Finding My Home at the Market

Brisk winds and remnant storm clouds cast a decidedly autumnal feel over the Saturday market.  On this day sweatshirt clad shoppers shuffle about, filling bags of produce: In this transitional time of year, the best of both seasons are enjoyed. Remnants of late summer– tomatoes, peaches, and blueberries– blend with an increasing abundance of fall offerings, squash and apples.

Its early September and I’m back home in Grand Haven, engaging in the most wholesome of activities: shopping at the Farmers market.  Whether Ireland or Michigan, the ritual remains the same. I browse all the stands, assessing what’s on offer, before making any sudden moves.  Along the way I run into an old friend or two. Once I begin shopping in earnest, the dam bursts. Soon my canvas bags brim full, irrespective of my actual needs, with a bounty of goodness. Who can resist (peaches, blueberries, raspberries, apples, wild salmon, etc) when they’re in season?

Having just arrived back into town, I was delighted to discover blueberries were still on offer. Lately I’ve gone blueberry crazy. Sensing their imminent scarcity value I’m eager to stock up for the long winter ahead. I snatched up another ten pounds worth. Admittedly ten pounds of blueberries sounds a little excessive. When Whole Foods peddles their Argentinian muck for $4.50 a pint, one savors every individual morsel.  But in the high season of August, as you gloat over a fresh five pound box and shovel them full hands to open mouth, gluttony is relative.

Such a trendy superfood, these berries of blueness, coveted for reportedly chock full of antioxidants. Yet in Michigan blueberries are completely old school. Buckets of blueberries were like currency. Children willingly indentured themselves, blue stained fingers under the hot August sun, hoping to pick enough buckets to buy that shiny new Ten Speed bike. Most of the farmland encircling our town was devoted to the production of blueberries. Sadly an alarming number of those same fields have been plowed under and paved over, making way for new subdivisions.

Once upon a time, blueberries even grew wild across our hillside. Kids in the neighborhood foraged on their hands and knees. They were a lot of work, those small wild berries. But when you stumbled on juicy one, the payoff was immense. An explosion of sweetness in the mouth that was unrivaled by any commercial variety.

As personally exciting as remnant blueberries are, they were eclipsed by today’s big event: the arrival of the first Macintosh apples. Tangy, tart, and temperamental, they are the coveted variety of this wayfaring boy from Michigan.  “They seem a little early to me,” I remarked, making smalltalk with the farmer. “They’re from the top of the tree, so they get the most sun. That’s why they almost completely red,” she said.  Hmm. You don’t say.

Much of my childhood revolved around seasonal binging: strawberries, cherries, sweet corn, watermelon, blueberries, and apples. Such time-honored traditions helped mark the passing of seasons, as the years pass, one to the next.

Back home I realized, cutting into my Macintosh apple, it was indeed a little early. Anticipation can often get the best of you. But then an immature locally grown Macintosh apple is still light years ahead of any out-of-season, southern hemisphere variety.

For me autumn officially arrives when I purchase my first half gallon of cider. Returning to the car I immediately open it, take a big draw from the jug, and exclaim something to the affect of “Mmmmmm!  Damn, that’s good!” I await that day. Meanwhile, I’ve some mediocre apples to work my way through, when I’m not dawdling over my dwindling supply of blueberries.

Yes, Michigan! Its good to be back home.

2 Responses to “Finding My Home at the Market”

  1. RAYMOND says:

    ..

    Buynow it…