My artist friend Michael Orzechowski is constantly seeking unique ways to describe his experiences.
Last week we exchanged the following texts:
Jejune, an adjective, also means 2) boring, 3) lacking nutrition. It’s a fantastic word for describing tax policy or the food at bachelor parties.
However, jejune is such an uncommon word that it doesn’t appear on the SAT vocabulary list of words nobody uses.
SAT tutors encourage students to memorize the antonyms of adjectives. So, a few of the many opposites of jejune include educated, inspired and healthful. Another learning method is immersion learning, which means you experience the subject as opposed to just reading about it.
Now, to really immerse yourself in education, inspiration and healthfulness, stop by any seasonal farmer’s market. Not the brick and mortar kind. The farmer’s markets that set up in parking lots or on church lawns.
What’s so great about farmer’s markets? Sensuality. No, not that kind. The other sensuality, which means pleasing or fulfilling to the senses.
You’ll see couples searching for inspiration
while a band supplies a soundtrack of bluegrass or Jimmy Buffett.
You’ll encounter friends making new four-legged friends
and overhear grandparents scheming to buy toy drum sets for the grandkids.
Talk to the vendors. Of course, they’d like to sell you an eggplant or some honey but they’re not selling. They’re proud of what they’ve grown or made and want you to know about it. Moreover, the vendors want to listen to you and learn about different ways to use their product.
For example, Lynn Teddlie and Mary Capps of Straight from the Backyard Farms in Loganville, Georgia, plant, harvest and save the seeds from each crop for the next year. They’ll tell you how they use their produce and, more importantly, Lynn and Mary want hear how you use their produce.
Get intimate with the products. Again, the other intimacy. Use every sense and become close to the food. You’ll come across unusual color combinations,
and vegetables that undulate like the lithe cabana boy who skims the pool in a romance novel.
What if they don’t have what I’m looking for? The beauty of the farmer’s market is anticipating what’s going to be available. Sure, you have an idea going in. However, what you have in mind and what’s for sale might not be in sync. This works to your advantage. Let the products inspire you.
Going a little further, when the jolt into enlightenment comes, Zen Buddhist monks yell Katsu! Consciousness on this level arrives after years of meditation, often in rooms without air conditioning. In the case of the farmer’s market, we’re seeking a micro Katsu!, enlightenment which materializes seconds after contemplating a vegetable.
Let’s say a cheesemaker made some feta only ten minutes from where you live.
A cantaloupe emits a honeyed, musky aura that compels you to notice it.
A bunch of Thai basil entrances you like the burlesque dancer flittering her boa after one too many glasses of bubbly.
And…Katsu! We’re ready to go.
OK. I’ve got the goods but no recipe. Trust your gut. You’ve got quality ingredients so half the battle has been won.
Sure, just chopping the ingredients and tossing them together would be delectable. To put together a truly rustic dish, you could forget about knife work completely and just use your hands. Ripping apart the cantaloupe might be especially cathartic. For cleanup purposes, knives are more efficient.
In addition, there’s no need for intricate culinary techniques such as “measuring”, “weighing” or “cooking.” According to the legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshinikov, “Sometimes there is an obsession with technique that can kill your best impulses.” So, give in to your urges and do what feels right for you. Here’s a possible way to put everything together.
A blender, a small mixing bowl, a knife or two and a few spoons are all you need.
For a fancy presentation, use chef style ring molds to create that ooohhhh factor. An inexpensive alternative to the ring molds is removing both ends of a deviled ham can. If you enjoy the hammy taste, don’t wash the can.
Blend some of the cantaloupe and set it aside. Cut the rest of the cantaloupe into small cubes or long strands, any shape is fine. Mix the cubes with some Thai basil. Gently mash the salad into the ring mold. If you’re not using the mold, just make an orderly melon pile. Put some cheese next to the mold. Place some melon strands around the plate. Crumble and scatter some more cheese.
Spoon melon juice around the plate. Then put tiny basil leaves where a little green would look pretty. Lift the ring and…done.
In about fifteen minutes, you’ve created a simple dish which displays sophistication, is eye-catching and nutritious.
Three simple ingredients and the results are anything but jejune.
If you enjoy farmer’s markets, food with eye appeal or using a blender, please like and share the post.
2 thoughts on “Tent to Table”
This article reminds me of Neil Young performing at Farm Aid 2018.
To quote Neil: “What are you going to do next time you see a farmers market? Say hello to a farmer, buy something. Get real. Buy something good.”
The quote is simple, yet profound. Just like all the great stuff at the farmer’s market.