Rites of the market


Sunny summer weekend mornings in Minnesota draw the faithful to the tented streets and parking lots lined with tables of rhubarb, asparagus, flowers and bedding plants, spinach, kohlrabi, new potatoes, cheese and eggs and honey, onions, chicken and pork and bison, Hmong crafts, soap, bread, wild rice, and herbs. The farmers market calls to her believers like Christmas Eve Mass beckons to fallen Catholics. The smells and sounds are familiar and comforting. I am a religious zealot and my denomination is Fresh Local.

We arrive downtown and find ourselves pushing through the multitudes in search of the perfect quart of strawberries. I am a competitive shopper, and roll my eyes at the strollers and wagons and bodies loitering in front of us and blocking our access to the trout guy. “Amateurs, neophytes, and dabblers,” I scoff. T nods but says nothing. He is an agreeable apprentice, but we share an unspoken understanding that he’d rather be sleeping in.

We see friends and wave a greeting, but we are stuck in the throngs near the spring roll ladies and there is no room for conversation. The market isn’t about social hour, it is about worship and acquisition. There is always time for fellowship later.

Our bags are heavy with stuff and I am satisfied that we got everything we need. “We’ll get kohlrabi next week,” I decide as we trudge toward the car. We make a final stop at the hot dog vendor who stands on the edge of the market and exchanges banter with his customers. I ask how many times this morning he has heard or asked the question, “Can you believe this beautiful weather?”

“Every single customer,” he answers with a laugh, and he talks about how grateful he is for the warmth and sun rather than chill and rain of the past month. We receive our Communion (an Old Fashioned with mustard, onions, and relish) and move on into the rest of our day.

This weekend’s haul included as many herbs and aromatics as we could find: chives, mint, cilantro, garlic scapes, and several different kinds of onion. I roughly chopped them and combined with lime zest and juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The herbs were bright when served with buratta, tomatoes, watermelon, and blueberries then spread grilled tortilla chips. Our main course was grilled trout with the herb seasoning mixed into avocado as well as T’s smashed new potatoes.