It's easy to feel disconnected in a large city, I think -- to feel distanced from everything that matters, some social graces or common courtesy. A trip to the market can offer a sort of cure-all for the disease that is City Irritation, a remedy for those plagued by stress and anxiety.
I woke up with the sun this morning. It usually happens despite my best intentions. I sat around drinking strongly brewed chai tea, made breakfast in a clean kitchen, read the Globe and Mail online and caught up on my reading. I walked to St. Lawrence, grabbing a coffee along the way -- you can say what you will about Starbucks, but hats off to Howard Schultz for carving that empire -- and walking by St. James Church, admiring the architecture.
I love that at the market, you are confronted by choices you once never thought possible. Freestone or clingstone peaches? Early Redhaven, Garnet Beauty, Harrow Dawn. They sound like beautiful women in a fairytale. I like the small peaches that first come out in July the best. They're amazingly sweet and the juice runs down your arm freely with wild abandon. I buy a few, but I'll need to wait a few weeks for the canning variety, I'm told. No freestones yet.
There's melons of every variety - cantaloupes, muskmelons, sugar baby, watermelon. Heirloom tomatoes and fava beans. Fresh garlic, strawberries still holding on, baby cucumbers slightly soft to the touch, corn-on-the-cob. A man stops me when he realizes I'm blindly picking my cobs. "You'd think they're all the same," he says, "but they're not." He pulls back the husk on one to expose a few black bits. "Here, this is a good one." I leave with six ears of good corn.
The blackberries have grown bigger since a couple of weeks ago. The first of the season were tiny and tart, like the Shiro plums just coming into season. These blackberries are plumper than the ones are the grocery store but still tender to the touch, still delicate, but extremely sweet.
I pick up a large cucumber from a man who drives all the way into the city from Leamington, close to my home town. I always try to purchase something from him. Maybe that's the nostalgia in me talking. Jalapenos and poblano peppers. Beautiful purple flowers from the Mennonite growers who are here every week selling the most gorgeous bouquets. They are always busy, the barrels filled with female gawkers. When you don't have a garden, it's the next best thing.