Today marked the end of my winter countdown. The first farmers' market of the season is always a turning point—the day when the first leafy edibles emerge and our waning faith in summer becomes tangible once again.
So when the morning of the first two markets of the season dawned cool and rainy early today, my mood sank. I had eaten the last of the butternut squash, the last gnarled hunk of celeriac, even the last cranberry. I couldn't wait much longer.
A phone call to the Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans confirmed my disappointment; no white tents were to dot the mid-Cape parking lot this morning. By noon, however, the clouds had scattered. I jumped into the Volvo hell bent on an afternoon trip to Provincetown's Ryder Square.
A quarter hour later I stood beneath a white plastic canopy listening to Silverbrook Farm representative Andy Pollock extol on the virtues of a strong-yolked egg. "A really dark orange means the chickens are eating well," he explains. "Plenty of organic matter."
One woman is searching through the cartoons in hopes of finding a "double." Pollock points her in the direction of his jumbo brown eggs, which he says are more likely to have the double yolk she is hoping for. Some attribute the tendency to lay the long, thin double yolks to genetics, some to good health, and others to a unsynchronized production cycles. Pollock attributes his lucky finds to the hens' good health. "If you find one," he adds, "let us know."
The other producers at the market are equally full of farm-tales and tidbits. I taste a cheese made by two very shy brothers whose mother sent them to France learn to make this one sought-after variety, a handful of pea greens, and a scoop of smoked bluefish dip.
By the time I have made my way through the ten odd stands, my belly is full with local foods and my bags heavy with the week's menu. It has taken me longer to complete my shopping in the square than at the grocer's, perhaps, and I have likely spent more per item. But I have picked up more, too; I learned the lore behind a double-yolked egg, buried my nose in a barrel of Cape grown lavender, and chatted with a dozen friends and neighbors.
This, I remember, is what food shopping should be: a cacophony of tastes and voices open to the air and the sway of the season. It's good to be back.
SIX GRAIN CROSTINIS WITH PEA TENDRILS, THIMBLE CHEESE, AND AGED BALSAMIC
Makes 4 small crostini
Toast 2 slices Danish Pastry House six grain bread; cut in half diagonally. Spread each triangle with one Rosemary Hannahbell from Shy Brothers' Farm (about one tablespoon of soft, briny cheese). Top with pea tendrils and several drops of sweet aged balsamic vinegar. Enjoy immediately as an appetizer or light lunch.