Veggie of the Week - Vienna's Naschmarkt
sponsored by Coleman Farms
Markets have played a huge role in the development of society. The greek word oikonomia means 'housekeeping' - managing a large, largely self-sufficient property with it's attendant workforce. For us 'economy' refers to exchanges we make away from home and family. Markets are the oldest most basic venue for such exchanges.
As anyone who's had a job knows, a lot goes on at work besides work. The same is true of markets: they're not just a place for commercial trade, they're a place for exchanging news, gossip and ideas, a place for meeting people from the next valley or from across the sea. We can imagine the trader of some thousands of years ago taking the salt, perhaps, to some meeting place on the Mississippi or Ohio and returning with a new style pot, an idea for a tool, or some seeds for a plant he'd never seen: corn. More recently and concretely, there's Medina del Campo, "Market in the Field", a large market or 'fair' in early Renaissance Spain, which linked Castille to the outside world - as it's Arabo-Spanish name suggests - and who's centralizing influence in the Iberian economy and banking was extended, largely by merchants, to an important role in unifying Spain.
So, where does the Santa Barbara market fit in, you may be asking, it's no great international venue, it's just a local, at best regional, farmer's market. For perspective, and also because we have exclusive photographs taken just the other day, we introduce Vienna's Naschmarkt.
The origin of the name - Aschen + Markt - is unclear, having something to do either with the dairy or the charcoal markets at the same site at the market's modern beginnings in the sixteen hundreds. What is clear is the market's continuing vitality, both in strict economic terms, and as a part of Viennese social and cultural life.
There are major physical differences between the Naschmarkt and the SBFM: the Naschmarkt is permanent and indoors, open every day for at least twelve hours and housed in buildings which are old enough and considered important enough when built to have some architectural significance.
It's not primarily a Farmer's market - only some thirty places are occupied by farmers. The rest are taken by merchants who buy their produce - whatever it is, flowers, fruit, veg, fish or meat, from near or abroad - wholesale, or by shops, bakers, for example, or the 'vinegar brewery' we have a photo of, and, recently, by cafes. On the other hand, the market isn't huge - the hundred seventy some selling points in the Naschmarkt are roughly equal to, and possibly exceeded by, what you'll find at Cota and Anacapa Streets on a good Saturday.
Socially, the markets are the same, and different. The differences largely result from the Vienna market's position as part of a large city's commercial district. For instance, the market's marketing is a bit more developed than our own, so that there are regular cooking demonstrations, for example, featuring the cuisines of Vienna's new minorities - Turkish, Balkan, Viet Namese.
The Santa Barbara Market is a lot more cozy: there's a lot of exchange of culinary information, but not often through formal demonstration. You hear customers, acquainted or not, talking about what they did, or plan to do, with a particular fruit or vegetable. This kind of exchange can involve a US native and a native of Mexico using a shared second language, Spanish, to discuss the preparation and properties of a Mexican vegetable. Despite Vienna's long 'multicultural' heritage, cultural exchange at this level of intensity is likely to be exceedingly rare in Vienna.
In both markets, the foreign presence goes beyond vendors and customers to products. Today's photographer likes to cook Asian and Latin American. She has no real difficulty finding what she needs - fresh ginger, chiles, cilantro, bitter melon, fermented fish sauce - at the Naschmarkt. At Santa Barbara, some growers' interest in the exotic sometimes outstrips their knowledge of just what to do with the product; it often exceeds the knowledge of the Ag. Dept. market inspectors.
Exchange of 'ideas'? A focussed ear can pick up a lot of political commentary at the SBFM, quite apart from the sporadic appearances of literature of a political nature. It's hard to know what such exchange amounts to at this level - is it just grumbling, or is it attendant at the birth of some effective movement or other? In any case, it's more, and more significant, than you're likely to hear in Vienna. For one thing, the Naschmarkt's position within a busy commercial district gives customers any number of excuses to move on with a quick Gruß and Tchüss, whereas little more urgent than a middling cup of Latte is within walking distance of the Santa Barbara market. And then, there's local culture. Austria's history is fairly rich in police-statism, and it is once again a country where having certain thoughts can land you in prison. This almost certainly is accompanied by a degree of reluctance to express onesself seriously in public.
In this respect, Vienna is ahead of Santa Barbara.