….a sunny Sunday afternoon….
On a whim I propose a visit to the farmer’s market to a friend with brunch afterward of huevos rancheros. This simple excursion turned into a full day of beautiful sights and flavors.
I hopped on the N to check out the farmer’s market in the Inner Sunset in the tiny parking lot across Arizmendi Bakery and next to my favorite shoe store. The first thing I noticed was the Valet Barking, where you can park your doggie while you shop. The gal running it was doing a snappy business and everyone was playing together nicely, which is a testament to her dog-whispering abilities.
I strolled slowly through the tiny market, sampling peaches at every opportunity, and treated myself to a basket each of red and golden raspberries. Waiting for my friend to arrive I purchased a large cup of Earl Grey tea and several croissant, some with chocolate and some with frangipani inside, and plopped down on a curb opposite from the dogs and had myself a very relaxing nosh.
Surprisingly the golden raspberries were stronger and more defined in flavor than the standard ones, they were richer and had more of an acidic edge, they were also enormous and exceedingly fragile. I made a raspberry hat for my pinky.
It was the first time I ever ate an entire basket of berries by myself. The sun was warming my shoulders, the tea was perfect on my throat and the croissant was buttery with just enough almond succulence inside. Suddenly, I felt so at peace and just fine with everything within myself. I have been feeling like a worn out dishrag of emotions lately but at this moment, this moment was fine and pleasant and all mine although I was surrounded by the frenetic hum of the City.
A__ arrived and pulled up a pew, and joined me in breakfast for a moment, then we headed out to shop. My quest was for tomatoes, and herbage to make Green Goddess dressing to accompany a chicken roasted with quince. Instead, the quest for the best peach began and we settled on the last six O’Henry peaches in the market. Perfectly ripe and almost honey like they were the best peach I have ever had. For another dollar the farmer threw in some plums that were just about ready to turn themselves into jam on the spot.
After A___ snagged the last six eggs at one stall we lingered at Pamela’s Soaps with her amusing husband Dirk. Pamela’s lemongrass shae butter soap had to come home with me and Dirk put a lanyard through it, instant soap on a rope! While A__ chatted with Pamela and made her selections, I decided upon a bar of shaving soap, infused with lime oil, shae butter, lavender and some spice, Pamela said it is creamy and soothing, perfect for summer sleek bare legs at work, with my long stems I could use some pampering! Her hand-poured flower shaped pots of lip gloss also appealed and I picked one up as a gift for my sis. Pamela’s flowers from the garden were stunning, a perfect capture of summer. Even the bees agreed.
I was fascinated by a book they had on display, an old Organic Chemistry book that they labeled as boring, but it was really clever and not at all dry. Dirk offered to give it to me, which was very kind, and maybe next time I visit the market I will take him up on his offer.
After loading up on soapy goodness, we visited a jam vendor and tasted his heavenly Blenheim apricot preserves and two different plum jams. Not being much for plums really, they remind me of that horrible motorboat accident when I was a kid when I broke my nose, but after tasting his Mariposa plum jam I bought a jar. It was fresh and bright tasting and I had visions of a tart with the plum jam as a base and the fresh peaches and plums baked on top. Suddenly we were motivated to return to the beach house!
A few stalls down I found cilantro, green onions, bell and jalapeños for salsa and winter savory for the roast chicken. I also found a huge amount of beefsteak tomatoes at a reasonable price, the first inexpensive tomatoes of the year. I planned to slow roast them and freeze some for later. A___ found a huge bouquet of chard destined for her wok, and chives and parsley for salad. Then, a fruit vendor was trying to close up and offered us huge honeydew and other melons for a dollar each! Our bags were full but one monster fit into my backpack, barely, it was already full of my work clothes, bacon, tortillas, quince and knitting. I cradled one in my arms as a counterweight and we tottered through the last few stalls. The last booth had beautiful eggs and zucchini, and next time we will shop here for these beauties.
Finally we made it to the car, after a brief (well, not so brief) visit to the shoe store. Let’s get some shoes! Let’s party!
But on the way, we made a remarkable discovery! It doesn’t look like much, an ordinary storm drain gate, right?
Upon closer examination we saw that there was a plant growing inside. And, can you tell what it is?
For Pete’s sake it’s a tomato plant! Imagine that, the unstoppable power of Mother Nature reigning forth by producing a healthy volunteer tomato shrub in the most unlikely of places.
Once at the beach house, after an enthusiastic greeting by doggies, I set to frying bacon and making my huevos rancheros. I heated up a can of drained (organic) black beans with garlic and onion granules and some spices, and a few spoonfuls of bacon fat, mashed a little. The bacon was crisped perfectly under A___’s ministrations and the tortillas were fried in the bacon fat (and carefully blotted, I might add). Given that we both have tennis elbow for varying reasons, I employed the Cuisinart for a quick salsa of heirloom tomatoes, garlic, red onion, yellow bell pepper, Anaheim chile and jalapeño, cilantro, limes and cumin – so quick to prepare and to die for. The eggs from the market were quickly fried up and I assembled our “brunch”. A__ plunked down a bottle of bubbly and we feasted (at 3:00 pm!!).
(naughty but nice)
Look at that beautiful bacon, a birthday treat from my dear friend and reigning Bacon Queen S___. This was maplewood smoked bacon, so thick and well seasoned with the tang of woodsmoke and a touch of maple.
Always on the job, A___ went back to work while I relaxed in the back yard with the dogs post-shower, the sunshine and breeze from the ocean drying my hair, while I knitted a bit on my new shawl.
As the sun started dipping below the eaves of the neighbor’s house A__ returned and did some gardening, then we took a break from these pleasantries to polish off the rest of the champagne (out of the bottle so as not to risk the Waterford flutes on the patio with swishing dog tails like rapiers). Every Sunday afternoon should be like this.
I repaired upstairs to play with the chicken and preheat the oven. A__ brought me a handful of lemon thyme from the herb bed and I minced that up with the winter savory to sprinkle over the chicken. First, I made a base of red onion, left over from the salsa preparations, and peeled, cored and sliced quince layered in a vintage Copco gratin dish A__ found at a yard sale. I juiced a few lemons for the salad dressing and stuffed the chicken with the hulls and the tops of the green onions.
The Cuisinart was pressed into service again to mince the herbs and greens for the Green Goddess salad dressing, made creamy with Russian sour cream and good old mayo. I love this salad dressing, it was even delicious with prawn cervice dunked into it.
Speaking of salad, we grabbed the lantern and harvested baby lettuces from a gopher-proof bed and after giving the beauties a refreshing bath I arranged them in a bowl for the table. The chicken was done, perfect as usual, and I carved her up roughly. We set down to feast with our fingers, dunking lettuces into the dressing as well as the chicken and an occasional prawn or three.
We had a deep philosophical discussion about the pursuit of happiness and where we are going in our lives now that birthdays are upon us. After the sadness I’ve been feeling, plus that long stretch of uncertainty being unemployed I have been doing a lot of cleaning house, mentally, with the kind support and encouragement of my dear friends and my family. Where would I be without them? We talked about gratitude as well and keeping positive. Sadly we had forgotten all about making a dessert but didn’t miss it. A__ made me a cup of verbena, mint and rose tisane and we retired to our various rooms, leaving the dogs snoring on the couch and chair. As I drifted off to sleep in the moonlight with the sound of the surf through the window, I reflected on how grateful and lucky I am to be alive and to have such a nice little life.
Happiness is…..being with friends and appreciating all the little moments.