Friday, August 14, 2015

Heirloom Tomatoes, Creamsicle Cakes, and Rage

I made a deal with myself when I came back from California that I would cook more and try some new recipes I've been saving. I do this all the time; I find recipes and then I never make them. For whatever reason, this promise made me think of a story from my childhood. I have no actual memory of this event. It's just what my family has recounted. Over and over and over again. It goes like this:

I used to rock hats pretty regularly.
When I was around 4 or 5, my Grandpa K (my mom's dad; K is for Korzeniowski) ended up babysitting me one day. I'm sure this was not on his list of favorite activities but he did it because that's what grandpas do. He was a quiet man; later in life he would inexplicably become a raging country music fan and do a daily crossword puzzle to keep his mind sharp (two things I also love). He also had the most amazing head of hair; not a hint of gray even when he was in his 80s. I wish I could say the same thing about my own hair. Anyway, he had to watch me the whole day so that meant he had to make me lunch. I assume I also took a nap at some point and played in the backyard (making mudpies, a hobby of mine at the time). Later on my mom asked me about my day with grandpa. I told her grandpa fed me dog food.

My mother loves telling this story, particularly the part about the dog food. My grandpa did not feed me dog food; he fed me chili but my 5 year old self saw dog food. However, I ate it and didn't question his choices which says something about our relationship. I had probably never had chili before. How would I know? If I ever get married, my mother will tell this story at my wedding.

I've never enjoyed cooking. I can cook and am pretty good at it as long as there's a recipe or it's something I've made a million times. I'm not saying the dog food/chili incident has anything to do with my cooking habits but it's a funny story to tell when I think about food and cooking. When you're single and don't have roommates, cooking is not as easy or as much fun. You either have to make sad meals for one, figure out how to cut recipes without losing the taste, or resign yourself to eating the same thing for days. Freezing leftovers is an option but I always forget about them and end up of throwing too much food away. Wasteful.

However, I need to challenge myself in this area. There is no reason to eat frozen food or eggs or cereal for dinner (at least not all the time). I am capable of making a homemade creamsicle cake so
clearly I can get more inventive in the kitchen. I decided to start simply with a recipe that involves virtually no cooking but would require me to do two things I'm not particularly fond of doing:
  1. Use a food processor. My food processor and I have a hate/hate relationship for no apparent reason.
  2. Go to a farmers' market on a Saturday.
I know, I know. I'm a white woman in my thirties who lives in a quasi-urban area. Farmers' markets are supposed to be my thing like fancy coffee and wearing yoga pants as real pants. I like supporting local farmers and other small businesses. I enjoy buying delicious sourdough bread from this one baker because it reminds me of the delicious bread I used to buy at the Oakland Famers' Market. The cucumbers and peaches I bought on this trip were some of the best I have had this summer and the grape tomatoes were the definition of perfection. The flower guys are the best; this time around I got a crab dip recipe, pointers for how to store the baguette I purchased if I wasn't going to eat it right away, and a beautiful sunflower that is still alive a week later.

I go to the market in Old Town Alexandria. I've been going for years so I'm familiar with the layout and most of the farmers and vendors who come out weekly. I don't go every week; maybe once a month. I still get a little overwhelmed at the sheer volume of things for sale (it all looks so delicious) and I feel a tad guilty that I can't buy something from everyone but such is life. This is not what I don't like about farmers' markets. No, what gets me about the market is the other people. Not the regulars who know what they're shopping for and who walk with purpose around Market Square. It's the amblers, the stop in the middle of the flow of traffic-ers, and the people with insanely large baby carriages that drive me into a rage. There is not enough room for this kind of nonsense. By all means bring your children, but don't bring a small car. If you don't know where something is, step to the side so others can get by you. These are the people that make me unleash my inner Miranda Priestly. All I want is heirloom tomatoes and you are in the way.

I don't normally buy heirloom tomatoes (scratch that, I have never bought heirloom tomatoes) but I wanted them for this very simple, no cook recipe featuring heirloom tomatoes, avocado, red onion, french bread, garlic, and cheese. Basically everything that is good and delicious in life. The only things I had to make were the herb dressing (Erin-1, Food Processor-0) and roasted garlic olive oil. To get to the heirloom tomatoes I had to dodge two large baby carriages (with super cute babies so there's a positive), an ambler, a couple in matching workout clothes who were criticizing people for not bringing their own bags, and a trio of young women, sipping coffee and stopping every five seconds to complain about their other friend who stood them up that morning. They're the ones that stopped in front of the tomatoes. Yes, I asked them to move. Politely. Did they listen? After the third request. One of them rolled her eyes at me. Youths.

Did I have to go to the farmers' market? No, but I wanted to. There was something about this meal that made me want to go there. I wanted to have the full experience of talking with the people who grow the vegetables and watching people buy unnecessary items and discuss the price of eggs with some random guy selling them from a card table. I wanted to see other people get exasperated with the amblers and baby carriages and get recipe tips from the flower guy. That's so much more summery and fun than going to the grocery.

I truly believe that I'm turning into the little old lady I will be one day faster and faster every day. If it's not old lady concert rules, it's dealing with the youths at the farmers' market or questioning the choices of a person who crosses a busy street while texting. I don't mean to be a curmudgeon but sometimes I can't help myself. 

I started my week with heirloom tomatoes and home infused olive oil and ended it with a simple dish my mom told me about, another Grandpa K original: cottage cheese, onions, and pasta. Easy, simple, and surprisingly delicious.

Glacial Pace meme

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