People’s Market notebook: Pumpkin pie is in drag!

This past Saturday, the People’s Market finished up its outdoor season at its Harmony School location on 2nd Street.

The indoor winter season for the market starts next Saturday, Nov. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Full House Fitness.

Readers might remember the place as the former Girls, Inc. location, where 9th Street ends at Elm Street, a couple blocks north of the Banneker Community Center.

On Saturday, The B Square checked in with some of the market vendors and the musical entertainment.

Susan Welsand was unmistakably The Chile Woman in her matching jacket and pants made of bright pepper-patterned material.

Nestled amongst the peppers in her stall was a quart-size aluminum crowler from Function Brewing. The label on the empty container was a testament to the contribution that Wesland’s peppers made to a recent beer brewed by Function’s Steve Llewellyn: Carolina Reaper Tangent IPA.

Lauren McCalister was educating market patrons about the sprouty-looking little white threads on the bottom of the sweet potatoes she was selling. They’re called “slips.” When the slips are removed and kept for a while underwater, they’ll grow roots, which can then be planted in soil. Each slip is eventually supposed to produce a pound of sweet potatoes, McCalister said.

A question about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams drew out the fact that they’re not just different words for the same thing. And the difference figures into the history of slavery in America.

From the next stall over, Jada Bee chimed in with the background: Yams are a vegetable native to Africa, which are different from the sweet potatoes grown in this hemisphere.

Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are “large, big, enormous,” so much bigger than sweet potatoes, Jada Bee said. In Africa, yams are used to make a dish called fufu, which is a main staple, she  added.

Yams don’t really grow that well in North America, Jada Bee said, but sweet potatoes do, as they are native to this part of the world. “So Native Americans taught Black folk that sweet potatoes were a better replacement,” Jada Bee said.

“Yams” versus “sweet potatoes” was not the only truth-in-labeling issue covered on Saturday at McCalister’s People’s market stand.

McCalister announced, “Also, we found out that pumpkin pie is in drag—here’s why. The canned pumpkin pie actually isn’t pumpkin, it’s a different squash, it’s a Hubbard squash.”

McCalister’s conclusion: “Therefore, pumpkin pies, America, are in drag!”

Asked to elaborate on the analogy, McCalister said, “We call it pumpkin pie—it ain’t no pumpkin! It’s Hubbard!”

She added, “It’s the show of it all—the staging, the makeup, the music. You think it’s one thing, but it’s another. And that’s what’s best about it: You believed it, this whole time!”

Market patron Andrea Basile elaborated on the reason Hubbard squash is used for canned pumpkin pie filling: “Hubbard squash is still a squash, just like pumpkin is a squash, right? But Hubbard squash is sweeter than pumpkin. And because Americans love everything to be sweeter, that’s part of why.”

Providing some musical background for Saturday’s market was Wadzanai Marimba, a Zambian marimba ensemble that Meghan Reef has led since 2018.

Marimbas came in different sizes: soprano, tenor, and baritone. The baritone was built from scratch by Reef. Crafting the wooden tone bars required some precision work.

Woodworking not a skill Reef had in her repertoire. She told The B Square, “I learned so that we could have instruments.”

Reef said “The marimba ensembles started in universities in Zimbabwe and moved over here to the the late 70s.” The movement from the west coast across the country has been “slow but sure,” Reef added.

The songs played by Wadzanai Marimba are traditional Zimbabwean songs adapted for marimba. A lot of them are adapted from mbira, which are a kind of thumb piano, Reef said.

[Audio snippet of Wadzanai Marimba at People’s Market Nov. 20, 2021]

Photos: People’s Market Nov. 2020, 2021

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