Saturday, May 31, 2008
Startlingly colored cauliflower has appeared at the Farmers' Market. So has everything else. If the morning is warm at all you can smell the strawberries before you even see them. There are countless varieties of greens, herbs and flowers. I try to get there by eight because by nine it can be a mob scene. Even after years of blue potatoes, people are suspicious of this cauliflower. "How do you color it?" they want to know. We don't color it at all of course, but we do steam it and then dress it in an herb vinaigrette. As is often the case this time of year "herb" means everything but the kitchen sink. We'll show more restraint later on, but right now it's hard to resist big handfuls of fresh thyme, tarragon and even savory, which I've always loved but that nobody grows.
The honeysuckle is finally starting to subside, although we will probably have sorbet periodically for a while yet. The vetch, which grows with it has died back, so now there are great snarls of dead vines around my legs as I pick. The list of characters who entertained me as I gathered flowers this summer has been smaller, although there is still blackberry season to come. There is a very nice lady with a West Indian accent who talks very loudly on her cell phone as she walks her dog. Once or twice she has, without warning, hung up her phone and begun talking to me the same way. No intro or anything, as if we'd been talking all along. The first time she startled me, but now I'm prepared. There was one couple that I encountered often enough this year to invite observation. They would stride purposefully down the bike trail each evening in a sort of lockstep prance. When they caught sight of me, they seemed to be reminded that there was honeysuckle for the taking, and that if they didn't hurry, I might get their portion as well as mine. They would then settle in a spot just out of swatting range, where they would make exaggerated motions of picking and sucking the nectar from the flowers. They would coo to one another about the wonder of this natural serendipity. Unfortunately they would also spit the used blossoms back into the vines so one wanted to avoid that spot. They were a lot more annoying than they guy who, last year, would follow me up and down offering me a variety of drugs and prostitutes over and over again as if he had forgotten that he had just talked to me a minute earlier. Sometimes there is background music. If the Cradle's back door is open I can hear the evening's acts in their sound checks. There are also a couple of rehearsal studios in the neighborhood that are often in use in the early evening. There is a guy who lives in a hut on the edge of the junkyard, who loves old style country music. He has found some radio stations that play it. Best of all there is a small church on Graham Street with honeysuckle vines growing on the fence around their parking lot. I sometimes top off my pitcher of flowers there on my way back to the restaurant. Last week I was outside during a rocking choir practice. The accompaniment was not a piano. Instead they had a snare drum and a bass drum. It was great.
Economics are nuts right now and there has been a dreadful series of natural calamities. I see the price of gasoline reflected in virtually every ingredient I buy these days. Perhaps this is the time for those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to afford to eat in nice restaurants to give a moment's thought to those who cannot. Food prices for basics have spiked recently imperiling people who must live on a dollar or less a day. People who live on fifty cents a day are in danger of starvation. It's hard to imagine that until a few months ago people would have been able to get along at all on so little. Around here it costs more than a dollar a day just to walk down the street. In places like that a little generosity goes a long way. Organizations like UNICEF , Oxfam , or Heifer International do remarkable work with even the tiniest donations. Please take a minute to count your blessings and pass some of them along to others.
posted by Bill Smith at 9:14 PM