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From Barnes & NobleLittle Village in a Big Town
Please, accept my invitation to visit Small Town, Anywhere, U.S.A. The name of my small town is Union Square, and it is located in Manhattan, New York City. You ask: How can this be? What kind of village green or town square could possibly exist in the heart of the Big Apple?
It is true we have no penny candy store or wood-planked streets, not even a bandstand or gazebo for the local barbershop quartet to entertain us from on warm summer nights.
But what we do have in this most improbable of all places, the heart of lower Manhattan, is a little village that for the past 24 years has come to life as the sun rises every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday. Year-round, no matter the weather—be it cold spring rains, the sweltering heat of July and August, which gives way to fall's breezy relief that takes us into winter's chill and back again to the first pussy willow buds of spring—my little village, often considered more reliable than the United States Postal Service, stands against the elements.
My name is Joel Patraker. For the past 18 years, first as a seller of grapes and now as assistant director, I have had the unique pleasure of standing at the center of our village—surrounded by its butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, fish mongers, milk producers, and, of course, some of the most outstanding growers of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, whose farms are actually much closer to the big city than you might think.
This village, also known as the world-famous Greenmarket farmers' market, has all the best qualities—maybe more—of any small town I have ever visited. Popping up like seedlings from the soil, tent poles and canopies are quickly set in place to cover gleaming bushels of shelling peas; large bunches of every variety of beet known to man (colored red, yellow, white, candy-striped) sit alongside baskets of ripe strawberries and peaches. And at dusk the market disappears as the city reclaims its territory.
It is a place where native New Yorkers from all walks of life come together and mingle with tourists from around the world. On any given day a four-star chef, a fashion model, or a Wall Street banker may be seen brushing shoulders with home cooks and French tourists, all of them busily sorting through a heaping pile of just-picked lima beans or discussing the merits of aged versus fresh goat cheese. Here, smiles and warm greetings and excellently grown produce are always the order of the day.
In The Greenmarket Cookbook, I take you behind the scenes of the bustling market, sharing with you my collected stories about the farmers, chefs, and market customers who make my little village come alive, along with recipes and shopping tips I've gathered at this urban oasis. Visitors to New York City are often surprised to discover that the locals here are so passionate about seasonal shopping and cooking. Where else but in New York can the hard-paved street, Broadway, open up into a farmers' market that offers more than 85 varieties of apples, 200 types of hot and sweet peppers, sweet corn picked at dawn on the farm and rushed to the market that same morning?
If the plane fare is too steep for you to come visit us here at Greenmarket, the beautiful photographs in my book will instantly transport you to the center of Union Square during any season you wish. (Here I must admit a personal bias—my wife, Marry Kim, took all the photos!)
We hope you enjoy cooking from our book, whether you use it shopping at your local farmers' market or at Union Square Greenmarket. And if you do come to town, stop by the market manager's table and introduce yourself. You'll always get a warm welcome in our little village.