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.
- 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.