I’ve just returned form the first of undoubtedly many early Saturday runs to the Dayton farmer’s market. In a long, narrow warehouse, the quaint market can be forgiven for not being outdoors. It’s still spring, so my expectations were not high for fruits and veggies. At the very least, I hoped to come away with some fresh and fragrant strawberries, some tender asparagus, and maybe some local eggs.
I had to drive, toting my 3 wildebeests along, but in the future, I hope to be able to ride a bike, if I can figure out a suitable method of transporting the bounty home in the mid-morning sun.
As markets go these days, you can find much more than produce and local meat, and our market is no exception. Many permanent vendors featured hand made soaps, jewelry, handbags, honey, even some Ohio maple syrup.
The syrup vendor had a griddle set up, and made free plate-sized pancakes for market goers, requesting a voluntary donation to offset the rising price of grain. My boys took advantage. We parked the stroller in the aisle, and the boys sat right down on the floor, while I was forced to watch a steady stream of people buying artisan breads that looked irresistible.
There were also pastry chefs, a breakfast booth with diner-style offerings, a pet-treat baker, a middle-eastern booth, many fantastic flowers, and a new-age musician with his keyboard and karaoke machine set to extra loud.
I was dismayed to find, among the local seasonal fruits and vegetables, grapes from Chile, pineapples from Hawaii, and avocados from Mexico. They seemed so incongruous. There were also a few hard, pink tomatoes, and they just reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s essay on how the attitude in America of having everything now, regardless of season or regional availability, is hypocrisy in a culture that’s trying to teach teenagers to abstain from sex, to wait until the time is right. Buying tomatoes in winter, she says, is promiscuous. Which is funny to me. For several years, if I eat at a restaurant or home where tomatoes are served in the winter, I always feel a little dirty. Like I’ve sacrificed my morals for instant gratification, regardless of the fact that the object of my desire is inferior, and will never measure up to a real, ripe, height-of-summer tomato.
Having just read the late-winter and early spring chapters of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” I was just itching to get something seasonal, and regional. That’s really not that hard in Ohio, but little did I suspect that I would find freshly dug morel mushrooms for $50 a pound (cough, cough, choke). Needless to say, I didn’t get a pound. I got about 7 small mushrooms for as many dollars. Alongside the mollys were the asparagus, and having just drooled over the recipe for Asparagus and Morel Bread Pudding, guess what we’re having for dinner? I’m pretty sure I won’t be needing the whole recipe, which does, indeed, call for a full pound of morels. I’m reluctant to even offer it to the kids, because $50 a pound for mushrooms they will pick out and not eat is pearls before swine, for sure. They’ll undoubtedly object to the asparagus as well, but that’s what’s for dinner.
I also came away with two pints of red strawberries with no hint of a hard, white core, a pound of firm new potatoes the size of marble shooters, a pound of asparagus, a pound of rhubarb (for that pie I’m making for dessert), a dozen brown and almost green local eggs, a whole chicken, a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, and two bagels. Are you jealous? I know Derek is. He doesn’t get back until Tuesday.