Sunday, August 16, 2009

A photo essay.

When one moves to New Jersey from any other state, one endures a certain amount of good natured ribbing and well-intentioned advice about how to avoid getting stabbed/run over/a speeding ticket/a noticeable Joizey accent.

But what no one told me about was the amazing bounty of Jersey farms. I really had no idea. Based on a few drive-throughs and visits, I knew that a lot of south and central Jersey was farmland, but really didn't know how rich the farmers' markets and supermarkets would be with local produce.

And good local produce, too. I wouldn't be writing about it if the tomatoes were mealy and the eggplants bitter.

The farm stands, farmers' markets, and local produce selection at grocery stores has become my favorite thing to discuss when out-of-staters ask me how I like living here. (If it's the summer time -- if this conversation occurs in the winter I undoubtedly talk about Monster Beverage, my favorite restaurants, and the Flyers.)

I didn't actually like summer until this year, but now, we have an agreement, summer and I. Summer gives me food. Glorious, flavorful, heaping piles of locally grown food that I shovel into my mouth by the fistful. Summer in New Jersey also means going to the Shore -- something else I hated until this year. But with the discovery of surf punk and the encouragement some friends who spent their childhoods on the Jersey coast, I've bought a bathing suit and have noticeable freckles for the first time in about ten years. And then there's the garden in the backyard, grilling, cold beer, thunderstorms, sitting on the screen porch, gin and tonics, and popsicles.

So summer in South Jersey generously gives me all of this. And in turn I tolerate the sunburn, the sun tan, the heat, the sweatiness, the screaming kids, the teenagers who are IN MY WAY, the sunscreen in my eyes, the crowded trains, the humidity, and the mosquitoes with out too much complaining. Except about the mosquitoes. They're so high on my list of hated things that they mingle with intangible concepts. I do complain about them quite a lot.

But if someone hands me a fresh tomato I'll forget about the mosquitoes for a few minutes, which is really a good thing for everyone involved.