Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Sunday Morning in Portland: The King Farmers' Market

Dolly-girl was in the kitchen putting another percolator of joe on the Tappan when the blower sparked. It was in the hallway in one of those little arched spots where you're supposed to have your blower and the look-em-ups. We do. I picked up. "Felice Domenica. Possano tutti i santi vi protegga oggi." "Mornin' Jack." Kitty. "Buon giorno!" "Working on your eh-talian again, eh (she pronounces it like Dolly-girl). What part of Italy was your family from? Sounds like you speak Italiano iGoogli..." "Very funny, Kitty. What's it?"

"You and Dolly-girl up for a trip to the farm market? I got some people coming tonight and I need to gets some fill-em-ups." I gave Dolly-girl the quick once over on what Kitty was saying and she was game. "We're in, you're on, come over, we'll go." "Got it. See ya."

Half around the Timex and we were headed down the street. It's a nice fall day so we're riding shank's mare. Kitty and Dolly-girl are yapping while I bring up the rear, keeping an eye out for trouble to fall out of the trees like samaras from a big-leaf maple, which is a lot these days. They're paying me no nevermind and I suppose I could take the day off, but then if I did, trouble might not, and then I wouldn't be ready and word would get around. Follow? Plus one good thing about keeping your peepers peeled is you see some things that make you wonder about what goes on in the heads of the people you can't see. In my business, that's sort of time well spent. Like who needs a radio-telescope in their yard and what's with keeping your chiffarobe outside?

We walked up to where we would have set our brake at the King branch of the Stumptown Farmers' Market if we'd been in the roadster instead of trying the whole "good for the body, good for the earth" thing that Kitty and Dolly-girl spout. First stop is to get some cackleberries from a hen rancher we've been talking with when he's there to be talked to. He runs about 700 head down The Valley in Champoeg. I'm here to tell you these beauties stand up and crow!

Kitty and Dolly-girl were checking out the this and thats from a bakery that sets up shop. Before long baked things were being broken and swapped and purrs were coming out of mouths. Fall flowers were everywhere. And there were things maybe you don't see at markets in cities other than Stumptown.

What's-up-docs were easy to be had this time of year. Melanzana were piled high in baskets, just waiting for Dolly-girl to cook up Nonna Bianchi's recipe for melanzane parmigiano, although Kitty prefers the Tagliavore approach to the whole eggplant thing.

There was still a good supply of vegetables, although there was a different feeling to the market today. I watched people shift from foot to foot and back again, turning from the wind, and looking like they didn't like what everyone knows is coming when Old Mister starts dropping low and Stumptown turns the collar of its London Fog up for a few months. But that's the time that brings my business out of the woodwork, and after a few months of not doing much, I'm ready to start working some cases, talking with people who need talking with, whether they want to talk to me or not and finding people who need found. It's what I do.

But something was starting to smell fishy this day at this market, and it wasn't the fins, flippers, oysters, and clams in the cooler. I walked by a joint selling herbs and vegetables. There was something not right. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, someone not wise to the whole farmer game, was setting up shop. I reached in my jacket pocket, in the little slit next to my heater where I keep a notebook. I made a note. "When what's-up-docs aren't, and roses aren't breath, the soups gonna taste like pumpkins and peppers." I'm sure when I find that note I'll wonder "what the hell was that about..."

The three of us made a final walk-around and check-it-out, each of us looking for something different, and you know what I had an eye out for. Then we headed back to where we set the brake if we had a brake to set.

Dolly-girl and Kitty were talking this and that while I went over what sort of caper could have been up back there at the mercato degli agricoltori. I guess time will tell me if she ever learns to speak.


Flowers said...

I am feeling hungry. would have to buy some vegetables from sunday market, cook it and finally enjoy it as I did while I go through your blog.

Newsman said...

Cripes, John, I am drooling!
Our gardens have been frosted last week and we only have our potatoes and carrots to tide us over the long winter!
As usual, the photos are grand, mon vieux!