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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Old MacDonald

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Originally published August 3, 2007

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

“Old MacDonald had a farm, E I E I O.” And, as the song goes, there were lots of noisy animals there. When thinking about Old MacDonald, I always imagine he grew something on the farm, along with raising the animals. If he did, I am sure it was nothing like what farmers grow today.

For instance, if Old MacDonald had tomatoes, they were probably one common variety, not like all the different kinds I see at local farmers markets in Montclair and on Grand Avenue in Oakland. The tomatoes go by unexpected names such as “Black Prince” and “Pineapple”. They come in all the latest fashion with stripes or spots, often in any color but plain old red.

Because every burger needs more than just a tomato, there’s also a wide variety of onions at the farmers markets. With names such as “Torpedo”, “Stockton Red” and “Walla Walla”, these onions stick with you. With all the choices, I have yet to conclude which suits a burger best. Like peeling an onion, it will take some time to discover.

A burger with tomato and onion is distinctly American, but there are plenty of other things with a distinctly international flavor. You can find Japanese eggplants and cucumbers. For a truly continental breakfast, there are French cantaloupes and Sicilian melons. To mix it up (or mash it up), there are also German “Butterball” and Russian “Banana” potatoes.

All these exotic choices probably would not have impressed Old MacDonald. He was busy with all those animals, so I am guessing he liked to keep it simple. Maybe he would have shown up, like some farmers, with only one thing. When I see those farmers, I figure whatever they have must be good, because they put everything into it.

Some things you know are good just by looking at them. The sunflowers at the farmers markets often astonish me with their enormous size and intense color. Next to the elegant roses and lilies for sale, the sunflowers, with their rustic beauty, stand out like the farmer’s daughter.

At times, beauty is in the details, like the names of different varieties of fruit. A farmer-poet must keep busy coming up with names. The nectarines go by “Grand Pearl”, “Ruby Diamond”, “Flame Glow”, and “Arctic Rose”. The peaches are “Sun Crest”, “Joanna Sweet”, and “Elegant Lady”. Grapes are called “Red Flame” and “Summer Royal”.

Some farmer-poet must have been really busy coming up with the newest fruit at the farmers markets known as a pluot. After figuring out the trick of combining a plum and an apricot, he put all his effort into naming the different varieties. Needing to improve upon “pluot”, he came up with names like “Dapple Dandy” and “Candy Stripe”.

I do not think Old MacDonald would have cared much about the newest fruit or, for that matter, the newest anything. His tastes seemed pretty old-fashioned if you think about the animals on his farm. I recall a cow, horse, and chicken – not a cashmere goat in the group.

If Old MacDonald also grew something on the farm, it was probably nothing new. That’s good, because I cannot imagine making a song out of what I see these days at farmers markets. “And on his farm, he had some pluots, E I E I O.”

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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