Foodie Tuesday: To Market, to Market

photoFarmer’s markets are a joy. The magnificent and munificent ‘food halls’ of many countries and cities are an abundant and slightly less-seasonal delight. I grew up with a father who, in turn, was raised by parents who had, so to speak, groceries in their blood–Grandma having grown up in her father’s grocery store near the turn of the last century, and Grandpa having been employed by a major regional grocery producer and supplier. So Dad was not only accustomed to a childhood spent roaming and critiquing every aisle of every grocery store his family passed on any given expedition but later also to having his own children cajole him into being the parent taking us on the weekly family shopping trips because with his genetic grocery cred we thought he was the more easily swayed into buying the weird and possibly deliciously bad-for-us stuff.

What this all leads to in my case, is the appreciation I have, deep down, for farmer’s markets and food halls and all sorts of grocery stores.

But the real source of that love is, of course, all of the grocerrific goodness found in said worlds of wonder. The ingredients for infinite feasting are all there at hand, arrayed in an artless or artful arsenal of endless recombinant recipes, and it’s not easy to spend any real time in the midst of such wonders without at least stumbling over a good number of fine meal, snack or menu inspirations.

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Some fruits of the shopping expedition are worthy of eating in their purest natural state and deserve no less respect and admiration.

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Even the best can be deliciously Prepared, though: why not the simplest of preparations. Steamed green beans with butter, for example. How can one improve on that?

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An uncomplicated recipe can also be a pleasurable way to showcase a beautiful ingredient. Here, caramelized Bosc pears–gently sautéed in salted butter and maple syrup with cardamom, then reduced in Riesling and vanilla.

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The occasional grand ingredient can be appropriately preserved for multiple happy uses. Diced fresh ginger root, for example, lives a good, long and productive life of transforming one dish after another when it’s been diced and saved in a jar full of vodka. Which, in turn, can be a delightful treat on its own later, this sprightly ginger infused vodka.

And what do I learn from all of this? I don’t change all that much. I always did rather like going to get the groceries. I still do. Living and lounging among the comestibles is a grand pastime and so often leads to good eating and drinking, doesn’t it. I do believe I hear the siren song of a grocery cart beckoning me for a little outing, or is that the gentle rumbling of my empty innards? No matter, one leads to the other, leading right back to the first, in an endless loop of hunger and deliciousness, craving and satiety that I hope won’t end for a very long and very slightly fattening lifetime.

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Fresh, alluring and beautiful. It’s never too much, but always a lovely temptation.

The Hook

What grabs me by the imagination and won’t let go? Practically anything, depending upon the time and my mood and a few other factors. Frequently, it’s simple visual attraction. Ooh, shiny! (Rusty! Unfamiliar! Pretty!) I am nothing if not shallow and superficial.photoOften, though, I will give myself credit for going beyond the surface in my examination of the objects of my attention-if-not-attraction because I become genuinely interested to know the who what when where how and why of them. In this, too, I may be simplistic and not wish to make a research project out of every thing that catches my eye or piques my interest. It’s safe to assume that not only will much of that information ultimately prove to be above my pay grade and beyond my ken, but other than generalizations and suitably dumbed down explanations I will have little use for the storehouse of data hidden behind every shiny object, the masses of wisdom contained in each moment’s distracting find.photoStill, like the musical phrase that wiggles its way into my subconscious as I pass by a practice room, leaving me wondering hours later why a passage from Lieutenant Kijé‘s signature theme popped into my head as I passed a group of three oranges at the grocery store, the associative and evocative qualities that serve as the hook to snag my mind will never cease to amaze, amuse and ensnare me with their alluring and mysterious delights.

Of Frontiers and Pioneers

I stand in perpetual amazement and awe at the courage, will and dedication it takes to live on the cutting edge of things. How is it that people find those first inklings of a new trail and then, also, the nerve and wit to set foot on it, the persistence and bravery to pursue it to its unknown, unforeseeable end? Seems to me that there’s far more than a hint of the miraculous in the whole enterprise: to recognize that there’s something utterly new and unprecedented Out There somewhere is astounding enough, but to have the wherewithal to pursue it with passion or plain doggedness is much more remarkable, in my view.

It’s rather beyond my ken, this intrepid spirit–or willful folly–that moves anyone to go off into the great unknown and sail over the flat edge of the earth in a pipsqueak of a boat, looking for answers, or for adventure. While I know from my own very limited experience that those things in my life I’ve most treasured generally came at the price of a certain amount of risk beyond my usual, I’ve never quite been able to imagine how there can be people who actually seek such danger, who desire huge challenges. My idea of a grand showdown with Fate falls somewhere between going into a different grocery store than my usual ones and putting on pants that were a little too tight last week.

I am sincerely grateful that there are other people on this planet willing to plunge into the unknown and take on its vagueness and vagaries head first, for without them I wouldn’t exist. It’s not simply that I wouldn’t live in my accustomed comfort and safety, but indeed that I wouldn’t know what was safe-vs-poisonous to eat, let alone which of the seemingly available house-caves were already occupied by less than teddy-cuddly bears. On top of all the basics of safety and shelter and health I am glad that there have been explorers and inventors and pioneers of every sort, all out there avidly finding, making, fixing and each in his or her own way advancing the things that make life so livable nowadays for me and for others like me who are equally unprepared to live on the razor’s edge.

And I’m especially happy that so many survived these trips to the borders of reality and came back to tell the tale. It’s pretty swell for the rest of us, and I’ll bet you, too, are glad to be among the surviving heroes–especially if you’re among the handful that eventually came off the high of discovery and achievement and said to yourselves in a faint echo of what I was saying all along: ‘What on earth was I thinking!‘ If you’d like your thanks at your personal high noon or any other time, I’ll be right here in the safe and comfortable reality you bought for me, slinging no guns at Destiny other than those housed in my safe and comfortable internal universe.digitally enhanced drawing