It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Today was opening day at the farmer’s market.

It’s not as if the market opens with great fanfare, or that it’s advertised as “opening day” (or even that it’s advertised at all, really), but I’ve been looking forward to this morning for weeks.  The produce I can get at my favorite grocery store is certainly top-quality, but a trip to the grocery store, no matter how lovely, cannot compare to wandering among farmer’s stalls and buying produce that was only recently(mere hours ago!) in the ground.  I’m not saying that the produce is definitively and scientifically healthier, but the experience of the farmer’s market adds to my appreciation of my purchases, and my excitement makes them taste better.

Naturally, of course, I was scheduled to work on this day of days.  Luckily for me the farmer’s market opens at 7:30 and I didn’t need to be at work (which is, it must be admitted, a 30-45 minute drive from the market, which is a 30-45 minute drive from my house–the three points form a very stretched out scalene triangle) until 8:30.  Given the scheduled labor, the out-of-the-way location, the early hour, and, most especially, the fact that Teacherman is out of town and therefore I am responsible for The Dog, whose needs cannot be put off, one might think that it would be wise to skip the market this week and pick up later in the season.

Are you kidding?  There was never any doubt: I was going to the farmer’s market. 

Breakfast, grooming, dog-walking: all of these things were dispatched as quickly as possible, and I flung myself into the car, double- and triple-checking to make sure I had the week’s shopping list.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get everything I needed, but it didn’t matter–I wanted to get everything I COULD.

I arrived at 7:30 sharp, parked, and headed out into the blinding sunshine.  The grid was somewhat sparse, the full contingent of vendors not having come down, given the earliness of the season (especially considering the strange weather we’ve been having), but still: there was my favorite cheese stall, and there were the people with the best greens, and there were the mushroom foragers, and there was the slightly scary earthy-crunchy woman who always has things I’ve never heard of, etcetera, etcetera.

I made a quick swoop around the market to see what was available.  I was hoping for strawberries, but alas, no.  I didn’t spy a single fruit the entire market over, but one stall had lavish piles of rhubarb, almost burying the cash-box in bright magenta bundles.  I bought two pounds.  (I don’t have any plans for rhubarb, but it’s never a bad idea to have some chopped up in the freezer).

The same stall had the only arugula at the market–compact bunches of leaves tiny enough to be considered ‘baby’ arugula, but sold without any gourmet markup.  Still on a salad kick, I grabbed two bunches for tomorrow’s dinner.

The all-organic stall two rows away had spring onions, actually-grown-by-a-stream-watercress, and chives with the blossoms still on–not to mention fresh eggs.  Two dozen eggs set me back $3.50 per box, but these are worth it–even I, with my chile-dulled taste-buds, can revel in the flavor of the arrestingly golden yolks. 

I hesitated in front of the stall with piles of beautiful French breakfast radishes.  Through no fault of their own, I always like radishes less than I think I will–they’re either too spicy when I want something milder, or tasteless when I’m looking for incendiary.  They’re so beautiful that I can rarely resist them, but this time I remembered last Thursday’s dinner, after which Teacherman professed himself to be radished out, and I managed to contain myself.

This sounds idyllic, but my joy was not entirely unalloyed.  They’ve changed the parking regulations on almost all of the streets surrounding the market.  A rental-car agency has taken over all of the good spots in the parking garage.  The cheese guy at my favorite stand is no longer MY cheese guy–the one who knew exactly what Teacherman and I liked and disliked (and where we differed in our opinions) and would produce new items for us to try almost every week.  Pout.  Sigh.  I will get over it.

With only seconds left to go before I had to leave for work, I stood in front of a display of tomato plants, gnashing my teeth.  I want tomato plants.  I NEED tomato plants!  Very specifically I want (among many others) a Green Zebra tomato plant!  But I cannot leave tomato plants on the floor of the back room all day at work!  (Taking up the fridge with multiple bags of produce is bad enough).  Last year I found myself in a similar situation and when I returned the next week there were no Green Zebra plants left.  This is a situation I vowed to avoid in the future, but I was thwarted.  I can but hope that market’s tomato plant purchasers will want more conventional varieties and that there will still be Green Zebras when I return in two weeks.  (I will be out of town next Saturday morning.  It is painful to contemplate).

I did finally tear myself away from the plants and head off to work, toting my eggs and greens.  I’m sure that the pervasive smell of spring onions in the staff refrigerator was hideously annoying to the rest of the Saturday workforce, but to me it smelled like excitement and hope and fantasies of meals to come.

But I kind of wish I’d bought those radishes.

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Published in: on May 19, 2007 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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