Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A "Local" Mystery

post by Jennifer Carter

I have a conundrum for all you mystery and suspense writers out there, and I'm looking for possible theories to explain it. Since I will be the first to admit that my writing has never been accused of being action-packed or suspenseful (I'm more of a character-driven kind of gal), I struggle to come up with a plot twist that would suitably account for my experience this weekend.

Let me explain--I went to the farmers' market in downtown Fort Collins, feeling good about my choice as a consumer to "buy local," which seems to be "the new black" as far as grocery shopping is concerned. But I happen to love the concept anyway, plus I was so excited to see some nice red tomatoes there ready to buy. Since my tomatoes are still green marbles, I handed over the cash and the lady behind the table handed me a little bundle of red bliss, still on the vine. Imagine my dismay, then, when upon picking up one to eat a day or two later, I found a sticker on the bottom that said "produce of Mexico"!!

I can't help but think the Russian spy ring had something to do with this--a sneaky attempt to undermine the local community fabric and trust, playing on our worst fears of unsustainability and clandestine pesticides. Where is James Bond when we need him, here at the farmers' market?

In all seriousness, I will never buy produce at the market without first asking where it came from. But in all fun-ness, I want to hear your wildest explanation about the mystery of the imported tomatoes! Consider it a free novel and/or story idea that you can do with as you wish. I know, you're welcome. But let's start with commenting to swap theories!


tuxgirl said...

What if someone (from a rival market?) is trying to sabotage the market by adding false "produce of Mexico" to the tomatoes to make people distrust this market. Maybe the rivals are the ones who really have the Mexican tomatoes... And, are they swapping just the stickers, or the tomatoes themselves?

If the owners of the market you went to are the ones that are lying, they're doing a really poor job, since they left the stickers on. Much more likely to be sabotage :)

Jennifer Carter said...

Of course, that makes sense! Sabotage is such an ominous word too, I love it!

Peter Springberg said...

Hi Jennifer,

We've purchased produce (and occasionally meat) from our farmers' markets the past few years, usually the one on Harmony near Fiona's and the bookstore. We've never had a problem there, but this year signed up for a Couple's Veggie Share and a Single Fruit Share from a local CSA. We also get milk and, since I'm lactose intolerant, vanilla soy "milk" delivered to a box on our front stoop weekly. I'm sure the soy milk gets purchased at a local grocery store and that raised my suspicions about the farmers' markets. I suspect that the same thing happened in the "case of the immigrant tomatoes."

To spin the story a bit, I'll surmise that those tomatoes were actually smuggled in across the Canadian (sic) border, in essence having been deported after their tourist visa expired. They were sitting on a shelf in the main supermarket in Moosejaw when a RCMP officer who happened to be shopping there, spotted their label, and being friends with the store owner said, "Claude, you've got six hours to make these disappear. After that my weekly report on illegal fruits and vegetables will hit my boss's in-box and inspectors will fan out across the city."

Now Claude was no dummy and, more importantly, he had a cousin, Emile de Farge, who, from time to time, helped people get across the border into the United States. Tomatoes would be a cinch. They had none of those annoying tendencies of talking in the tunnels or, worse still, sneezing. Six hours later the tomatoes, wrapped in a pink shawl, were in a baby carriage being wheeled from Claude's store to his cousin's rickety garage at the edge of town. From there they joined a "shipment" headed for the land of opportunity, more specifically, for Claude's aunt Matilda de Farge's home, in a community north of Denver

Matilda was used to enrolling her newly arrived charges in Colorado State University's international student program. Tomatoes weren't eligible for any kind of degree she was familiar with. So, on a sunny weekend she took her son's latest delivery in her reusable cloth shopping bag to a farmers' market. She purchased some lettuce, spinach and cilantro. She also cunningly left the tomatoes in a bin of farm-grown vegetables while the stall owner was making change. As she left the farmers' market she glanced back, just once. No one had seen her make the drop-off. Who would ever suspect an elderly lady of adding to the pile of organically grown Colorado tomatoes? They looked much the same as their new companions in the bin.

Matilda drove home, unloaded her purchases and then, with a start realized the stack of veggie labels, the ones that said "Produce of Mexico," was much smaller than it should have been. "I'm getting absent minded," she said to herself. "I removed the labels from the first half dozen tomatoes, then went off to find my shopping bag and forgot to de-label the rest. Oh well, nobody will ever trace them back to me. And, besides, who would ever believe the story of how these tomatoes got to Fort Collins?"

Peter Springberg

Patricia Stoltey said...

I added a nice comment to this post and Blogger ate it. So I'll just say I can't compete with Peter's fine take, and I'll say Buyer Beware at Farmer's Markets. Buy the food that's in season locally (no sweet corn in May), and ask where the products are grown before you fork over the cash.

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