Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tokyo Farmer's Market

Compare and contrast! We happened upon a little farmer's market over by Yurakucho Station on the way to Ginza. It was about a tenth of the size of the one we went to in LA, which makes sense, given the space available and the way that produce is grown, prepared, and eaten in Japan.  At a US open air market, as on our tables, it's all about plenty: the overflowing cornucopia, the bushels of fruit, the great platters of food filling a table.  In Japan, it's about small acts of perfection: the fruits and vegetables come in little bundles, oddly free of dirt, and seemingly untouched by human hands. The offerings at the stalls and yaoyas (vegetable shops) are only slightly more rugged.

Perfect little cherries, grapes, and melons--swaddled like babies.
Not the famed $100 melons--these are only about $37 each.  The single bunch of grapes are a little over $25, and the single layer of cherries in a box are about $32. I still swoon a little, but you have to think about it like a bottle of wine you bring as a gift to some one's home. Everyday produce is far cheaper (apples are about a dollar/ 100 yen a piece), but this is special. When you peel one of those black grapes (yes, they peel here) and taste that clear, green globe of sweetness that is the Platonic ideal of grapeness, it' not crazy.

Fresh apple juice from Aomori Prefecture.
It was in this mindset that I bought this juice, which was fantastic. I know. How can apple juice be fantastic? And yet it was like actually eating a fresh Fuji apple. Outside. In the sun. Wearing nicer clothes than I own. It was like the cider we used to get at the orchard in upstate New York, but brighter. Indeed, it cost more than a glass of the house red, but it yielded what you want from wine, minus the buzz--to be surprised by a taste and its power to transport you, and pleased to recognize what you suddenly remember you love, like sitting on a porch and smelling a cold apple just before you bite it.

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