Farmers market: a bustling market of reminiscence

March 16, 2022 — by Annie Liu
Memories of Taiwan evoked in a recent visit.

Waking up on Saturday mornings, my mom often greets me with: “Do you want to come along with me to the farmers market?”

“Yeah, I’ll come.” 

The weekly farmers market at West Valley College is the only part in Saratoga that reminds me of my old home in Taiwan. We arrive to find bustling stands with sellers advertising their products and people carrying large grocery bags or even roller baskets to buy fresh vegetables and fruits, reminding me of Taiwan’s night markets and morning flea markets. 

At age 3, I began going to the farmers markets of Taipei, with my mom. Just like the farmers markets here, it only opens in the morning, and the alleys would be filled with stands and people who carried around grocery bags full of goodies. 

Now, when time allows, it’s always nice to go for a walk during weekend mornings at the farmers market. My mom and I stroll through the rows of stands, eagerly surveying the artisan ceramics, piles of freshly picked fruit and seasonal vegetables even when we don’t need to buy anything. 

From afar, we can see a parade of flamboyant, brilliant colors: the flower stands. They’re marvelous — the flowers are well taken care of and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Bouquets of meticulously picked roses, delicate baby’s breath and smiling daisies are neatly bundled together. Though overpriced, it’s still nice to look at things you will never buy. 

Ironically, my mom often gets severe allergies from the flowers that grow in this region, sometimes to the point that her face is entirely swollen. She found her remedy at the farmers market: a daily spoonful of unpasteurized, local-made honey. 

Also at the farmers market are pastries, freshly baked bread, crepes and other ready-to-eat food. I personally really like to buy lasagna from a specific stand and bring it home for lunch. The tomato sauce is rich and savory, the cheese is nicely melted so that it has a stringy pull and the beef is loaded with flavor that ties it all together with its juicy and tender taste. 

There are also fruits and vegetable stands that always seem to have crowds scrutinizing goods for blemishes or ripeness. Customers hold the fruits, examining them and picking out which ones they think are the best. 

The farmers market here is a much smaller version of Taiwan’s. Taiwananese markets are like very diverse supermarkets but just in the form of a long street. They’re loud, often unsanitary and unpleasant, but I grew to appreciate them. 

There lie the shops and stalls. Each and one of the street market stands sell its own particular products. From meats, veggies, clothes, bags and so on, the products lay on rickety tables covered with tablecloth under tents with faded colors. Meats are freshly cut, and pieces from big to small are all available. Just ask, and the friendly seller will put it in a bag for you. There are bags that replicate designer bags, but believe it or not, some can be very durable.

The items sold there are not the best quality, but once loved and used as intended, they all work perfectly well. Merchants yell as loud as their throats can bare to advertise their products. “Pork chops, get one, buy one free!” yells one seller. “Hand powered fans, get 20 percent off!” cries another.

Though the markets in Saratoga and Taiwan differ in character, they give the same homey feeling — I just love the way people come and go from the stands and streets. The farmers market is where people gather to buy things, stuff their bellies, walk away from a week’s hard work and find community.

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