The Farmers’ Market

But first, a short trip to Bed, Bath and Befuddled.

Living in a new place is an adventure. Living in a new climate zone is doubly one. For example, I no longer find it odd that not a single apartment in Goleta (except for those populated by extremely rich people) has air conditioning. This is a place where 84 degrees is a heat wave. This is also a place where, as it was pointed out to me, the variations in temperature between day and night are greater than the variations in temperature between a day in summer and a day in winter. For example, the low tonight is 45 degrees. The high tomorrow is 76.

I could have said this more succinctly by simply mentioning that it gets cold at night, a fact that I’ve come to notice more and more over the past few days as the year moves slowly towards what passes for winter in these parts. When I first arrived, merely sheets and a fuzzy blanket (you know, one of the ones that looks like they skinned a muppet to make it) was enough, but I was beginning to long for something a bit warmer. Also, I had grown heartily sick of sleeping on a dorm-quality mattress (I believe the technical term for such a mattress is crappy) and wanted at least an egg-crate to mitigate some of the effects of lying on something that feels like it came out of the nearest monastery (one populated by a particularly ascetic order, I might add).

So yesterday morning I set off to Bed Bath and Beyond (henceforth BBB), on two wheels (of course). A friend of mine mentioned that the secret to running errands on a bike was not to ask how much stuff you could fit on your bike, but to ask how much stuff you could fit into your backpack. With these words of wisdom in mind, I brought my giant KalGav knapsack, which claims to hold 60 liters worth of stuff. It actually straps down fairly well and, at least on the way there, I barely noticed it.

I reached BBB after a short detour to the library in order to return some books. Okay, and to pick one up as well. But only one. I do have classwork, after all. Upon examining the bedding section of the store, I was reminded of a fact I should have recalled earlier, having registered for this stuff less than three years ago. Bedding is expensive.  And most of it is ugly. If I’m going to bring something ugly into my home, it had better be a good bargain (though I do have some standards; more on that later).

I quickly abandoned the quilts and comforters section and turned down another aisle, where I found what I was really looking for – the “going off the college” section, now heavily discounted. They had an entire bedding set – sheets, pillow cases, comforter and sham – for $35, which was far closer to what I’d had in mind. There were two problems with that set. One was that I already had sheets and pillow cases and, with space at a premium, I didn’t want to buy something I did not need. Problem two was that it was a not-very-inspiring stripe pattern. The comforter looked like a bad imitation of Mondrian, done in dark greens and purples. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mondrian, and a quilted version of one of his paintings would be awesome, but let me emphasize the bad in bad imitation here.

There were a few other options and, after poking around, I stumbled on something almost perfect. It was a comforter and pillow shams, marked down to $40 and then again to $30. There was only one problem with it. It was reversible and the two colors were traffic-stopping orange and radioactive pink. Now, as I said, a bargain is one thing, but this was the kind of pink that could blind you with its brightness even when the lights were off and the orange wasn’t much better. Fortunately, behind that offense to good taste lurked another version of the same, only this was sky blue and lime green. It was marked as “clearance” as well, but didn’t have the actual price on it. However, I figured that since it was the same product in a difference shade, the price should be the same.

I had reached the point of “anything is better than pink,” so put it in my cart. I then picked up the egg crate and checked out. It turned out that I was wrong about the comforter. It rang up at $9.99. I stared at the saleswoman and blurted out “What’s wrong with it?” I had no idea what I was worried about – maybe someone else had bought it, taken out all the stuffing and replaced it with asbestos soaked in formaldehyde.

She looked at it. “Nothing, I think,” was her answer. “We always note when there’s a product defect.”

I shrugged. “Nice!” I had brought along a %20 percent coupon that ended up getting used on the egg crate, which was more expensive than my bedding.

Then came the fun bit. I had to get this home. So I knelt down besides the rack where my bike is parked, unzipped the comforter from its plastic bag, and crammed it into the knapsack. Yes, it fit and there was even room to stuff the plastic bag in afterwards. That left only the egg crate and, after trying unsuccessfully to shove it into my side basket, I realized that if I opened it slightly and punctured the inner plastic wrapping, it would squish much better and fit into the basket.

I was all packed up and ready to go. As I biked home, I meditated on just how heavy bedding was and wondered whether, with this huge knapsack on my back, I looked like a turtle on a bicycle. I’m glad there was no one to ask.

After such a morning, I decided I needed a treat and took the bus into Downtown Santa Barbara where I could sit in the coffee shop that sold kosher pastries and do my reading in the company of a chai latte and apple strudel. There was another Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (said coffee shop) that is technically closer, but the best way to get there is by biking and my legs would have found that idea hilarious had they had energy left to laugh. Also, if I stayed at this location long enough, I would catch the farmer’s market, which opened at four.

Which was exactly what I did.

And now we come to the actual subject of my post, where I sing the praises of the Mediterranean climate and all you New Yorkers get to feel jealous because my farmer’s market in late October has more and nicer produce than yours does in July. Just saying.

There was this woman selling dates, for example. I used to think I didn’t like dates. I also used to think I didn’t like figs, mostly for the same reason. My experience with those fruits had, for many years, consisted of refusing to eat the dried and overly sweetened versions that showed up in the little dried fruit bags given out at my elementary school in honor of Rosh Hashanah. They were awful. Granted, I had no appreciation for dried fruit at that age, but still.

I was introduced to fresh figs by my uncle who, at the time, had a fig tree growing in his backyard. He may still have it, for all I know. I hope he does; it grows excellent figs. It was fresh in the “I just pulled it off the tree” sense, and it was sweet and juicy and ripe and there it was; I liked figs.

This gave me the courage, some time later, to try a fresh date. It was like eating honey, only without the weird looks you get when you stick a spoon into a jar of honey and it eat straight. Whole passages of the Bible (namely the ones dealing with date honey) suddenly made sense. It was a revelation, only without the four-faced angels, fiery chariot and Chashmal.*

Which brings me back to the present day, when I encountered the stall of the woman selling three different types of dates who let me sample one of each. After some agonizing deliberation, I decided on a basket of honey dates to take home with me and was already eating the first one before I reached the next stall. I’ve been eating them for dessert since then.

And then there were the twenty or so stalls selling avocados. My favorite was the woman who had them priced as follows: Jumbo – $1.50, Big – $1.25, Regular – $1.00, Dinky – $0.50.

Then, of course, there was the herb stall. I think the guy sold other stuff, but the herbs were so overpowering. There was a gorgeous bunch of basil just begging to be turned into pesto, and how could I resist? There were actually something like five different varieties of basil there – Thai, Lemon, Purple…I wonder what lemon basil pesto tastes like.

As you can tell, it was just a little bit amazing. I think this is going to be my official Tuesday activity.

The basil, by the way, was turned into pesto tonight (though I fudged it a bit because Costco was out of pine nuts and the ones at Trader Joe’s weren’t kosher). The pesto was promptly turned into pesto pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers and goat cheese. It was the kind of pizza that basil dreams of becoming when it grows up.

~~~

*Chashmal means electricity in modern Hebrew, but is a hapax legomenon in the Bible and, unfortunately, the context in which it appears is so bizarre (The 2nd chapter of Ezekiel, which also mentions the four-faced angels and chariot referenced above) that we can’t really glean anything from the surrounding words. Also, the Talmud warns that people who speculate about the meaning of that word are eaten alive by fire, so perhaps I’d better not. Then again, after citing three circumstances in which a speculator suffered the aforementioned punishment, the Talmud goes on to ask “So what’s the Chashmal?” This tells you rather more about the authors of the Talmud than it does about the meaning of the word. (For those interested in where this little discussion is found, it’s Tractate Chagigah, Chapter 2. I think this bit’s on page 13a, but I’m not positive.)

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Farmers’ Market

  1. Sarah

    Firstly, BBB tends to be a little more expensive than some other stores for certain things . . . but I don’t know what other options you had, so whatever.
    Secondly, Coffee Bean is awesome. I love it. I’m planning on going this afternoon (since they opened one in NY, that has become my idea of a day trip).
    Thirdly, awesome about the farmer’s market. I wish NY had nicer produce.
    Lastly, the gemarah is weird. You should know that by now.

    Anyways, I hope all is well in California.

    ~Sarah

  2. Karin

    Dinky! Dinky! I want a dinky avocado!

    More coherently; the Coffee Bean on R’ Yaffo is horrible, but I’m glad you have a nice one. I must try a proper North American one next time we’re there.

    Please try a different type of basil every week so you can tell us about it. Especially about the lemon one.

    Re. Gemara… These are the same people who solved a minor problem regarding shechita by envisaging a camel impregnated with a calf. I will note in passing, though, that these days anyone who is not a skilled electrician who speculates in too investigative a manner about the nature of chashmal is likely to get pretty badly burned, so possibly they were just ahead of their time.

    • I did, actually, pick up a dinky one. Well, two. Well, two dinky ones and pomegranate.

      And I have lemon basil for this week. I think it’ll end up in pasta. It smells like a lemon, which is very cool, but makes me hope there’s also some basil in there.

      Re. Re. the Gemara – well, yes, that’s why we love them. They don’t think in terms of simplification and the world would be a far less rich place without their…insight.
      Also, mistranslating it has its rewards.

  3. And you have hit upon all the things I miss about California in one post. The food. The fact that healthy food is so affordable. Nevermind that the weather is awful and housing is expensive as hell and there’s no public transport (anymore, DAMN you, car culture!)–the food is good.

    This is why I always called California when my friends were like, ‘When I rule the world, I will give my friends places to live–where do you want to rule?’ Everyone else was calling things like France and Italy, and Asia, and I was just like, ‘Nope, California is fine.’ ‘Not America’ ‘Nah.’ ‘OKay then. Why are you smirking?’ ‘I now control ALL THE FOOD BWHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA’

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