It was one of those rare March days - when the clouds part and the sun gives a sneak preview of spring days to come. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought so, I mused, pulling into the parking lot. Two lines of white canopies were sandwiched between rows of parked cars, bicycles, and pedestrians wielding flats of the season's first strawberries.
Grabbing bags from the trunk, I headed toward the umbrellas. It had been a year since I'd been to this farmers' market - my favorite and the best in my part of the Bay Area.
School budget battles had called. Carpools and a cross-town move, complete with the boxes, crates and drama. I'd given up the sumptuous stroll of the farmers' market for the abundant convenience of a CSA. I picked up the farm's offerings up weekly at a little saltbox house across from the local park. The farm reused the boxes and in return, gave me more carrots than you can shake a stick at, more Brussels sprouts and cabbage than I could want, and not enough apples. It worked for us. We supported a local farm. We ate healthy and seasonally of organic, locally raised veggies. It was perfect. Except that was is not.
Picking up a CSA box is lovely. It is an adventure to ease apart the cardboard to see what this week holds. It is exciting figure out how to cook what someone else packed.
But it is not the farmers' market. It is not the ten year old deftly slicing navel oranges or the apple cider samples set out jauntily next to crates overflowing with Fujis. It does not pull you like the glimpse of spring's first blackberries, peering sloe eyed through the crowd, or seduce like the nubile bunch of asparagus, bound together and perched on a oilcloth covered table. It lacks the sounds - the brash twenty year old hawking his family farm's winter squash or the older woman handing out naturally scented handmade soap samples. There are no bins of nuts and dried fruits lined up. Nor glass jars of amber honey. Not even an array of goat cheese - from creamy soft to rock hard.
That morning, as I wandered through the farmers' market stalls, filling cloth bags with snap peas and purple cauliflower, I emptied the entire contents of my wallet. Finally, as I headed back to the car, we passed the strawberries. Perky. Big and audaciously red. Digging into my back pocket, I pulled out the $10 pilfered from my "emergency cash" fund. As I handed my last dollar bill over to the handsome berry farmer, I realized it was true.
I was falling in love again.