Smashing Pumpkins at the Portsmouth FM: Violent, Wasteful, Anti-Smug

1380833_648037781895109_2003147997_nFirst of all, the title of this post is not a reference to the 90s rock band. Second of all, Smug Scout did not take the photo that accompanies this post because she is not in Portsmouth now (she brazenly lifted it from the Portsmouth FM’s Facebook page). Smug Scout would do anything to be in Portsmouth right now, especially because she hates fall, or more accurately the lack of fall, in L.A. In fact, Smug Scout has minimized and re-named the seasons in L.A. to reflect what happens here in the absence of any actual weather. Thus, L.A. has fire season (September – November), awards season (November – February), and strawberry season (all the other months, plus all year). If there is any difference here between “summer” and “winter,” it is that you are more likely to get sun in January than June, though the temperature in both months averages 60 degrees (well, mainly along the coast, where Smug Scout lives). “January,” in some weird Pavlovian way, triggers the locals to get out their parkas, mittens, mufflers, snow boots and other Arctic camping outdoor gear (aggressively peddled to Angelenos by cynical North Face and REI marketers) that would suffocate Smug Scout in such springlike conditions.

Uh-oh, Smug Scout has really digressed! Her seasonal malaise is surely causing her to focus excessive attention on mocking L.A. and idealizing Portsmouth. So be it. Still, she would not have wanted to be at the Portsmouth FM this weekend to witness an unspeakably un-Smug spectacle: smashing pumpkins. First Smug Scout was puzzled when she looked at the accompanying picture. She could not believe her eyes. Was that a Smug little colorful Portsmouth gargoyle preparing to obliterate a pumpkin on a tree stump with a…croquet mallet? (She also wondered if the burly, belted, and gloved troll in front of the pumpkin dead piles could really be a woman, but that question is hardly germane to her critique.) Why? Would redneck flyover states hold pumpkin shooting contests to promote gun use? Smug Scout finds this kind of “fun” violent and vicious. Smug Scout would never have participated in such a gruesome event in her miniature form because she would have felt too sorry for the murdered pumpkins. (She did win a pumpkin decorating contest at one time, however, by using corn kernels to make a toothy ghoulishly grinning face.) Actually, Smug Scout in her “grown-up” form feels the same way. She vaguely hopes the vindictive Grand Pumpkin (from the Simpsons, not to be mixed up with the harmless Great Pumpkin from Charlie Brown) will come and devour some of these mallet-wielding children. Or she would if that were not a violent thought.

On top of finding this activity violent, Smug Scout finds it incredibly wasteful. Is this the very same FM that gave free food to furloughed federal workers just one week ago? Now they can return for free pumpkin pie “ingredients”? Does no one else object to the metamorphosis of viable local produce into scraps of pulverized pulp, scraps as ill-suited to third world baskets as pre-bagged, dirt-free kale?

Smug Scout found some barely comprehensible edification on the topic of waste when she visited the event website: “Don’t worry, the smashing don’t go to waste, we feed ’em to the pigs.” What kind of interior bumpkin illiterate came up with “smashing don’t”? Did this non-grammarian mean “smashings”? For that matter, did this non-punctuator mean a semicolon? Smug Scout supposes the pigs will find this contest debris tasty enough, though she grimly acknowledges they will come to a violent end as well.

Smug Scout does not believe lessons on violence and waste should come from the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. These are lessons better taught by horror movies, slaughterhouses, and the lower classes (both poor and moneyed), not a bastion of Smug correctness. Smug downgrade!

If you would like to read more faux folksy, grammatically slapdash, and, let us say, whimsically punctuated text, visit the below site:

http://www.spookyportsmouth.com/Events.cfm

Smug Scenes from the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market: Iconic Shoppers

Smug Scout knows she has been very remiss in her writing duties, if not her actual Smug scouting duties. She has been as busy with the latter as ever, especially during her summer vacation. Now that she is in Portsmouth, she feels very inspired again, most likely due to its uniquely jaw dropping level of Smugness. She has already spent two Saturdays at her favorite Smug epicenter, the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. She is happy to report that virtually nothing has changed since last summer, but in the almost nine hours of amazed and amused viewing, often sneakily from the periphery, she captured some iconic images that she would like to share with her readers. You may be tempted to critique Smug Scout for photos of middling quality, but keep in mind that she was using her zoom lens to avoid unpleasant confrontation with her unwitting subjects. She is still not sure how she would have explained to some of these locals why she was taking their pictures, but she knows any attempt would have gone poorly or even worse.

IMG_1143Smug Family: Smug Scout loves watching Smug local families arrive and depart, ideally without screeching sound effects. Though this picture does not show the wealth of detail she wishes it did, you will still notice some classic Portsmouth FM hallmarks:

  • The Radio Flyer wagon has a Whole Foods tote bag filled with produce, while multiple onions roll around loosely in a layer of dirt at the bottom of the wagon. (Smug Scout may have made up that last detail, but she did see onion stalks sticking out.)
  • The parents are carelessly dressed, as if they purposely wanted to provide a dreary, sloppy backdrop to their colorful daughters. The mother’s hair is a nest of frizz, while the father wasted not a second on brushing or shaving.
  • The girls have their hair in some youthful feminine style and wear brightly colored sundresses. The girl in blue with the pink Crocs unwisely takes after her father in shoe taste, though she has not yet advanced to the murky, rank dishwater color scheme he prefers. (N.B. At one time, the Smug Barrington Bartender told Smug Scout that Smug children prefer to wear Crocs in two different colors, but Smug Scout has yet to see this. She suspects that the Smug Barrington Bartender knows of other epicenters that outdo even this one. She wonders why the Smug Barrington Bartender is withholding these locations from her.)

Loading the Forrester Loading a Subaru: Smug Scout does not plan to move to Portsmouth, though she dreams of it often. However, if she were to move here, one of the first things she would do is buy a Subaru Outback or Forrester. Then she would go to the Portsmouth FM and take part in a ritual that occurs with astonishing regularity:

  • Buy many plants and flowers
  • Leave them lined up on the sidewalk (no fear of theft here!)
  • Retrieve Subaru Outback or Forrester from parking lot
  • Drive back to sidewalk
  • Park Subaru
  • Slowly load plants and flowers into trunk
  • Arrange and rearrange plants, flowers, and other purchases
  • Depart 15-20 minutes later, maybe longer if another Subaru does not pull up to do the same thing in the same location

Smug Scout realizes this activity may sound terribly banal, but she simply cannot believe how many owners of Outbacks and Forresters engage in this ritualistic activity every single week. She wonders if the Subaru owners manual instructs its drivers to have gardens established through these exact means. (“You may NOT buy plants or flowers at Lowe’s. You MUST seek out a local market. You may NOT load them carelessly or quickly. You MUST display them tastefully in the trunk.”) So fascinating, these Smug New Hampshire natives with their Subarus.

IMG_0904Hairy and Tattooed Shoppers: You simply cannot spend five hours at the Portsmouth FM without seeing all manner of excess hair and tattoos. Smug Scout grabbed her camera when she saw this archetypal couple (left). Note intentionally wild and style-free hair, colorless outfits, and ghoulishly pale limbs with indecipherable images tattooed all over. Smug Scout is not, however, impressed that these otherwise Smug locals did not bring reusable bags or third world woven baskets with them. Even if they forgot their bags/baskets, they could have bought new reusable totes from Black Kettle Farm or the Seacoast Local organization (motto: “You are where you eat”). This next one (right) did better in the Tattooed shopperecological department. Though her hair “style” is equally slapdash, her outfit equally dingy and drab, her skin equally ghostly, and her tattoos equally garish and impossible to interpret from the safe distance Smug Scout was forced to keep, this hairy and tattooed shopper at least had the good sense to bring a large third world woven basket and fill it with flowers, herbs, and greens that she, in classic Portsmouth fashion, arranges for display more than protection. Some of those flowers may be beheaded if someone–for example, a terrifying looking uncouth visitor from the backwoods interior of the state–bumps into her roughly, but she will probably make sure to be nowhere near such yokels.

Stay tuned for the second part of the Smug scenes from the Portsmouth FM series. The next one features a new age farm, a precious local band, and kale. Start brewing your Smug White Heron tea. Smug Scout will have the post for you very soon.

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 1/13

Lion's Mane mushroom signSmug Scout is back from her winter vacation. Smug Scout slightly regrets that she has been so busy scouting in recent weeks that she has taken no time to write, but now that she is back at work, she can return to her writing duties. On Sunday she was feeling glum about being stuck in bright, sunny Los Angeles when she would rather be in grim, gray, dismal, rainy France, Germany, or Belgium, but a trip to the Mar Vista FM was helpful in distracting her from this preposterous longing. The market was offering greens at virtually every stand, so she of course bought assorted varieties of kale and chard as well as some fascinating skinny-leafed speckled lettuce that was almost the subject of this post.

However, when she saw the sign for lion’s mane mushrooms (along with its name in Latin, surely a necessary reference for all the customers who may otherwise only know it as Japanese yamabushitake or pom pom blanc), she knew she had found her winner. Smug Scout was attracted by the sign’s promise: “rare – delicious – nutricious [sic].” Now we already know that all mushrooms are delicious and nutritious, and it seems like this one delivers on both counts: it can taste like lobster, it is 20% protein, and it has been proven to reduce anxiety, improve memory, and even regenerate dead or dying nerves (or something like that, but you are not reading Smug Scout for scientific accuracy).

Lion's maneSo that is all fascinating, but what makes this mushroom so Smug is the fact that it is rare and thus unknown to most people, even other mushroom cognoscenti. It also seems like it will stay that way because not many people are even able to buy these mushrooms from Tanya the backyard farmer from Thailand (previously introduced in “Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/7”). In fact, when Smug Scout says “not many people,” she means “one.” Yes, Tanya showed up to the FM with a table full of oyster mushrooms and one single lion’s mane. She offered to sell this solitary specimen to Smug Scout. As Smug Scout was photographing her prized bounty, she found herself mixed up in an unfriendly exchange with a disgruntled rare mushroom seeker.

  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [to Tanya]: Wow! You have lion’s mane mushrooms!
  • Tanya: Not anymore.
  • Smug Scout: I got it.
  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [to Tanya]: But the market just opened five minutes ago! And what does she mean by “it”?
  • Tanya: There was only one lion’s mane mushroom…
  • Smug Scout: …and I just bought it.
  • Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker [still to Tanya]: That’s outrageous you came to the market with only one single mushroom to sell!
  • Smug Scout: I guess you need to get here earlier next week.

At this point Smug Scout received a look of death from Disgruntled Rare Mushroom Seeker, who then stormed off fiercely. Tanya was unfazed by the outright hostility (Smug Scout believes some of that was lost in translation, the rest in indifference) and actually went on to tell Smug Scout that she took Smug Scout’s recommendation to roast oyster mushrooms with olive oil and grilling spices and was so delighted by their uncanny bacon flavor that she stopped buying bacon altogether and has even asked for permission from the FM manager to bring samples for customers so she and her non-Thai husband can market the oyster mushrooms as a bacon substitute. All because of Smug Scout! Yes, Smug Scout is shamelessly proud of her influence here, especially because she advocates for pigs, who would certainly also support this new marketing of oyster mushrooms.

The lion’s mane, on the other hand, tasted like a crab cake (a good one with no filler). Smug Scout is happy to advocate for crabs, too. But she will have to get to the market next week even before it opens to avoid a mushroom fueled version of “High Noon.”

Smug Scout’s newly Smug car

Smug Scout has something shameful to confess: she does not own a Smug car. She does not have a Prius. She does not have a Subaru Outback or Forester. She does not have any car that would be welcome in Portsmouth or San Francisco or Brooklyn. She drives a Honda Accord coupe, which might be somewhat acceptable were it not for its gas-guzzling V6 engine. Smug Scout wonders if you will understand that she did not have a clue what V6 meant when she bought this car. All she really knew was that it had nothing to do with that processed vegetable juice. She now understands that this car is at its very thirstiest when she is aggressively fighting for parking at the Mar Vista FM or trying to prevent her death on L.A. freeways. As sacrilegious as this will sound, she would rather buy more gas than be splattered all over the road because some useless mongoloid was texting a stream of useless gibberish into an iPhone.

To make matters worse, she does not have an endangered or protected animal on her license plate. She does have an arts plate, which means she pays $50 a year for one art deco palm tree, but she knows that is not as Smug as a moose.

That is why she was delighted when she met a Smug Santa Monica resident at the Mar Vista FM this morning. This woman chatted with Smug Scout on Smug topics such as Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically engineered food. Then this woman introduced Smug Scout to some other Smug people who gave her a big sign and a bumper sticker with a cute ear of corn on it. Smug Scout put these on her car immediately.  Now her car advertises her Smug value system despite the eco-hostile engine. If anyone asks, her car is bi-polar.

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/28

Smug Scout figures some of you are growing weary of her relentless references to Portsmouth, NH and especially its legendary farmers’ market. Smug Scout understands. After all, she finds it quite frustrating to live in a city that has almost 100 markets every week all year long and yet not one of them compares to Portsmouth’s single weekly market that barely runs five months (with only about two of those months featuring actual produce). Smug Scout is rooting for her Mar Vista market to move up to a close, rather than a hopelessly distant, second place, and she has found the farm that she believes will spearhead this effort: Jimenez Family Farm. What is the secret to Jimenez Family Farm’s Smugness? It is the use of diverse, handmade baskets to display produce, which is also this week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find.

If the Portsmouth farmers were to write a manual about Smug basket use, these would be their rules:

  • Do not use two of the same basket or any basket that appears to be machine made. It does not matter if they were made by non-unionized peons in a toxic third world factory as long as they appear to have been handcrafted by birchbark and swamp ash artisans in a local basketry co-op. (Note: if you run out of baskets, you may also use an antique metal baby’s wash basin. Please clean that thing first. You do not want remnants of baby “accidents” re-flavoring your produce.)
  • Do not use large baskets. A small, rustic basket that is not overflowing suggests exclusivity and refined taste. It suggests a limited quantity that intensifies the demand of Smug suckers. Even if you have ten stuffed cardboard boxes hidden in the back, always act like you are about to run out. (Note: this is not a ploy in Portsmouth, where due to miserly crops the farmers really do only have one undersized basket of everything.)
  • Only display officially Smug vegetables in them. This part is surprisingly easy: they are all Smug as long as you know their full name in a foreign language. Never say kale without an Italian component. You may call it “Lacinato kale,” “Tuscan kale,” “cavolo nero,” or, if you want to silence your chatty know-it-all Smug clientele, call it “black Tuscan palm.” Flat beans are “Italian flat beans” or “Romano beans.”
  • Use miniature chalkboards attached to reclaimed wood sticks to list item names and prices. Just watch your spelling; the last thing you want is a stream of Smug customers condescendingly pointing out mistakes. They will not be trying to help you. They will doubt the quality of your produce and expect the prices to go down immediately.
  • Place a folksy tablecloth underneath the baskets. You want those Smug customers to feel as if they are at a rural roadside stand (and that means rural as in Los Olivos, Sonoma, or coastal Connecticut, not some flyover state wasteland where you can find a multi-national array of guns but only one variety of kale).

Why would you put so much effort into this faux backyard display? This should be intuitive: so that you can charge at least one dollar more per pound for whatever Smug vegetable you are selling. Take, for example, the display in the photo at left. Those Romano beans were for sale directly across from Jimenez at the stand belonging to Gloria’s Family Farm. These Romano beans are sustainably farmed, identical in appearance, and just as delicious (according to Smug Scout’s Romano bean taste test). But look at the cheap display! No label and no price, just a disposable cardboard box stuck atop a rat-eaten, half-destroyed golf putting mat. When you ask, which you must do, you will find they are $3 per pound rather than $4.

So Smug Scout buys from both farms. Gloria’s lack of labels is kind of Smug, too. Smug Scout enjoys being able to pick out the wild arugula and heirloom spinach from tables crammed with greens. It is like a test that she gets an A+ on, while others around her cluelessly fail. Smug Scout does not need to buy vegetables from a basket to feel Smug.

 

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/21

This week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find is a green pumpkin called Marina di Chioggia (center of photo).  In Italian this means “Chioggia sea pumpkin,” but Smug Scout prefers to say “Marina di Chioggia” because it is much more Smug to use an Italian name that is totally unknown to most people. She learned this practice from Smug restaurants that refer to ingredients in the most undecipherable way possible in order to make diners feel like dumb Americans abroad. For example, seasonal local expensive restaurants will never offer something so pedestrian as black kale. It is “cavolo nero.”

So now that you have your Marina di Chioggia, what do you do with it? Of course you could spend hours turning these lumpy rocks into gnocchi or some street food from the Adriatic coast. Good luck with that. Smug Scout approves of the Smug recasting  and overcomplicating of unfussy peasant dishes, but she simply does not have an electric chainsaw to cut her Marina di Chioggia. Perhaps you are better with knives than Smug Scout, but Smug Scout knows exactly what would happen if she tried to cut it with even her sharpest knife: she would come close to severing half her fingers while the recalcitrant pumpkin would sail across the room and most certainly crash into her full wine glass. No.

Instead, Smug Scout believes you should use your Marina di Chioggia for an arts and crafts project. Now as you probably know, Smug Scout does not spend a lot of time on arts and crafts. She likes the idea of crafting Smug artisanal products, but a pesky obstacle called her grueling full-time job gets in the way of this ambition. Today, however, she has an easy project to propose to you: a Smug fall harvest tableau.

Materials required:

  1. One large Marina di Chioggia
  2. One small table

Instructions:

  1. Pick up large Marina di Chioggia
  2. Place on small table

Smug Scout saw this Smug fall harvest tableau at one of Santa Monica’s Smug epicenters, a cafe called Huckleberry. She will review it in a future post, but in the meantime you can replicate its Smug fall harvest tableau in your own home. Just do not let any rude visitors insult it. Here is a sample dialogue to follow in case anyone does.

  • Rude Visitor: So where’s the so-called “Smug fall harvest tableau”?
  • Smug Scout: Right in front of you!
  • Rude Visitor: You mean that ugly green pumpkin on the table? How could you possibly call that a “tableau”? You must think “tableau” means table in French!
  • Smug Scout: Please forgive me. It seems I have insulted you.
  • Rude Visitor: What?
  • Smug Scout: Obviously the bumpy skin of my local organic Marina di Chioggia reminds you of the cystic acne that plagued you all through high school. Probably college, too.
  • Rude Visitor: I did not have cystic acne!
  • Smug Scout: Fine, call it an accident with battery acid. Look, just go get some cheap plastic tableau from Target. You must think that is American for Tar-ZHAY.
Remember: you are not Smug if you prefer vapid beauty in your vegetables.

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 10/14

This week’s Smug Farmers’ Market find, Hawaiian eggplant, comes not from the usual Sunday Mar Vista market but rather the Saturday Silver Lake market. Smug Scout was excited to visit a market in L.A.’s Smug epicenter but then was a bit dismayed to find that it was not all that Smug and has no chance of knocking the Portsmouth FM from its throne.  Smug Scout is sure that Smug Portsmouth residents will feel righteous pleasure at the thought that the state of New Hampshire, despite its short fertile season (July), hardscrabble land (thin and rocky soil, scoured by glaciers), limited produce options (mostly flowers and greens), and homogenous farmers (a diverse mix of tenth generation Northern Europeans), offers a market much more Smug than anything in California, the country’s agricultural center and home to more FMs than anywhere in the world. You lose, Cali!

So how exactly did this Silver Lake market lose? Well, aside from Smug Scout’s Smug Eastside friend (pictured), many of the other shoppers did not look either affluent or its local variant, affluent in poor backwoods communist clothing. In fact, if Smug Scout were asked to free-associate, she would use words such as “slovenly,” “cretinous,” and “ghoulish” to describe many of the characters she observed. Seeing them walking on pavement painted like an all green Twister board did not help.

Furthermore, unlike in Portsmouth, this market really is just a place to buy produce, not one to “see and be seen” (at least Smug Scout fervently hopes that is the case). There was no entertainment for the Smug under five set unless you count a JonBenét Ramsey wanna-be (probably aside from the getting murdered part) who was singing and dancing in a way most of us would call obscenely mature. Her only audience was her agent (who may have also been her mother), an oily photographer (who did not appear to work for any legal publication), and a dog (who according to market rules should not have been there in the first place). Smug Scout does not believe this “entertainment” would be wholesome enough, let alone sufficiently law-abiding, to take place in Portsmouth.

But finally one of the crucial reasons this market is not that Smug is its prices. They are simply too low. The produce quality and variety would qualify for Smug status everywhere else in the world, but here the gorgeous vegetables and fruit are tastelessly displayed on synthetic golf putting mats. The prices match these cheap and unsightly tableaux. And this brings Smug Scout back to the beginning, back to the Hawaiian eggplant. She got a gigantic bag of those sexy bi-color phallic nightshades for one dollar.

Ultimately Smug Scout is sold on the Silver Lake FM and her delightful Hawaiian eggplant. She got that eggplant, multicultural organic heirloom tomatoes, puffy sugar snap peas, and beautifully deformed bell peppers with parasitic attachments–all for the price of one shrunken head of conventionally grown lettuce in Portsmouth.

Still, whatever money Smug Scout may have saved on vegetables she then immediately spent in triplicate at an outrageously Smug lunch spot called Forage. “Forage” is about as Smug a restaurant name as anyone could craft. Can you beat that, Portsmouth?