Sunday photoblogging: Vegetables in Bologna

by Chris Bertram on May 14, 2023

This is why food in the US and Britain will never be quite good enough.



Matt 05.14.23 at 10:33 am

It does look nice! But, I’ll admit, not obviously nicer (and maybe even a bit worse) than farmers’ markets that I shopped at regularly in several places in the US.


Chris Bertram 05.14.23 at 3:23 pm

@Matt, there were streets and streets of this. I’ve been to farmer’s markets in the US …


engels 05.14.23 at 8:00 pm

But you get a free coffee at Waitrose…


Maria 05.14.23 at 8:11 pm

I had the good fortune to be in Paris last weekend and walked the considerable length of a market in the 15th, each of us saying ‘we have nothing like this in London / Dublin’ both in terms of scale and variety.


Matt 05.14.23 at 9:36 pm

Chris – I’m sure it’s great! But, I’ve heard you talk about food in the US, and it makes me certain that you’ve missed most of what’s good.


Ebenezer Scrooge 05.15.23 at 1:40 am

If only the US East Coast could get the good California produce, there would be no reason to envy the EU.


Alan White 05.15.23 at 5:22 am

A rich photo in many ways. My immediate thought was how much work went into getting all this produce from source to sale. A LOT.


Chris Bertram 05.15.23 at 7:55 am

@Matt, no doubt there’s a market somewhere in the US (although I doubt that some of the Italian vegetables are available), but the difference is that probably the majority of inhabitants of Italy, Spain, France could travel on foot at least once a week to a market with similar riches, and in Bologna they are available every day. The proportion of the US population that can access anything nearly as good , even with, say, an hour’s drive, is really quite small.


oldster 05.15.23 at 10:50 am

Extraordinary, Chris! The saturation of the reds is a treat for the eyes.
And those extraordinary crescent-shaped yellow squashes hanging above the man’s head, with blue stickers on them — those must be a local Italian product. We certainly don’t get those here in the U.S..


Matt 05.15.23 at 12:25 pm

WHich of the vegtibles in the photo do you think are not easily available in most places in the US, Chris? I can’t tell what some things are (because of the angle/size) but everything I can recognize are things that are easily available every where I’ve lived.


LFC 05.18.23 at 1:56 am

oldster @9

And those extraordinary crescent-shaped yellow squashes hanging above the man’s head, with blue stickers on them — those must be a local Italian product.

I don’t mean to be deflationary, oldster (and I agree the scene is v. nice), but I’m pretty sure those are bananas. (And if you were just being witty or something, apologies for not catching the tone.)


MisterMr 05.18.23 at 3:03 pm

The same place (well, almost, it is the nearby square) two days ago:

They are having big problems because of the rain.

I assume Oldster @9 is joking since those are bananas probably from Chiquita, an international brand.


William S. Berry 05.18.23 at 4:28 pm

@LFC: “I’m pretty sure it’s bananas”

I’m pretty sure that was mild sarcasm at CB’s expense.

Bananas are not locally sourced in Italy, or France. They come from thousands of miles away, shipped in heavily refrigerated, ocean-going, motor vessels.

The Eurocentrism of a lot of folks here feels somewhat parochial to me. I’ve never been to Europe, but I’ve spent a good deal of time in Latin American cities. If you want to see spectacular produce in open-air markets (usually under shed-like roofs, but still on the streets), check out Minka, or Magdalena del Mar, in Lima, Perú. Blocks and blocks of stalls, and a variety of fruits and vegetables greater than you will find literally anywhere else in the world (Perú has nearly a thousand varieties of its native magical root-veg, the potato — there’s a rich yellow variety that’s so creamy you only need to bake or boil it and eat it with a fork and a little salt — not to mention jicamas, yuccas, manioc, tapioca, etc.; oh, and don’t get me started on choclo, the giant-kerneled white corn that is essential for making the best tamal). Yes, it’s a poor country, far from the SOLs of Western Europe, the UK, or the US, but when it comes to fresh food, it’s the land of milk and honey.

And hey, I live in Cape Girardeau, MO, which is slightly Republican, but is one of the loveliest small cities in the country, and situated in the heart of an amazingly rich and diverse agricultural region. Town names such as Fruitland and Old Appleton. We have no shortage here of fresh produce in season.

I admire European Culture in a lot of ways.

I don’t doubt that there are some awesome street markets.

What would be absurd would be to suggest that there is a greater variety, and better quality, of fresh food in Europe than there is available (regardless of venue) in the Western Hemisphere, including the US.

[Parenthesis: This is a historic Sunday Photo-blogging post! It’s the first I’ve seen with something like a quasi-political subtext. A touch of polemic by the CB set it off! Which is fine. Polemic is good. It sharpens you up for a bit of the old ultra— oh well, never mind, it’s house cleaning day.]


William Berry 05.18.23 at 4:43 pm

Should be Magdalena del Mar, obviously.


Chris Bertram 05.18.23 at 5:44 pm

@William Berry, if I’d said “the Western Hemisphere” rather than “the US and Britain”, you’d have a point. I, in Britain, am lucky enough have one of the best (maybe the best) greengrocers in the country less than 300m from my house, but he’s still not quite as good (and much more expensive).

@matt – next time I’m in Wisconsin, I’ll make a point of hunting for cime di rapa. I’ll let you know how I get on. (It is frequently available 300m from my house though.)


William Berry 05.18.23 at 6:36 pm

I just liked the banana joke.

Sure, you can walk 300m, or less, to get a banana. But they had to go thousands of km to bring them to you, is what I’m saying.

I’m guessing that you probably haven’t been to the Soulard Market in SL, MO, or the in-season produce stands in and around Cape Girardeau.

There are some shitty politics* out here, but there’s a hella lot more to the United States than the East Coast, Chicago, TX, and CA.

Sorry; I’m mostly with Matt and oldster on this. I think it’s very easy for one to be so powerfully impressed by an immediate experience (being at that market, with all the sights, sounds, and smells, and the sheer scale, that come with it), that one can feel compelled to make comparisons that might not be entirely accurate.

I mean no offense. I just think you might be exaggerating the differences (which can, admittedly, be very different at different places and different times. Happy to agree on that much).

*Some of us are doing what we can to save the situation. MO is now red, but we have SL and KC (holding on tenuously), and, by God, we’re going to make a comeback!

Oh, and while I seldom comment on the SP posts, they’re among my favorite things here. I don’t know if you meant for us to scroll R-L on your pix, but I enjoy especially seeing the ones adjacent to the posted pic.


djw 05.19.23 at 1:12 am

Google alternatively translates cime di rapa as “turnip greens” and “broccoli rabe”. The former is widely available at grocery stores in both Dayton and Seattle (the two cities I live in). The latter is a bit harder to find, but when in season farmer’s markets tend to have them, as do some specialty shops.


Matt 05.19.23 at 1:28 am

Chris, ” cime di rapa” is known as “broccoli rabe” in the US (and Australia), and is not at all unusual. I can’t say much about the back water of Wisconsin (I’ve never grocery shopped there and haven’t been there at all in years) but in the amazing metropolis of Boise, ID (which I visited this last March) it was available at all of the common grocery stores. No doubt you can get some things fresher at the markets in Italy – just as you can at farmer’s markets in the US! And probably there are some things you can get there you can’t get in the US (or parts of it) – just the same as the converse is true. But if this is your good example, it’s a poor one.


William Berry 05.19.23 at 4:38 am

OK, you can’t scroll (R-L, or L-R) on the pic to get your other “Flickr” stuff.

You probably fixed that. Which makes sense.


nastywoman 05.19.23 at 1:35 pm

Questa è stata la discussione più divertente su Crooked Timber



nastywoman 05.19.23 at 1:39 pm

AND as a some American Dude used to say:

“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid. And my mother made me eat it. Now I’m president of the United States. And I’m not gonna eat any more broccoli!”


Another lurker 05.19.23 at 5:10 pm

It’s funny because to my friends who moved from Rome or further south to Bologna, Bologna is hell in terms of good fruits and vegetables: much more expensive, much less variety…


Roger Farquhar 05.20.23 at 7:57 am

The problem with these type of markets is that if you aren’t geographically close to them you are denied their benefits.

I had this discussion with an amateur fisherman who was decrying the practices of commercial fisherman saying that they were depleting resources – the implication being that they were his resources that were being depleted. The flip side is that through networks commercial fisherman are providing seafood for a much wider geographical range of people – fish caught in the North Sea can be on your plate at a seaside cafe somewhere in the Med within days.

If the amateur fisherman was running things his way there would have lots of fresh seafood but no potatoes and farmers would have lots of chips but no fish.

The other issue is with disasters – markets can shift produce to alleviate shortages thereby avoiding starvation.

So while local markets can be great for the individual, on a macro level they fall short and discriminate widely.

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