Most people look forward to the weekend as a time for a little flexibility. Sure, they may have to run kids to soccer games or tae kwon do tournaments, but they can probably skip part of the usual “shit,shower, shave” routine they face Monday through Friday.
For me, on the other hand, most weekdays are very fluid. I usually have a deadline on Wednesday, which is often pushed to Thursday. But I make my own schedule, and if my 8 am walk happens more around 9:30, well, Rosie’s the only one who will notice.
But on Fridays things start revving up. After getting that week’s blog story up, I suddenly realize (for the 17th time) that I need to figure out next week’s story. So Friday can be a hectic day of brainstorming, a flurry of emails with my editor, maybe some text messages with Miss Chef to figure out who my best sources will be, and a first volley of communications with chefs or farmers I want to interview.
This past Friday I was working three stories at once. I called a farmer to ask about growing sorghum and posted a message to Facebook to see if anybody’s using it in their restaurants, emailed a group organizing a farm tour for next weekend, and texted with a couple of chefs to arrange interviews for a late-October story. Shortly after Miss Chef got back from an afternoon meeting, she received a request from another chef to pick up some pig tails for Saturday, so off we headed to the Hispanic stretch of South Boulevard. Naturally we stopped for dinner at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant.
Trust me, my life sounds way more glamorous than it lives. Not that I’m complaining. We had a grand ol’ time wandering the aisles of a large Compare supermarket, looking at chicken feet and nance fruit, which neither of us had heard of. Date night with a chef.
If Friday can sometimes be hectic, it’s because Saturday is by far the busiest day of my week. The farmers markets are part of my workplace, where I have the best and easiest access to farmers, chefs and other food purveyors. It’s also the one day I have to get up and get rolling. While this past Saturday Miss Chef was off to school to gather equipment for a cooking demonstration at Atherton Market, I hit the road before 7:30 to head to our “regular” market in Matthews.
I had arranged to meet Chef Adam at 8:30 for an interview, but I had several other folks to talk to. Foremost was Chef Charles, who’s interested in paying for some writing on a new web page he needs for yet another branch of business. Besides selling at two local markets, this Frenchman with a most American taste for entrepreneurship has a catering business which includes bbq and burgers in the guest tents at Panthers’ home games, as well as elegant meals for executive jets flying out of our busy airport. Now he wants to start a side/retirement business traveling to his home on Ile de Ré with groups of eight or ten clients, and squiring them through morning markets and evening cooking sessions.
If nothing else, I could learn a thing or two from him about hustling up business.
Besides checking in with Charles, I needed to pick up eggs from Daryl of Walnut Ridge Farm, and make sure he’d gotten a print copy of a recent article I’d written about him and another farmer. Then I stopped to see Pauline, the market manager, and follow up on an interview and blog story I’d done earlier in the week. Oh, and I had to deliver those pig tails to Chef Bonaparte, for the catering job Miss Chef was helping him out with that evening.
In the midst of all this, Adam sent me a text at 8:30 that he was just getting dressed, so I also chatted for a while with Michele Lamb, who raises goats, and Mindy at Tega Hills, for whom we’d tried to foster a kitten few weeks ago (sadly, the entire litter succumbed, probably to distemper—at least the mother cat seems to be recovering). When Adam finally dragged in, I bought him a coffee and and we spent a good half hour talking about filthy grease traps. Then we were both off to our next round of errands, he to pick up supplies for the restaurant, me to Atherton Market.
As you can tell, this is a very different market, much more urban and a bit more upscale—in the window you can see the reflection of one of the many shiny new apartment complexes going up in this Southend neighborhood to attract the newest generation of Yuppies (what are they called now? Hipsters? Dinks? My friends and colleagues?).
Miss Chef and I sort of “joined” this market this year, after I got involved with Friendship Gardens. This is the only place backyard gardeners like myself can drop off donations on the weekends, and somehow I found myself taking charge of the donation station. I also made friends with a new baker at the market, after falling in love with his bread and featuring him in my very first (small) print article several months ago. He actually had a few new customers walk up to his booth with my article in hand, so he’s a fan of mine now.
This is where Miss Chef had headed from school earlier that morning, for a 10:00 cooking demonstration. When I got there, she’d already started serving up eggplant “pizzas” (small rounds of eggplant coated in breadcrumbs, fried, and topped with veggies) and an apple bread pudding. Unlike the Matthews market, there is no separate area for these demos, but it seemed that plenty of shoppers found her and stopped to have a bite.
It just so happens that the donation table is directly across from the cooking station, so we kind of got to hang out together for awhile. I also managed to buy us both a hearty breakfast from the food truck outside (you can only eat so much bread pudding), buy some chicken and fresh pasta, and finalize another interview for that afternoon with another chef.
Around noon, Miss Chef wrapped up and headed off to her catering gig, while I continued to text, and chat with the market manager’s husband and dog. I also discovered this interesting product being sold by a farmer I hadn’t met yet.
It’s called jelly melon, or African horned cucumber. I snapped this picture because I might be able to use it for another of my weekly blog stories…it kind of depends on how long the sorghum harvest season is, and whether I can fit it all in before they all go out of season.
Which reminds me of another phone call I need to make…
I had to man the station until 2:00, when the market ends, because that’s when we get most of our farmer donations as they close up shop. Sadly, I only got 1/4 pound of arugula for my troubles, but there’s always next week! I left a few minutes early to grab a cup of coffee for Chef Nick, in exchange for an interview. He mans the kitchen at a restaurant uptown, so I had to circle the block to find on-street parking, since I’d spent almost all my cash at the market. I was lucky to find a spot not far away, and arrived with cappuccino in hand in time for our little chat.
It was after 3:00 when I finally turned the car toward home, and I have to confess that the rest of my day was spent mostly on the couch. I’m in a mode of letting the garden fend mostly for itself, but it seems I need to do a little pest control patrol.
I picked a couple of worms off the five broccolis planted in the main bed, and checked that the two remaining brussels sprouts were still doing ok. The third one just poof! disappeared a week or two ago. Not a leaf or stem left. Very odd.
The sixth broccoli plant is doing quite well in the raised bed, filling in the planter nicely.
The temperatures are starting to cool off, especially in the evenings, so it seems the garden isn’t suffering too much from my benign neglect. Maybe it’s happy I’m finally leaving it alone, though I did bring this little basketful of goodness to Friendship Trays last week.
Yep, still bringing in tomatoes, but I’m looking forward to fall already. As one of the market managers I recently interviewed said, there are two seasons colliding right now, and it’s a great time to eat.