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Visiting the historic Farmers' Market in Los Angeles

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I had a short, productive trip to Los Angeles last week, and after an absence of around twenty years nothing would do but my husband and I piled on a bus that took us from Bixel and 6th Street to 6th and Fairfax, the location of the famous Los Angeles Farmers' Market. As I passed through the entrance I was ready to be enchanted again, just as I was when I have been there twice before.

But alas, it has been almost twenty years, and in that interval the Farmers' Market has gone down in the world. We found it to be nothing more than a food court with some trendy shops thrown in. You will see one shop that carries nothing but hot sauce, another with lots and lots of honey, and so forth.

We found a Middle Eastern concession there and my husband got his introduction to that cuisine, which he liked. He had half a roast chicken and two hot vegetable dishes, which were perfect for the West Coast weather that hasn't warmed up all the way yet. I had their hummus, which was served without olive oil but was very good even so.

Then we visited a bakery, and there I could see how the Farmers' Market has declined. We ordered four things, two for dessert and two to take back to the hotel. My husband's apple Danish pastry was pretty with powdered sugar, but that didn't make up for the mounds of raw apples that covered it. I get it--they use puff pastry, pile on the apples from a can of apple pie filling, and bake it long enough to cook the pastry. The heavy, sticky consistency of the filling could not disguise uncooked apples.

I had a chocolate mousse, they called it, that was created almost entirely out of gelatin. If you think that I was toying with a milk attack, well, I was, but I sure didn't get one from that "mousse" that contained neither milk nor cream. In fact, it didn't contain much flavor or any kind, although it, too, was pretty.

We also took back a piece of cherry pie, which again came straight out of a can as far as the filling was concerned. The last item we mistakenly bought was the bakery's impression of baklava, another Middle Eastern dish. Normally you see baklava as a layered dish of puff pastry and nuts, drizzled with honey. This missed the boat--it was just a layer of pastry, a thick layer of nuts and raisins, and a top layer, all covered with honey that leaked out of the box all the way back to the hotel.

I don't want to mention the name of this establishment, but if you decide to go to the Farmers' Market anyway, you will find some butcher shops featuring either meat or chicken, and one--count it, one--produce stand featuring fruits and vegetables. I can't recommend the mediocre bakery, nor the entire place. The old, famous Farmers' Market is simply gone, and in the shell it left behind is nothing but a food court, which you can find in most malls. There are more t-shirts and postcards there now than there are pieces of fruit or leaves of lettuce.

In my nightmares I can see the picturesque buildings being "improved" out of existence, and the whole place turned into a mall. That would be a shame, but it isn't far from the sorry condition of the Los Angeles Farmers' Market today.

Ironically, as we exited we saw a big, clean Whole Foods market right across the parking lot, and you can be sure that if I wanted to shop, I would have done it there instead of the trendy (and pricey) shops that stand around where a wonderful old Los Angeles landmark used to be.

I hate it when this kind of thing happens. In Tucson years ago the El Continental Hotel was torn down to make way for a dreary, undistinguished mall that has not even preserved the character of its location. Stores open and then close there, indicating that they are not making money. It is one of Tucson's most glaring mistakes in city planning.

It seems that the Farmers' Market has gone that route. I am so sorry. I will most probably never see it again, and I will certainly forget last week and try to remember what it was like when it was a real farmers' market with something other than trendy shops.

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