Sure, your local farmer's market is a great place to find produce. But it can also be a great place to find a circa 1968 hard hat from the John Wayne movie Hellfighters. “Yeah, I collect quirky things,” said Kinny Jung, whom you'll often find working behind Weiser Farms' stand at the Wednesday and Saturday Santa Monica Farmers Markets (Arizona Street) wearing the aluminum hat.
Hey, if we had a hat with John Wayne creds, we'd wear it to work, too. “I've also got rusty metal bedsprings from Prince's [1980 album] Bedsprings, barnyard art like rusty old wood chairs… lots of rusty metal things,” he continues. More on that rust obsession in a bit. First, Jung's mashed potato tips.
Jung is the guy to talk to if you want tips on the best potatoes to buy if you're making mashed potatoes (“Oh, no, you don't want those, you want these red ones over here.”). Or how to liven up your Tuesday night supper by adding smashed Jerusalem artichokes to the mashed potato mix. Just boil a few of both, he suggested, and mash them together as you normally would with butter, olive oil, milk, stock, or whatever you prefer (it was great).
When we asked him how he ended up working for Weiser Farms a few days a week, Jung shrugged and says he's hopped around to various jobs here and there. “I was an inner city school teacher for a long time, been working on and off for Alex [Weiser],” he says, weighing a customer's fingerling potatoes. “My mom is Irish, my father Chinese, and they had a Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia, so that's part of it. We used to grow some of the stuff we used at the restaurant, like bean sprouts and Jersey tomatoes.”
As for the rust obsession, Jung once owned a shop in L.A. called The Inferior Decorator that sold whatever oddity struck his fancy. Oddities like Prince's rusty bedsprings and barnyard finds like (rusty) old chairs. “I love rusty metal things,” he says.
And shiny metal things, too, like that John Wayne hard hat. “It looks like a regular construction hat, so no one really knows it's old,” he says. “But if I go by a construction site, they always notice. They don't make them in aluminum anymore for OSHA safety reasons.” Lucky for Jung, the Santa Monica Farmers Market doesn't see too many lightening storms.
More from Jenn Garbee @eathistory + eathistory.com.