Sweet cherries in April? Must be California!
Last week this rural eater went to the big city. Not that one–another in my own time zone and just a 1 1/2 hour plane ride away.
Into another world.
It was exhilirating to eat whatever I wanted–and I marched through the streets of San Francisco in search of Japanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Peruvian, Mexican, not to mention Californian and a rather good platter of fresh oysters (the view did not hurt).
But my very best food experience was neither plotted nor planned. It was the morning I walked along the Embarcadero to relish the sun and happened upon the weekday farmers market at the Ferry Building.
When I lived in Seattle, early morning was the perfect time to stroll through Pike Place Market free from the madding crowds. (“Please people, I’m trying to shop for dinner here,” often went through my head as I navigated my way through the browsing hordes.) This was the hour when it was just the vendors, some seagulls and a few morning walkers or commuters.
And me plotting my next meal.
This morning in San Francisco felt the same, like a discovery, a lucky break, an insider’s tip.
The weekday Ferry Plaza Market is smaller than the Saturday one, but that was just fine with me. I had the place nearly all to myself to admire freely.
Well, there were the market shoppers who gather produce for restaurants that use locally grown. For such a big city with so many restaurant choices, it was a funny coincidence that I’d actually eaten at one of them; Kin Khoa (loved it!) was printed on the cart in blue tape in front of me.
Cherries? Did I really see cherries? I double backed to the stand simply to behold them. No way I was carting them home.
I feasted my eyes, only.
And those peas, held out to me in the hand of a vendor to sample. I snapped a pea from the pod and popped it between my teeth. Ah, the first taste of the day (well, besides coffee).
Such delicate sweetness and beauty is the pea. So fragile and short lived.
Of course, there were piles of radishes and beets…
…collards, broccoli and perfectly imperfect lemons…
bins of greens…
…and piles of citrus galore. My goodness, so much to make a meal! A thousand dinner menus sprouted in my mind.
But no, I could not possibly transport a bite of this, the best luxury I know: freshness.
Then, among all of this wondrous produce, I noticed an item I’ve never encountered in its raw state before now. Can you guess what these are?
Dark purple because they were picked when ripe. The vendor told me that this is the first time they’ve brought a harvest to the market.
They grew on his grandmother’s tree on the family farm in Hollister, an agricultural town that looks a lot like mine.
After all, it turned out that I could bring a pint of these olives on the plane with me, to bathe them in a brine and flavor them my own way right here in my own home.