A few weeks before the Thanksgiving, I visited the Union Square Green Market. This stands as a rite of passage for new residents and a favorite pastime for longtime New Yorkers.
Since I began visiting the city in the early 2000s (and later moved to the region), I have always loved strolling through the market and marveling at the rich variety of produce, meats, cheeses, and foodstuffs sold by regional vendors and farmers.
Heeding the suggestion of a favorite neighborhood bakery, I trekked from my Jersey City hermitage to patronize a Pennsylvania farmer, Campo Rosso Farm, renowned for its chicory and greens. During the short subway ride into Manhattan, I felt anxious and inspected every boarding passenger for proper mask-wearing. I even made my trip on a wet, drizzly morning to avoid the smallest of crowds. Amid the pandemic and the winter surge in infections, the simplest outing feels like a daring and potentially dangerous adventure.
When I arrived at Union Square and glanced around at the vendors, the buildings, and the people, my stress and dread–constant and unwelcome companions over the past nine months–dissipated. Immersing myself in this ordinary urban ritual comforted me.
I talked with the folks working at the Campo Rosso stand, shared my delight in their food, and walked away with a heavy bag of freshly-picked vegetables. Then, I explored the whole market and loaded my other shopping bag with New Jersey apples, Hudson Valley cheese, and New York craft beer. I started thinking about what meals I might prepare with my wholesome ingredients.
Stories in seemingly every news cycle bemoan the state of American cities during COVID-19. Walking around the Union Square Green Market, I observed evidence of an opposite phenomenon: the urban fabric holding, if ever tenuously.
On a rainy, dreary November morning, people ventured from their homes and neighborhoods to support small food producers negatively impacted by the pandemic. These people likely found surprise and joy at the market. For a short while, their lives might have seemed normal, predictable, and safe. They might have left the market feeling restored. I know that I did.
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