I was getting all set to proclaim myself a hero, a god-like figure perhaps, when a basket full of shrivelled kiwis shocked me back to reality. Around this time last year, I had marched into the Forks Management office, armed with a dessicated rutabaga, some gonad analogies and a camera. The nice young lady I spoke with responded neutrally to my concerns. A year went by. The produce continued to suck.
So imagine my shock and awe when I walked into the Forks to see that Tutti Frutti, that purveyor of rotten food so vividly chronicled here and here, was Tutti Gonzo! In its place: Casa Bella. The produce looked great! The staff seemed to be arranging it, picking it over, just like in a proper market!!! The meat at the affiliated counter looked fresh. There was some artfully displayed, colorful antipasto – a wise choice if considering perishability.
- Casa Bella
I started imagining how I would take all the credit for the change, fresh off my success from being recognized by Saveur. Were the ‘powers that be’ reading my blog? Is waving around a dried up vegetable in someone’s office actually impactful? Would they erect a statue of me the junction of our two mighty rivers? I would collaborate with the sculptor – posing with a basket of root vegetables thrust towards the sky. Would we decide to minimize the size of my nose, or maximize it for full Grecian goddess effect?
But most importantly, could I finally start shopping for food at the Forks? Anything seemed possible, the sky was mine. So today, armed with a shopping list, I drove down to The Forks.
I was crestfallen when I neared the fruit vendor and heard a man say with an East Indian accent, “No, no, no, my goodness, a mango should be full … plump even!”. I saw him gesturing like he was holding a D-cup between his two hands. He and his friend walked past, shaking their heads at what passed for a mango in Winnipeg.
And so, my dreams of grandeur ended. Although the State of the Vendor is much better than it was last year, there is still room for improvement. They are definitely making some good efforts – there were some big baskets of local strawberries and BC cherries. But why why why why why is there a row of Kraft dinner above the (empty) local tomato basket? Why aren’t there big beautiful bags of our local Nature’s Harvest pasta there instead? Do you really want me to buy coriander that is sitting in a tub of brown water? Did you not consider that if you purchase a massive bin of corn, it will start to wither before you can sell it all?
Who thinks this is a good idea?
Perfect for Vichyssoise
Local Tomatoes and Kraft Dinner
Kiwis - Taking me back in time to that rutabaga that looked like Gandalf's scrotum
Please tell me these are plantains
The sales clerk saw me snapping photos, and taking me for a tourist, he started chatting with me about how he too owned a Canon. And while I humoured him with reciprocated pleasantry, what I felt like doing was leaping on top of his counter, brandishing one of his mushy mangoes, and asking, “How could you dare make small talk with me when THIS is in my line of sight!!”. (I would froth at the mouth slightly for effect.)
Still working on it
In the final analysis, it looks like there is still some work to do. While it looked like The Forks was turning the corner at, “Keeping Life Delicious”, it’s possible that all they have done was Keep Zolli Humble. I would like to think that the former would have been a greater accomplishment.
(Note: since this post, further attempts have been made to keep Zolli humble in the form of strongly worded comments about ripe bananas, mangoes, and kiwis. I am content to respectfully disagree and stand by my post. Someone obviously took this post very personally – in the end, if that translates into better produce at The Forks, I am happy to say Mission Accomplished. I am glad there are other people who are passionate about making the Forks into a true market.
Please don't try to tell me these are ripe. The one on the left is so mushy it has a dent in it.
I’ll be the first person to admit that I am not a chef or a farmer. I am a food consumer. But I have travelled the world visiting its great markets, and I am a faithful buyer from Vic’s and Crampton’s. You just don’t see brown/rotting/shrivelled/overripe food there – ever – nor do you see it at St. Norbert’s Farmers Market or any of the great markets of the world. But the sad fact is that consumers will walk away for years if they visit a store and are unable to buy dinner because the quality is suboptimal, even once.)
That said, I have revised the post with some additional photos of the more handsome produce at Casa Bella in an attempt to balance off my reader’s concerns. Thank you everyone for your comments – and Casa Bella owners – keep at it – you’re almost there. Let’s just chalk this up to growing pains and move on. But please get rid of the Kraft Dinner.)
Dinner to go - good idea!
Good lookin' BC cherries
Local strawberries - nice!