We were up at dawn to go to the Farmer's Market at the Etobicoke Civic Centre today. We took the dog along (he likes to linger at the sausage table). There's a cheerful acquisitiveness at the market. Lots of colour and sound and shape to employ the senses. Many of the farmers are immigrants to Canada, and I listen to their happy banter in whatever languages and find myself wondering how they moved here and managed to afford farmland. Where did they settle? Why did they choose to settle there? And why can't I afford to join them?
I like to try new things - duck eggs, bizarre-looking squash, greens I've never seen before, dangerous-coloured mushrooms whose names I can't pronounce. There's a wonderful feeling of abundance at the market. No little cellophane-wrapped packages of four potatoes here. No limp strawberries trucked in from Chile. Just piles and piles of healthy, heaped beets and radishes, onions the size of baseballs, pyramids of fat zucchini. The stacks of lettuces look like the frilled petticoats of Old-West dance hall girls. How did their beets and leeks turn out so uniformly shaped? Mine always look like the results of nuclear fallout.
I can't help touching - bumpy gourds, brittle wicker baskets, crisp bell peppers, buttery-smooth tomatoes. Sorry, not going to buy anything from you today, but do you mind if I just stand here a while and stroke your chard, inhale the scent of your basil?
I was looking for a bushel of green beans - mine aren't doing well in the garden this year, thanks to my furry friends - and I wanted them slim and tender, not those thick Styrofoam things you get in the grocery store. But two different farmers confided to me that I should come back later in the summer, when they're desperate to unload the end of the crop; the prices would be much better then. People who buy in bulk should wait until toward the end of the season, they told me, when they're practically giving things away. I appreciated their honesty and went home with only some heavenly-smelling garlic and two bouquets of asparagus.
I go out in my backyard and smile benignly at the rabbit munching in my oat patch. Go ahead, sweetie. I know where I can get more, and there's plenty to share.