A brave barter

Hello. I am glad to be back here. I must apologize for the break in our regularly scheduled program last week. I was in Seattle with a dear friend, wining and dining and walking about the city. We devoured our bread and butter and nearly stole our neighbours' while enjoying a fantastic Valentine's day supper at Le Pichet. The following day we had a simple but stunning lunch in the gorgeous white-washed Boat Street Kitchen. Everywhere we went we received exceptional service. It was an excellent trip!

Now to the matter at hand - what to talk about today?

I just realized that in the past week I have consumed an extraordinary amount of liver. I have eaten no less than four different types - chicken, duck, rabbit and goose. The rabbit was certainly the most surprising and, not surprisingly, the goose was the most delicious. As in all-out, complete, utter bliss. Sigh. Foie gras. I get dreamy-eyed just thinking about it.

But, despite my predilection for liver, I also love greens. I seem to particularly covet the ones that are hard to find, at least in most grocery stores. I crave yellow flowering kale buds, crinkly cauliflower leaves and sharp turnip greens. I love pulling these from their stalks and nibbling on them immediately - raw, crisp and pungent. But, with no garden this year and markets months away from opening, I am in an unfortunate predicament. As it stands, I have not even had any kale this year. A shame. Some may even say a dirty, rotten shame.

Just a couple blocks down the street there is a beautiful garden laid out in the front yard. There are two towering Tuscan kale plants (my favourite!), several rows of cabbage, and cauliflower that has gone to seed, billowing into yellowed florets. Every time I walk or bike or pass by this garden I get dreamy-eyed, even  though it isn't foie gras.

Well, on Saturday, I decided to be brave. I had brought home a lovely, baby loaf of whole-wheat bread from the bakery I work at. It was simply too cute to leave behind. I mulled over whether I should give it to a friend or make itty-bitty sandwiches with it or maybe just cuddle it to death. Anyway, I was also planning on making a bean curry for supper, from my new Nigel Slater cookbook Tender. This particular curry called for handfuls of leafy soft green cabbage (such as spring greens) to be steamed or blanched before being stirred into the curry as the final coup de grace. I contemplated where I might find the most marvelous, frilly-leaved cabbage at this time of the year. I decided that Village Family Marketplace might be just the ticket - they often sell tiny, beautiful (albeit expensive) local vegetables - and if that proved fruitless (or should I say vegetableless?) I could try the Market on Yates. I saddled up my pony, by which I mean bike, and as I rode past the garden it hit me. A barter! Yes, I could trade my bread for their greens. I have always been a proponent, if not a practitioner, of bartering.

I was scared though. Who were those people? Would they think I was absolutely ridiculous approaching them with such a proposition? I didn't even have the bread on me. I kept pedalling. Village Family Marketplace was closed (I actually suspect they may be going out of business) and what was on offer at the Market on Yates looked awful. So, just before my final destination, I stopped. I propped my bike against a tree and marched up the steps, heart pounding. I noticed the pile of cigarette butts and the chipped paint, the doorbell dangling from a wire and gulped. I knocked. No one answered. I knocked again but nothing. I sighed and went home.

Awhile later I started my supper. It is always pleasurable to assemble curries. I sliced half-moons of onions and softened them slowly, rhythmically. I cracked spices, toasted them, and as I ground them, inhaled the wafting fragrance. Tomatoes crackled and hissed when I scraped the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Finally, there was nothing left to do but perch the lid askance and let the curry burble and blip for half an hour.

I still needed my greens though and resolved to try my luck again. If no one was home this time, well then I'd just go to Fairway and get a regular, old cabbage. But when I approached the house a light was on. I knocked and this time the door was answered by a friendly, young, completely unfrightening guy. I introduced myself, complimented the burgeoning garden, mentioned I worked at a bakery, had brought home an adorable loaf of bread, was cooking a curry, would love some greens, could we trade? It was far more rambling and incoherent that that, at least on my part, but that was the jist of what I said.

The guy looked a bit perplexed. He explained that it was his sister's garden and that he really didn't have much to do with it. He asked to see the bread and agreed that it was pretty darn cute. He looked thoughtful. Finally, he said what I'd hoped he'd say - Yeah, sure, why not. We stood on the front steps and talked, small talk, and the sky was changing from pale blue to deep purple and the last golden bits of the sun were scraping against the bare branches and power lines around us and it was so great.

I came home with a bundle of cabbage leaves and a wild, uncontrollable grin. The vivid, bright-green cabbage looked beautiful atop the luscious, yellow-beaned, red-juiced curry.

No recipe this week. Just possibility. Be brave.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe I took all those lovely pictures of your food and you chose to put one of me in instead. You should switch to our meals - they are much more attractive than I.

    In my personal culinary news (and in direct contradiction to your own) I recently discovered that you can microwave rice. I attempted it yesterday with some success - they are several different choices, varying time and coverings.

    Also, I am excited to hunt for quintzes with you again. They are so cute and fuzzy.

    Your dear friend,