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Everything posted by jamiemaw

  1. I understand your point and think it well made. I also look forward to your opinion once you've had the chance to read the book. Produce, never (I am one tough, shrewd carrot negotiator my few remaining friends will tell you); affairs of the heart though, as often as possible! OK, enough with the flattery. I am to hijacking what Dick Cheney is to marksmanship. But I borrowed your quote for a reason; it works remarkably well in the bigger discussion (well beyond wrinkly fruit) of not only are we what we eat, but because we are also defined (and define ourselves) by how and why we purchase. This, after all is the author's main thesis.
  2. I too enjoyed your story, Michael, but I do see a need for you to read the book, or at least the linked excerpt, before rendering an opinion of her methodology. ← Notice that I didn't actually characterize her methodology. In that case, did she over-extrapolate? Note, again, that I'm not asserting she did but posing a question. I did a Google search for clear definitions or discussions of participant-observation and found a lot of confusing stuff, so you're not alone in asking the question you pose above. Here's a link to a page I haven't read completely, but which seems useful as a starting point. My sense is that participant-observation means that you first of all take on the role of a researcher whose investigations take place primarily through personal relationships with one's subjects (conversations; observations of them at work; taking on of roles in their work or business, with their permission, etc.), not for example pre-cooked surveys (which is not to say that well-worded surveys, especially if they include space for further comments, don't have their uses). Secondly, I think you have to be willing to do whatever within reason some of your research subjects feel would be helpful. So for example, did this researcher help any of the sellers with their work in any way while doing her studies? Inevitably, there is a degree of subjectivity in social science research of any kind, but a good researcher has to have the ability to come to some conclusions based on good field notes and cite others' work in places near and far as relevant, by way of comparison. It simply takes a special kind of person to sincerely participate in the life of the social group s/he is studying and then maintain enough independence of thought to write something other than pure propaganda in favor of the group. There have been many notable failures. I don't know if this is one of them. ← Not to let this veer wildly off-topic: 1. Strictly speaking, while not not questioning her methodology, you said: So as not to bias your argument you might have as easily said "If she did, she would have been able to do good work in this kind of study." 2. My impression, in following this thread, is that she has not been observed to be writing "pure propaganda for the group." More importantly though, my question was where does the journalism begin? Should a journalist feel any great compunction to be "willing to do whatever within reason some of your research subjects feel would be helpful." Anyway, to bring this back on topic, have you ordered a copy of Market Day in Provence yet?
  3. " . . . that they didn't even notice something was wrong. Actually, they liked it the wrong way." This could well be a cover quote for The University of Chicago Press edition of the book. For de la Pradelle's book (for anyone who has read it) is much less about deception (or shopping, fresh produce, cobbled markets, and bemused stallholders for that matter), as it is about that delightful and universal human condition that permits and even encourages a mutually duplicitous relationship to the frequent benefit of both parties. For those of you who haven't had the chance to read the book yet, I think that you'll enjoy the fact that its observations (which are tempered with a good deal of humour) never decay into cynicism. But make no mistake, it isn't a Ladies Home Journal guide book either. It's really about the suspension of disbelief whenever we make a transaction, whether it's for a basketful of fruit or an affair of the heart. But above all else, it's for the right - very humanly - to "like it the wrong way." Or, in fact, love it.
  4. I too enjoyed your story, Michael, but I do see a need for you to read the book, or at least the linked excerpt, before rendering an opinion on her methodology. Not to separate the fly shit from the pepper, but I don't know that the author has held herself out to be an anthropologist. I'd be interested to understand where you think the 'participant observation' (role-playing) of the anthropologist stops and the 'neutral observation' (non role-playing) of the journalist-writer begins. That being said, I found her shopping acumen as acute as her sense of humour. I think the point has been well made previously that although this book was written by a Frenchwoman (indigène, I believe) with French government support for a heretofore French audience, the symptoms are universal.
  5. Indeed, the very relationships that you have cultivated with producers (and you are far from being alone) are very much a part of your experience of buying local produce. But, when one stops and thinks, perhaps not just for the reasons that you have ennumerated above. Not incidentally, Market Day in Provence addresses this subject in chapter four: 'Familiar Strangers.'
  6. The pho place is actually behind Joey's - its called Huoang Gai (I think). Quite good indeed - but Pho seems so pricey in Kelowna at about $7-8 for a small about $9 for a large. Which seems about a third more than in Vancouver. When choice is limited though... what can you do but pay the price. Went to CC and had their new apple pie which comes with a bourbon caremel sauce and ice cream. The sauce was insane and tasted like they used Tahitian vanilla - very floral and heady. Surprisingly good dessert. ← Whoops, quite right Lee, it's behind Joey's, not the new CC. I have no idea how I could have confused the two.
  7. Potatoes are a superior binding agent for butter: they should ooze it from every molecule. I have this on good account. Congratulations on all of your new adventures, Jamie
  8. If you're using V-Day to dump some unwanted relationship baggage, begin the festivities by giving him/her a copy of Vegan Cooking For One.
  9. Well put, Chris, and certainly more so for the initiated. Although the book was originally greeted as an expose, when it's all said and done the rural machinations it speaks to are just very funny: bumpkin pie?
  10. As to your first question: Neither, quite. I was using the historical example to support your observation at Place Carnot, i.e. that market operators occasionally segregate producers from middlemen. In the case of Bologna in the early 1400's, you might argue that they took the punishment of perps to extremes. Gelding the lily, so to speak. Thanks for your example; in our own market culture, especially at large civic markets such as Granville Island, beginning in the early summer that segregation becomes both less clear and more clear. Less clear because middlemen also begin to sell local product; more clear because local farmers selling their own product are isolated in a special area to sell from their trucks. From what I have read thus far, one of de la Pradelle's points is that it is sometimes difficult, and not just for the casual observer, to make that distinction. To that I would add, as I have previously, that the challenge in making this distinction is available to consumers globally and has been for centuries. At least that's the point that I'll likely make in the chapter that I'm currently researching. Finally, I don't know that de la Pradelle’s sample was too general; in fact some (such as Ptipois) might reasonably argue that the research was too specific. I found her observations by turns amusing, illuminating and well-researched, and based on them, can at least partly understand the collective nerve that they hit when originally published, perhaps intensified when it won a literary prize. Perhaps its translation into English, and even its discussion here (at least of a brief excerpt), might be seen to have a similar effect. Of course the antithetic argument might be the more persuasive. And that is that any deception doesn't really matter at all, simply because the food products of rural France are so superior, even at the Depot level, as to convince even the most discerning.
  11. Thank you for your (as always expert) local insights, Lucy. Here's a portion of what William Grimes had to say about Market Day in Provence in his review in The New York Times last weekend: 'Ms. de La Pradelle, an ethnologist who was sent by the French government to analyze public markets, spent years scrutinizing the goods and the behavior and the underlying rules governing the market in Carpentras. Her findings amount to a cold shower for anyone, like myself, who has constructed a rich fantasy life around such places. All those farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, those delectable cheeses, those mouth-watering pâtés, come from the same wholesalers who supply the stores. The region switched over to large-scale industrial farming way back in the 1920's. "A market is a collectively produced anachronism, and in this it responds to deeply contemporary logic," she says.' Indeed. Please see Post # 30, above.
  12. Juneau a tourist trap? I usually don't think of state capitals, not even state capitals nestled in fjords with mountains all around and no highway connections to anyplace more than about five miles distant, as places of this type. Usually, they're sleepy, sometimes overgrown little burgs, with little to recommend them aside from the presence of the state government, if that can be said to be recommendation. Then again, Juneau probably has access to really good salmon as compensation, which might justify the tourist-trappery. Which reminds me of a tale I heard many, many, many years ago about a band of Catholic friars who maintained some sort of roadside stand somewhere in the United States where they sold their own foodstuffs made at the monastery, dressed in their traditional robes. According to the story, when a visitor inquired about their religious order, one of the brothers replied, "We're Tourist Trappists." Maybe they were affiliated with this Kentucky abbey? If their cheese weren't quite remarkable, I would suspect yes. ← For the record, Sandy, I didn't call Juneau a tourist trap. I called it a cruise ship tourist drop. Believe me, when a couple of Panamax-class cruisers pull in, the beautiful scenery quickly gets hidden behind a forest of bad tracksuits.
  13. He is well paid who is well satisfied. I should think that deceptive trading practices are as old as humanity. I believe the first example was C. Magnon & Sons short-weighing a filet of mastadon, or the early herbalist-philosophers, Dawn of Thyme, selling old sages as fresh. In Evelyn Welch's brilliant new book Shopping in the Renaissance, Consumer Cultures in Italy 1400 - 1600 (Yale University Press), she states: "As a consequence, these Bolognese treccole, defined as 'all those who retail fruit, greens, vegetables, and their seeds and other things that they have bought in order to sell again which are normally sold by market gardeners who toil for and cultivate things themselves', were normally not allowed into the market to sell their wares until after the market had officially closed at midday. When they appeared, they were not to be visibly separated from the peasant gardeners, the ortolane, who were themselves carefully defined as those with market gardens either inside the city walls or within three miles of the town." She goes on to say that in Venice, "There were severe punishments for those who [sic] to disguise themselves as peasants in order to pretend that they had grown their wares themselves." It seems the Italians were on their game, even in 1410. We can only hope that the City of Turino has copied this ancient by-law during the current festivities. And finally, in the case of your soiled spuds, are the parties to the social contract not complicit? One of the frequent observations within Market Day in Provence is that even experienced local consumers suspend all logic in order to buy produce that couldn't possibly have come from the vendor's own 'farm'. As you read, she then cites the case of the vendor with just a few items, versus those that reveal their displays as elaborate cornucopiae. There are many retailers (boutique versus department), who follow this psychology, but it was interesting to see it reduced to this level, and the seeming fact that many shoppers found the 'boutique' (a few chickens, leeks and a bit of other, blemished produce) more convincing. I think one of her points is that both parties are complicit in this little confidence game. Just as when we purchase a tennis shirt with a little polo player on the breast, so too we might buy a little bit of Ralph's other designs on our lives. But in the case of the open-air markets of France, the author allows that the badge of honour, or brand, is the artful display complete with dead lapin, the rusticated fermier, or the glass of pastis just down the cobbles.
  14. Yes, after reading a good whack of the book I'd have to agree with you: There is a problem there. But for the most part the appearance is that it's more amusing play-acting and light chicanery (an 'unindictable fraud') than something deeply malicious. Free advice: Read the book. Market Day in Provence has been available in France for some time. The author finds much more than 'a few flaws' though: The evidence suggests that all is not as it appears. But I'd cheerfully recommend that you read it and make your own mind up. The author is an acclaimed French ethnologist, it won a serious French award and is certainly deeply researched (if clumsily translated into English). And, as I said earlier, it delightfully illuminates the pastime of sacred cow-tipping. Needless to say, it also provoked ample Gallic hand-wringing. It was the artifice of Extra-Jean's ploy to be très authentique that was so amusing, not that his bought-in products and Madame's home-made preserves were necessarily inferior. But believe me, as I said earlier the Deux Chaveaux and blue smock gambit was entirely intentional: Irony, after all, requires two audiences. At the market, those two audiences - separated by that unspoken irony and a plank of wrinkly produce - were composed of the shepherd and the fleeced. In fact, it was a standing joke in the household, a weekly uniform of Mock-Paysan Sunday Best. If his daughters accompanied him, the Dior pumps and low chignons would stay back in favour of espadrilles and toussled bed hair - their take on Marianne Goes To Market. That being said, there wasn't really any malice to it, just a little Gallic shrug and a knowing wink. The neighbours were silent collaborators and many performed the same weekly service. Of course it's not just the French open-air market that was born from this artifice. It's a time-honoured manipulation seen all around the world, from the rafia-tied litres of second-rate olive oil in Chiantishire, to the cruise ship tourist drops of Ketchikan and Juneau. It's just that the French are so much better at it, having global rights to the use of blue gingham and all, and enchanting descriptors such as 'mamam', 'confiture' and 'naturellement mon petit jardin organique est fertilisé avec le produit de mes vaches.' But of course.
  15. As Carrot Top rightly points out, de la Pradelle’s research delves deeply into the wizzened apples, dead rabbits, 'lots of oil cloth' displays. That section culminates in this paragraph . . . She clearly makes the case that these displays and stall holders are as equally inauthentic as the 'artful display/battered chapeau' types. ← Meh. Here, even, in the hallowed halls of eGullet! Is a good example of how easily one can be hoodwinked. Mr. Maw thought it was me, Carrot Top, speaking - when really it was Ptipois speaking! Now it is true that we are both fine specimens, me a green top of a carrot, she a fresh spring pea - but there the sameness ends! She is French and undoubtedly chic - I am merely the American girl next door. Tonight we will blame this on the fact that it is the fin de la semaine, and probably Mr. Maw was indulging in some excellent old Burgundy as he read, then afterwards as his fingers hit the keyboard so masterfully. Burgundy. That *is* French, isn't it? But it just goes to prove how easily one can be fooled as to point of origin by even the finest produce (whether intentionally or not! ) . ← Zut alors! Actually, dearest, and for clarity, while quoting Ptipois, I was referencing a similar point that you made upthread. I didn't want you to think that I had been overly distracted by Olympic women's hockey.
  16. Developing relationships? I think it's the author's central premise that these relationships are founded on dishonety. But the real point is the romantic notion of the seductive French stall and its seemingly rustic farmer-vendors. According to the suthor, most of them are as illusory as Ralph Lauren. I recently read a book on the romance of markets in southern France. The Canadian author (who was unoriginally setting out to buy a house) naively proclaimed that French consumer has a naturally deeper connection to the soil because of their open-air market mentality and insistence on only very high quality product: fresh, local, seasonal. An awfully lot of bad food writing is based on this flawed premise and its counterpunch: that North Americans suffer a disconnect from the land because they largely shop in supermarkets. I see what you mean, but I guess my surprise was this - as much as I like markets and target them at every opertunity, I would never go as far as to say that I trusted a vendor absolutely. The nature of the game and all that. Maybe the Canadian author you mention above isn't that naive. After all, it is these sentimental memes that people want to hear and that is what sells books and makes money for the author. Prehaps they are playing the same game as the market vendors. The original version of the book may have been entitled "France: God it sucks", but that wouldn't fly I imagine and would result in a rapid re-draft. Regarding supermarkets (off topic, but amusing): Here in Scotland I noticed that although most potatoes are sold in plastic bags, some are sold loose in bins, covered in a layer of peaty earth. It is quite interesting to watch the staff put perfectly clean, brushed potatoes into a bin then pour a bag of sterilized earth over them. ← I'll always check out markets too, Adam, faux-charm or not. And as regards the Canadian author, her snobby premise met with much derision here: "If it's so darn good there, please feel free to stay." With regard to your sneaky Scottish grocer friends, that does plumb a new low even if the peat likely imparts a smoky flavour not unlike a superior whisky. Well, at least Scottish grocers have stopped stuffing potatoes in their Speedos whilst holidaying in France. Which is clearly where they got the idea. Jamie PS - I'm filing the Faux-French Market Factoids in that trove of Who Would've Thought? arcana that numbers other epiphany-inducing provocations such as discovering that the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas has more hotels rooms than Venice. It's just that important.
  17. I don't think it a surprise at all, especially here at home, where picturesque hillocks of dewy melons don't fool many. That's just one reason it's a pleasure to buy at the farmgate or orchard stand in the Okanagan. Developing relationships? I think it's the author's central premise that these relationships are founded on dishonety. But the real point is that this book completely overturns the romantic notion of the seductive French market, the foods on offer, and its seemingly rustic farmer-vendors. According to the suthor, some of them are as illusory as Ralph Lauren. I recently read a book on the romance of markets in southern France. The Canadian author (who was, unoriginally, setting out to buy a house- yawn) naively proclaimed that French consumer has a naturally deeper connection to the soil because of their open-air market mentality and insistence on only very high quality product: fresh, local, seasonal. An awfully lot of bad food writing is based on this flawed premise and its counterpunch: that North Americans suffer a disconnect from the land because they largely shop in supermarkets. It turns out that the French do as well, but in ones that offer the illusion of So much of the concept of the French idyll (a bike or canal boat ride through the countryside, stopping at a market to gather supplies for a picnic) is based on this ripe artifice that it appears, up close, like that amusing pastime of sacred cow tipping. Or merely merde de cheval.
  18. As Carrot Top rightly points out, de la Pradelle’s research delves deeply into the wizzened apples, dead rabbits, 'lots of oil cloth' displays. That section culminates in this paragraph . . . She clearly makes the case that these displays and stall holders are as equally inauthentic as the 'artful display/battered chapeau' types.
  19. Oh, admire them, if only because nobody plays the French card quite the way the French do. ← Thanks Jamie. A couple of things occurred to me regarding this topic. Does this mean that the French with their "superior" taste buds aren't so different from us Yanks, meaning that they can't tell the difference between a mass produced (FILL IN THE BLANK) from the artisnal product any better than many Americans? As for the products that come from the wholesalers, are they dumbed down versions of the real thing or are they able to recreate the genuine article, just en masse? Finally, here in the states we have a multitude of laws at the Federal and state levels governing truth in advertising and a very lawsuit-happy population (I have no idea what laws/penalties are out there that may address what purveyors at our farmers markets must say or advertise about their wares). What about the laws of France? I would assume that they probably have a much more casual approach than we do here. ← I haven't finished reading Market Day in Provence yet, but it largely rings true with my own experience in France and other countries: what appears artisanal and home-grown at a so-called farmers' market is often anything but. Let's call it re-gifting. On the French farm (in the Auverne) where I worked, which mainly grew grain and hay crops, Madame would make some of her own fruit preserves from nearby stone fruit trees, but would also buy in fruits and vegetables from the Co-Op. These were artfully rearranged into rustic wooden crates that had first been lined with straw. Then Extra-Jean, le fermier, would back his battered Deux Chevaux (not as pretty as this one) around to the cellar doors to bundle up the day's 'produce' and packaged goods, to be conveyed to the market. Needless to say, the shiny new Peugeot stayed in the garage. But the francs earned on market days served an economic purpose: Cropping on a large scale only delivers one pay day per year, and the hard currency from the market (most of which escaped the tax collector) provided consistent family income throughout the year. That in turn was regifted by keeping their beautiful daughters in chic dresses and stylish high heels. As the extended quote that I linked points out, this market artifice is almost tacitly agreed to by the parties (except unsupecting tourists and naive food writers); it requires only the suspension of logic on behalf of the purchaser and the white lies of the stallholder. As I get deeper into the book, it will be interesting to see if the author compounds the fracture by discussing the massive subsidization of French farmers. I realize that the vast majority of the world's lawyers live in America; in France, as long as the end product behaves well and tastes good, there's more of a 'nudge, nudge; wink, wink' mentality and rare are the lawsuits for merely taking a leek.
  20. Oh, admire them, if only because nobody plays the French card quite the way the French do.
  21. A Commerce of the Imaginary Romantic notions of local terroir and fermier-tended produce for sale in the traditional open-air markets of France will be dashed on these shores by the recent English translation of Michèle de la Pradelle’s Market Day in Provence. “The Carpentras Friday market,” writes Jack Katz in his foreword, “creates a seemingly unique place without committing any indictable fraud.” The book, which won the Prix Louis Castex de l'Académie Fran‡aise, is also sure to dim the credibility of those breathless, Enchanted April-style books that etol the 'authenticity' of French produce and the 'connection' of the French to their soil. De la Pradelle, a French ethnologist, deliciously eviscerates the Carpentras market (near Avignon) and the faux-produce, cheeses and charcuterie on offer. Her thorough research puts paid to the fakery of the small farm and artisanal products seemingly on display: fruits and vegetables are grown industrially and vendors buy their pâtés and cheeses from large suppliers. Several merchants quoted in the book openly admit to their playacting, which conjures images of speedy purchasing trips to the MIN (Marché d’Intérêt National - or gigantic wholesaler) followed by the careful placement of dirt under fingernails, donning of battered straw chapeau and blue farmer's apron, and labelling of 'Cornichons' and 'Confiture d'Abricot du Pays' in child-like script on Mason jars. - Market Day in Provence; Michèle de la Pradelle, University of Chicago Press.You can find a longer quote from Market Day in Provence here. An intriguing look inside the psychology of what, as it turns out, is just another brand.
  22. The Birch Grill or The Bohemian on Bernard downtown; The Cactus Club or Joey's on 97. In behind the CC there's a very good pho shop if your folks are slightly more adventurous. But the Cactus Club serves a good lunch in attractive surroundings. Speaking of the Human Resources Department, if you mention Neil Wyles' name to Shona, the bartender, and then give her $6, she will bring you a very cold beer.
  23. I agree with you. Several weeks ago, after standing in snow and mud for a few hours, in we shot for lunch. The enormous fireplace was a warm welcome, as was the food. I had brawurst Nurenburger, kraut and very good rosti potatoes - for $8.95. Big summer beer garden which I anticipate attending, by boat. The room is really quite authenic, with carved woodwork but no cuckoo clocks that we spotted. Lots of Hellenic beers on tap and by the bottle. Nice call Anchoress.
  24. No worries. 1. "In our experience, in the major urban centres of most western countries we have found that service in fine dining restaurants is now almost universally at a relatively high level. That standard usually maintains whether the service charge is included in the bill or is to be added by way of gratuity. If, however, you feel at all uncomfortable with the level of service, we recommend that you either request a discount on the service charge or diminish your usual, friendly tip. In Canada, however, all bets are off." 2. "In more casual dining establishments, where we typically witness greater extremes of service, we prefer a straightfoward tipping system, which is speedy consideration for service personnel to monitor and manage our dining experience expertly. Or not. In Brooklyn, we've noticed, you're probably better off banging Tami in the walk-in." 3. "If you are Joanne Kates, or, for that matter, any broad in a bad hat or questionable do, all bets are off." And I mean that. Seriously this time. Jamie
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