This week I met with L., a local organic grower who has brought community supported agriculture to our little town. I am excited that for the first time I will support CSA, getting a box of fresh produce every Saturday morning throughout the growing season.
The beauty of it is that I won't always know what the box will contain, and I will be forced to find new ways to prepare everthing from cabbage to kohlrabi.
How Grandma Annie would have loved this! There was nothing she liked better than pursuing fresh produce. As I've written many times before, Annie and her neighbors exchanged garden bounty and an "eggman" delivered eggs and the odd bushel of potatoes or beans on a weekly basis.
But Annie also loved finding new sources for fresh vegetables or berries, and when she learned of growers who sold from their tiny plots north of the city or even in the heart of town, she'd persuade one of her daughters to drive her there. Back 30, 40 or 50 years ago, it was not uncommon to find larger parcels of land that served as "farmettes" in the middle of residential neighborhoods. When the residents of those little farms had surplus, they'd advertise in the newspaper or through word of mouth (the latter being a very efficient and effective means of communication in our town). The surplus disappeared quickly and the small-plot farmers had extra money in their pockets.
I love to ride along on these excursions, for these little patches of agriculture in the city intrigued me. Weatherbeaten barns, old fences, rickety trellises and usually a prowling cat and friendly dog created a charming ambiance that I found enticing. Now these little farms are gone, and many of the vendors at our local farm markets are dying off. L. is part of a new breed of growers. I hope some of my restaurant owner friends will support L. and her colleagues. I suspect they will; the farm market is located in an area rapidly becoming our own "Restaurant Row."
Annie pursued bakeries with the same zeal she sought growers who offered quality fresh produce. On trips to the city - any city - Annie insisted on a bakery stop. I have found myself doing the same. Bakeries across Wisconsin offer everything from apple-raisin bread to German hard rolls. Annie loved them all.
So it was impossible for me not to think of her as my husband and I shopped the open market in Cahors a few months ago. Annie would have been in her element here! Familiar with the language, but unfamiliar with the accent, she would speak in her childhood tongue, perhaps halting at first. But her shy smile and warmth would draw the vendors and soon they'd be chatting away in French.
Oh, Grandma, I wish I could take you there!