Focus on Florida Food – Part II
Josh's Organic Market - Hollywood, Florida
After our 1-nighter in the Gulf Coast of Florida, where we saw a memorable Leon Redbone concert and enjoyed a good meal of local fish and seafood, Noshette of the North and I drove back to the Atlantic coast along the famous "Alligator Alley", where we saw plenty of gators relaxing by the side of the road. Safely back in Hallandale Beach, Noshette and I took a Sunday morning stroll along the warm sandy beach, and it truly felt like we were in paradise.
The sun was shining - not too brightly - and there were some occasional passing clouds to provide us with welcome relief from what could have easily given us some nasty sunburns, to which we are both prone. Whenever we were beginning to feel hot, we would simply drop our towels and wade into the Atlantic ocean, the cool, salty water soothing our bodies and minds.
This truly was paradise, but we were beginning to get hungry. Lucky for us, we wouldn't have to venture into a fast (or medium) food outlet to eat some cage-starved, drugged-addled, corn-fed meat with a side of wax-covered, pesticide-laced vegetables that had spent several days in a series of dark trucks, planes, more trucks, and maybe a few warehouses before landing on our plates. I had read about an organic market that appears every Sunday on a Ramada Inn patio near to where we were staying, on South Ocean Drive near Hallandale Beach boulevard. Our plan was to find it, and eat.
Today we would stroll in paradise, swim in paradise, and eat in paradise. We asked a lifeguard to point us toward the Ramada Inn, but he knew we were really looking for Josh's Organic Market, and he happily pointed us in the right direction. We made our way up the beach, and sure enough, set up beneath the shade of a stucco veranda attached to the edge of a multi-national chain hotel, was Josh's Organic Market. I took a quick tour, walking by bins of fresh fruits and vegetables that were labeled not only according to their geographic origins, but some made mention of when they were actually harvested.
After watching and listening for a few seconds, it was easy to pick out Josh. He was moving a mile a minute, attacking tables full of produce like a bee stinging its prey, giving advice to customers and directions to employees, refilling bins and cutting open perfectly ripe specimens for customers to taste.
I approached Josh cautiously, hoping not to disturb him or get in his way, but before I could get close enough to talk to him, he had already shot to the other end of his market. I approached again, and then again, until I realized that I was just following him around in circles. Caution clearly wasn't getting me anywhere in Josh's world, so I ran straight up to him and blurted out that I thought what he was doing was amazing. "You want to see amazing? Come with me", shouted Josh, loud enough for everyone in the market to hear. "Grab that bin of celery! Throw it up on that table!".
I was now part of the show, but I was more than happy to get a chance to manhandle some organic Florida produce and also talk to Josh. I followed him around and helped stack empty bins and refill tables with fresh loads of tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and peppers. "Taste this! Tell me it's not amazing!", shouted Josh, shoving a piece of arugula into my hands. I tasted it, and it was amazing, mostly because I hadn't experienced a good salad since my CSA and community garden plot had stopped providing me with greens back in October.
Josh was talking a mile a minute, telling me about how everything is certified organic, how he isn't excited about his tomatoes this week (they were the best I had tasted since September) and how he hasn't eaten any chemicals since 1984 (or was it 1987?) and he would "rather die" than sell chemicals or pesticides to his customers. Sometimes, like in the case of the fruit vendor in my post from last week, I don't believe what I am told, but I sincerely believed Josh. For one thing, he was fit and healthy, a refreshing change from the pot-bellied chainsmoking fruit vendors I had become accustomed to buying my food from.
Besides local vegetables and some local fruit - most notably strawberrries - Josh sells a wide variety of imported organic fruits and nuts as well as running a juice bar from the same location - only on Sundays. As tempted as I was by the organic mangoes from Costa Rica, I stuck to Florida produce and walked away with arugula, some nice Boston lettuce, a red pepper, and some cherry tomatoes. We later made a beautiful salad from these veggies which we ate while sitting on our towels, right by the ocean.
On our way to the cashier, we passed the dried fruit and nut table, and even though a lot of the stuff on that table wasn't from Florida, it looked and tasted (with Josh's blessing) much better than any nuts or dried fruit I had ever consumed before. The nuts seemed brighter and crisper than what I could find in Montreal, and the dried fruit were exactly that - dried fruit (no sulphur dioxide or added sugar).
Everyone who worked with Josh seemed happy to be there, as did his customers. I can only hope that more places like Josh's Organic Market will open all over North America as more people become conscious of what is happening to their food supply. If our government won't stop Big Business from making us sick (so they can get rich), and that includes Big Organic, then we have to change the system from the bottom up by buying our food from small, privately-owned businesses who can be confident and honest about what they are selling.
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Whole Foods Market - Aventura, Florida
Before returning to the frigid cold of Montreal, Noshette and I wanted to find some Florida grapefruit and oranges to bring back home. Our first stop was a Whole Foods Market, mostly because I was curious to see how much local produce they actually carried. Even though Florida grows a lot of fruits and vegetables, most of the produce on the shelves was imported. At least this disappointing information was mentioned above each bin.
I easily found some conventional grapefruit, which were from Florida and seemed pretty fresh, so I grabbed a few and put them in my basket. I scoped out the orange situation and found three varieties, all from California!
We don't have Whole Foods in Montreal - most probably due to our strict language laws which would make it too costly to translate and reprint each and every label and marketing effort into French - so I wasn't entirely sure I believed what I had read in the papers and in "The Omnivore's Dilemma", but Michael Pollan wasn't lying.
It made me sick to know that Whole Foods was selling California oranges in their Florida stores. I am happy than John Mackey is reducing his salary to $1 a year, but why can't he stock Florida oranges in his Florida stores?
On our way back to to my parents apartment, we saw a nice roadside display of citrus at a locally-owned shop, and that is where our oranges were bought.
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