acquaintances that, "Nothing, and I mean nothing, will level that man's smugness."
Who knows what the farmers' market people think?
Well, we could ask. They're there every week.
At 10-years-old the Cherry Street Farmers' Market is the largest and longest running farmers' market in Tulsa. I visited the Saturday market at 15th and Peoria (open 7am to 11am), but there is also a Wednesday market at 41st and Peoria (8am to noon).
Another option is the Pearl Farmers' Market on Monday evenings (4:30pm to 7pm) at 6th and Peoria. You'll see similar faces, vendors, and items at the Cherry Street and Pearl markets.
If Monday evenings, Wednesday mornings and Saturday mornings don't fit into your busy, sporadic schedule, then you can always try the Downtown Tulsa Farmers' Market on Tuesdays from 10:30am to 2pm at Third and Boston. This is the only one that doesn't fit into my idle, predictable lifestyle, so it is the outcast of the three. I'd love to give you in-depth analysis about the produce, people and atmosphere, but because I have yet to experience it, I can only tell you it exists.
In the Bag
All three markets, based on visits, conversations, and the electronic mail, are currently filled with lettuce, spinach, strawberries, green onions, radishes, asparagus, a variety of mushrooms, grass-fed beef, pork, chicken, honey, breads, many, many potted plants and vegetables and much more fresh, organic goodies from local vendors.
The prices are reasonable and the taste rivals and in some cases defeats grocery store produce.
Last week I purchased market spinach, which wasn't as cute as the baby spinach offered at Reasor's and the like, but it was just as scrumptious and slightly cheaper. I also tried some oyster mushrooms and purple asparagus. It may not sound as delicious as a Double Decker Taco, but after visiting with the mushroom vendor for a couple of minutes, she gave me a free recipe. Thank you, ma'am.
With the tax already built into the price, I paid $9 total for the bushel of asparagus, the sack of spinach, the recipe and the four ounces of mushrooms. Plus I didn't have to worry about the stress of maneuvering the grocery obstacle course with the cart, something I loathe. Not only did the spinach help reduce my heart disease and stroke, but the avoided stress added 15 to 45 seconds to my life. How am I going to spend that time? Well, my nails do need clipping. Lucky me!
If my grocery list bores you, the markets also feature vendors selling brownies, cinnamon rolls and other sweet teeth specialties.
You're curious now, aren't you? All this talk of delectable delights has peaked your interest. Well, the Cherry Street Market also has breakfast burritos. Hot damn!
I'm going to do my best not to rant, as I know how I can get, but I am going to add that I wish a city of this size had a bigger, more active market scene. Yes, the small city of 12,000 people I lived in while in Belize had a bi-weekly market that made the Tulsa markets look like a village of 500, but then again Belize ain't got a Wal-Mart or a Reasor's or a Target. There's a Subway, but that's it. Pizza Hut couldn't cut it.
In Tulsa, these markets are a great start. There is so much more to a local farmers' market than there is a Wal-Mart's "Neighborhood Market."
There is the potential for strong relationships with the people who grow your food. The ability to shake hands with the family who picked your asparagus. It's an education into your food and it's available each and every week.
I know for some this isn't important. I know the price is higher on most items. I know not everyone cares to eat spinach or oyster mushrooms or asparagus. Not everyone could pick them out of a food lineup either. That's cool. We all have our choice in what we eat, how we spend our money, who we buy from. I won't buy all my food from local vendors, because they aren't making graham crackers locally yet. I love those rectangular devils. But, I can tell you that I will be spending more time and money at these markets.
I'll take the free recipes. I'll shake the hands of the people who grow my food. I'll take my bags and welcome the understanding nod I get when I say, "No, I brought my own today."
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