The other day my boss put some money in my hand and asked me to go to the farmer’s market to grab a few things for the shop and to talk to vendors. Basically, to get used to the idea that if one wants to work with local farms and producers, you have to actually talk to them.
I was excited and nervous. I don’t know why.
I love farmer’s markets. You’re hard pressed to find a person who doesn’t. I mean, why would you wanna find that kind of person anyways?
An hour before my shift this past Saturday, I was out to buy some strawberries. Some delicious Oregon strawberries, at that. I really don’t know why Oregon grows such good berries. But these things are the best. Okay, you probably grow some pretty good ones too. Fair enough. We’re all biased and fierce about our own produce.
On Saturdays, there is a great giant market on the campus courtyards of Portland State University. Basically if you’re a local farm or purveyor, it’s where all the cool kids hang out.
People are out selling their usual swag: cheese, meats, produce, flowers, and the occasional hand pie makes its way into my belly. Giant morels. Beautiful gnarled carrots. Strawberries macerating in their own boxes from the sun. It’s a little heaven. Or at least something kind of sacred.
You get a feeling that this is how things should be.
Getting to know the people that grow your food is personal. Deeply.
Which is why I was nervous. You are now responsible for making this taste good. Someone arched their back and got dirty. They sweated and washed the dirt away. They brought it all to you.
Yes. I’d say it’s deeply personal.
We are disconnected at grocery stores. We are not held accountable for what we put into plastic bags. But when something comes from so close, you should know how to treat it and how it will best nourish the bones of you and yours.
As the bell rang to signify the opening of the market, people rushed in, shoving heads of lettuce into their cute bags and made their rounds ’till full and satisfied.
I was a little overwhelmed. My only job was to get strawberries and lettuce. Which I managed, but they were all too busy to chat. And while I’m being honest with myself, I’d rather frequent a place a few times before poking my head in. I’m still learning how to do all this.
I also managed to grab a few gigantic Walla Walla sweet onions for a future tart of sorts and some spicy radish sprouts.
I was able to talk to the sprouts couple. They were cute and had a baby with them who let us all know she was there. I was giddy to make my first sort-of relationship. At least a card with an e-mail. That’ll work for me.
As I rushed back to my car to make it in time for the busy Saturday shift, a woman yelled, “You ’bout to lose dem’ onions!” as I saw the greens of my Walla Wallas nudging out of my brown bag like some sort of thief. I laughed and yelled, “Thanks!”
The way food makes its way into our mouths is a journey more important than any other. At least, unless you’re a hobbit destroying a ring or finding the bigger meaning in your world — these things matter, absolutely.
There is a quote somewhere about the food we eat and how it nourishes not only our bodies, but the bodies of our kids and their kids.
So this food thing is kind of eternal.
I guess that’s how it all goes — when that circle completes itself.
When you tuck those onions back in and move forward, you know they were meant for something bigger.