You may recall my sordid affair with a guy named Joe. At the height of my lust, I’d have walked 20 blocks out of my way just to see him for five minutes. Only now, nearly six months past our expiration date, can I see how strange and lopsided our relationship was.
I’d have been glad to get in and get out, but Joe wouldn’t let me off that easy. Every tryst was an ordeal that would monopolize my day. He’d force me to come at weird hours — early Saturday morning, say, or late Tuesday night. I showed up one Friday evening after work, and he made me wait outside. He was “at capacity.” Whatever that means.
I’d draw lines before I went in, but always found myself pushed over them. He’d murmur sweet nothings like “cookie butter” or “two-buck chuck” — and I’d obey, even though I was fairly sure I wasn’t that kind of girl. When I wanted to leave, there was always a fuss. I’d spend as long getting out the door as I did with Joe in the first place.
And you know what? His zucchini was not that impressive.
Joe and I have parted ways. I don’t miss him. These days, I don’t buy much at any grocery store </metaphor!!!>. I’ve become the kind of yuppie who loyally sources her artisan foodstuffs and, on Saturdays, rises and shines for the Greenmarket — where you’ll find me squeezing tomatoes, stroking chard and rooting around for the eggs with the best color scheme. Because priorities.
Or I try, anyway. Because farmer’s marketing does not come naturally to me. I’m a meal planner, a recipe reader, a multi-tracked-grocery-list-maker. What’s more, I’m old-fashioned at heart. I feel guilty squeezing your tomatoes and taking someone else’s home. I grow anxious letting a handsome pile of produce beguile me into a plan — I’d sooner arrive with one in mind.
But I’d like to be the kind of person who shops at farmer’s markets. And slowly but surely, I’m learning to roll with the parsnips. Even the man-made impulse buys rarely fall short — I cave to wine-soaked cheese or duck prosciutto, and with minimal effort, I eat like a queen. The only loser is my ever-expanding list of Ambitious Kitchen Projects. But that’s a list that only I can see. And honestly, the market’s plan is usually better than mine.
Joe, you can go shave your back now.
My cooking habits have also evolved. I no longer live on quinoa and cake, though I still appreciate both. I’ve come to relish crafting and plating bona fide grown-up meals, as well as cooking “off the book” as it moves me. I still bookmark, but I mainly use recipes as a starting point. The more practice I get, the more “me” my cooking becomes, and the more I favor simple dishes that let fresh ingredients shine.
The downside is that unless I’m entertaining, I rarely get to share. It’s natural to pawn off a cookie; not so much a scoop of pumpkin chili or or honey balsamic pulled pork. I scale down or freeze things so I don’t have to eat on repeat, but sometimes the results are so good I just want to high five people. Or at least have a tester confirm that we do, in fact, have a hit.
Cast-iron masterpizza. High fives all around.
One day, we’ll all have a dinner party. Until then, let’s cook together from afar. Look out for the “Market Meals” tag in upcoming posts, which will feature creative, accessible takes on whatever’s made its way from the ground to me. I’m excited to share what’s on my plate, and maybe even a few long-distance high fives. Cookin’ (almost) freehand to the seasons: It’s what’s for dinner. Now explain why it took me so long to wise up on Joe.