Many of my thoughts and much of my planning (what little I do) goes towards figuring out what we (my kids, my husband, and I and sometimes a few other members of are family) are going to eat, three meals a day. I do not think this is unusual for parents to spend much of their energy on this. Or perhaps just people in general.

This Saturday morning we went to the farmer’s market. It’s outdoors and most people are still masked there so it feels like a safe place, even with my kids unvaccinated. They have the standard booths they like to visit: popcorn, lemonade, and cookies. The charm of this is starting to wear off over the course of this summer, but at the beginning, they acted as if they’d won the lottery, shocked that Mom was not only saying “yes” to whatever they wanted, but offering which stands they might like best. The guilt over the fact that your kids are spending so many of their childhood years in a pandemic makes “yes” go trippingly off the tongue.

I think the first farmer’s market I went to was my freshman year of college in Madison, WI where the stalls line the sidewalk encircling the capitol building, or at least they did back in 1994. I lived in a dorm then so it didn’t make sense to pick up much in the way of food but I still enjoyed seeing all there was to see. I think I might have, on occasion, bought a baked good or some cheese curds. I recall some straw flowers sitting in a cup on my desk. Surely, they came from the farmer’s market.

Cockscomb from the farmer’s market.

It’s strange to me now, that I would have, at that age been drawn to this Saturday morning ritual back then when I wasn’t cooking and probably believed I couldn’t cook. I remember being well into my twenties and insisting, “I can’t cook” to various friends. Turns out that spending the first four or five years in your parents’ restaurant doesn’t actually mean that you were somehow baptized into the flames of a kitchen. Turns out, that actually takes time and attention to learn. But that came later.

This Saturday, we made one round through, stopping at the kids’ regular spots and I kept my eyes out for ingredients that I thought I might be able to do something with. In the end, I picked up Thai basil, yam greens, long beans, beets, tomatillos, watermelon, Chinese eggplant, ground pork and scrapple, Thai chilies, smoothie, and a Street Sense newspaper on top of the kid’s regular selection. I was pretty confident I would make pad gra pow (a Thai basil stir fry) and perhaps turn the tomatillos into a salsa verde for some enchiladas, which we hadn’t had for a while.

Sure enough, the pad gra pow worked out for Sunday evening. I’d been baking a fair amount lately. Specifically, laminating dough for croissants had absorbed a lot of my time and cooking energy. So I was relieved to have a fairly easy go-to meal that evening. The icing on the cake was that the ingredients had come together so nicely at the farmer’s market.

Homemade plain chocolate and pain at chocolat.

Truly, it wasn’t so long ago that I wouldn’t have been comfortable cooking so freely, preparing meals without even checking a recipe on-line.

But the farmer’s market cooking didn’t stop there. I still had that salsa verde to make. I awoke thinking about whether I should just make up some tortillas in the morning and use them at the end of the day for the enchiladas. Seemed like a lot of work. As it so happens, we ran out of cow’s milk this morning. (I tried to offer almond milk as a replacement but some of them wouldn’t have it.) This is, in a way, lucky because I could pick up a few other things than milk.

Here’s where it really came together: I decided to bike.

It’s not a far bike ride, but it’s pretty busy and my weather app was telling me that even in the late afternoon, the day was clinging to 90 degree heat, refusing to yield until the sun gave up first, retreating behind the horizon to the west. Still, it ended up being a nice ride and all of the items I bought — including the gallon of milk and even a container of ice cream — fit snuggly into my bike bag.

I haven’t been able to exercise much lately, so it felt like a bonus that I could bike to the nearest grocery store, getting my exercise and grocery shopping done at the same time.

Back at home, I charred the tomatillos, a poblano, some garlic and onion under the broiler and processed it all up with some lime a cilantro. Lovely salsa verde (admittedly, I did look at a recipe on-line for this one). I cooked the chicken before shredding and rolling it up inside the tortillas (store bought rather than homemade). I layered on both the sauce and cheese thickly. I served them with beans and salad greens and they all ate well. We followed up with some vanilla ice cream topped with frosted pecans which Ms8yo made this week with my mom.

And it was lovely. Here’s a thing I have to keep in mind: how far I’ve come. Imagine that I used to say, “I can’t cook,” which was completely wrong at the time (everyone can cook) and even more so today.

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