Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: About Abundance

Yesterday, I visited the satellite St. Paul Farmer's Market that sets up in Roseville every Tuesday morning. I've been trying to buy more local produce and be more conscious of seasonal cooking instead of using stuff that gets brought in from Chile, Mexico, Australia, and other far-flung places.

As I pulled into the parking lot at Corpus Christi Catholic Church on Fairview and County Road B, where the market sets up, I thought to myself how tiny this particular farmer's market is. But I was simply stopping by on my way home from coffee with a friend, hoping to find something for dinner. This was convenient and it was a beautiful morning to shop for groceries outside.

It was a stop worth making. Small though the market is, there is plenty from the individual vendors. Several people carried sugar snap peas, some of which I purchased. There were several stalls with gloriously red rhubarb. Young radishes, blushing vibrant red beneath green leaves, beckoned. I bought a small bunch for my husband, who eats radishes just once a year - early, before they get woody and stronger-flavored. One vendor extolled the virtues of his artisan cheeses to two middle-aged women in shorts. Another vendor sold whole fresh chickens for $6. There were seedlings of all kinds of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, flowers.

There was abundance.

I ran out of cash. I hadn't expected to see so many items that I wanted to bring home. The sugar snap peas were later blanched, then lightly sautéed in olive oil with garlic, basil from my own garden, lemon zest. The radishes were washed and left whole for munching. I thought about how we would have more food ripening in our own garden soon: raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers. The farmer's market would shift in its offerings over the next few months. There would be sweet corn at some point.

Ah, sweet corn. One of the highlights of Minnesota summers. There is a truck farmer who sets up shop in the parking lot of the Ace Hardware Store on the corner of Roselawn and Lexington, mere blocks from our house, every summer. The sweet corn we buy there is the best we've ever had. In my memory, though, there is another sweet corn producer that I wish were still here. My Aunt Louise grew sweet corn on the hill behind her house on Point Douglas Road in St. Paul. She understood abundance. She also understood generosity. Whenever the sweet corn was ready, she would call my father, who loved sweet corn more than most, to come on over. She would feed him from that first harvest. I remember him at her kitchen table, a plate in front of him to catch the occasional corn kernel that leapt away as he dug into a freshly steamed ear of corn with more gusto than anyone I knew or know. Louise would make a half-dozen ears for just my father and he would eat them all. Or, at least, he would try. And Louise would sit there, happy as ever to have someone in her kitchen eating food that she grew.

That's what I am after - that happiness that comes from growing food, sharing food, feeding people. Honoring the abundance that brings together communities. It's right there in our own back yards.