Friday, September 5, 2008

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
J. R. R. Tolkien

For anyone with an artistic bent and assiduous observational skills, inspiration can be found just about anywhere. For myself, if I have no pressing commitments, there is hardly a better place to spend an hour or two than in the farmer’s market. Approached with passion, cooking can be an art that affords its creator a quite tasty, tempting freedom of expression while at the same time catering to the epicurean delight of others. And if one has the luxury of time and can approach a meal, a dinner party, or even just a new, more adventurous recipe as one would approach a painting, a poem or some other sort of creative endeavor, then the farmer’s market is a living, breathing palette of color, texture and taste.
I am never happier than when in my kitchen, with breezy open windows, good music playing, and dogs dozing on the floor while I fashion tantalizing concoctions like a benevolent enchantress with a wooden spoon for a wand and a floral apron for a star-laden robe. I have always felt that culinary spells and potions are best brewed at this time of the year, which is just another of the myriad of reasons I am so delighted that autumn is here. Fresh apple pies cooling by the window, the entire house redolent with the fragrance of one of James Beard’s best breads, plump chickens roasting with vegetables and wine, the aromatic mingling of flavors in a long simmering soup, all these are joys of the fall season. And the farmer’s market is the autumnal cook’s equivalent to the artist’s most fantastical supply store.
Take my advice, on a perfectly clear, perfectly cool upcoming day, point yourself towards your nearest and best market. Take your time, don’t rush, meander through. Enjoy the infinite variety of pleasures available to the senses. The prismatic aubergine hues of an eggplant, the craggy touch of a fresh brown coconut, the warm perfume of exotic coffee beans - a synthesis of inspiration for delicious tastes to create, and to savor.
And don’t even get me started on the fat orange pumpkins and the sunflowers!

Painting above: The Vegetable Stall by Thomas Heaphy