People, it is that sorta day.

When you meet your "village" for pancakes and chocolate milk and never mind that there are tubs of margarine and bottles of Aunt Jemima (that make you wish you had brought a stick of butter, slick of maple syrup and jar of peanut butter instead). There are so many faces you know and so many you don't, an old co-worker to hug and chalked-up pavement to sit on with friends while music way too loud for 9:30 pounds into your head. There are balloons and ice cream cones, fire trucks and 80-year-old Norwegian dancers, sparkly kites, your favourite Zumba song and a gigantic inflatable obstacle course (which you have now decided you want for your birthday party this year)!

When the sun shines and you suddenly realize you are overdressed.

When you bike to the Moss Street Market - the first full one of the year and it is full - of people and motion and laughter, rippling in the act of gather. There are sausages being fried in onions that smell like the best kind of caramel, handmade patchwork stuffed animals, a little dog so small and noble and well-behaved you think, for the first time in your life, you might like one. A kale bonsai tree, a man who cracks apricot kernels for medicine and a bunch of little beets, sweet and striped inside, like a secret prize, that you know you will eat with meltingly ripe, ash-dusted goat cheese. 

When the wind blows (confused, in a tangle) sending whirls of tissue paper pink cherry blossoms up around you (there is no end of things in the heart).

When you drop by Fairfield Market and there are so many small wonders packed inside that you wish there were a tiny community store like this on your street - full of mixing and mingling, the blast of steam and waft of roasting coffee, counters lined with just-picked specials - tight tauts of asparagus (from Cowichan Bay),  duck eggs and heaps of flowering kale!

When mangoes are the juiciest and drippiest and sweetest they've ever been.

When you go to Finest at Sea because you've heard spot prawn season has begun and oh, it has - they're throwing them, jolting and alive, right onto the grill, dousing them with olive oil and garlic and lemon juice and herbs and you eat two - huge and hot and crunchy, sweet and charred, every bit of them, even the snap of the head, juicy pure, spilling down your hand. When you bring home a pound, alive, feelers poking through plastic, probably dripping everywhere, balloon to your backpack and everywhere you go people are looking at each other, in the eye, and smiling. 

And, just now, sitting in the backyard, under the shade of the birch tree, pollen dropping between the cracks of your keyboard, your neighbour gives you four shit-stained eggs, from Hagar Line and Henrietta, and you are so glad you live here, in this city, in this village, on this day, on this street, in this house, here.

Oh, it is that sorta day. 

Avocado, Mango and Spot Prawn Tacos
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman

1 pound live spot prawns
glug of olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 serrano chile, minced
1 tsp whole cumin, toasted and ground
1/2 large mango, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
juice of 1 lime
1/2 avocado, sliced
3 corn tortillas

Haul out your BBQ, light it with a whoosh and turn everything up as high as it will go. Shut the lid and leave to preheat for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, gather all your ingredients and make sure they're ready to go. This comes together quickly! Also, preheat your oven to 350 F.

Throw the prawns onto the grill and cook them for about 2 minutes, or until they start to char. Flip them over and cook a minute or two longer. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, enough so you can handle them. You want to rip off their heads (eating the occasional one), pull off their legs and basically peel them. Save  the heads and legs and shells though because you can make a bitchin' stock with them.

Once you're almost done this task and thinking how little you ended up with, start heating a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pour in a glug of olive oil, add the garlic and saute for a minute or so, stirring frequently. Add the chile and saute for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the cumin, mango, most of the cilantro leaves and prawns, which you should have finished peeling by now. Put the tortillas in the oven to warm - they take about thirty seconds on each side. Cook the prawn mixture for about a minute, just to heat everything through, then add the lime juice and turn off the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings - add a bit of salt and crack of black pepper if you like.

Place the tortillas on a plate, divide the prawn mixture evenly between them, top with avocado, the remaining cilantro leaves and you're done!

Enough for 1. Double or triple or quadruple accordingly!


A suggestion

What should you do the first day it's actually warm out? (Actually, sit-in-the-sun, glow-in-your-bones from the legs to your toes to the tip of your head warm out.) You might want to go for a bike ride with your boy, chugging up hills, ripping off your toque and gloves when they become unnecessary, pointing to flowers and backyards with awesome treehouses (note to self: live in a treehouse when you grow up), stopping at the Root Cellar for apples and to eat most of the watermelon samples. You might discover that your tire has a gash in it - the tube protrudes right through. You might press on regardless. Your tube might pop. You might find a perfect picnic spot, mostly quiet, in a meadow filled with flowers, shafts of sunlight and hardly any wind. You might get dandelion pollen all over your pants, but that's okay. You might eat apples and skordalia and turnips and their greens, homemade oatmeal bars and barely thawed bread (and curse yourself for not bringing more). You might read an entire book of poetry and finish it off with a hunk of cheese. You might feel like you've been dreaming, in another world. You might walk to Cadboro Bay for trail mix and find duck legs on sale at Peppers. This is the start of it!

The next day you might walk to MEC to get a new tire, this time stopping at Cascadia for a cinnamon bun. You might squint your eyes and wrinkle your nose to discover it sore from the sun yesterday, and more today. You might successfully change your tire, mount your steed and barely thirty seconds later hear the crack of your boyfriend's tube exploding so violently it rips actual chunks of metal from the wheel rim, leaving it in shreds. You might continue, on foot, to the Moss Street Market. You might start to feel impatient.  Once there you might choose a swath of overgrown mustard greens and your boyfriend might carefully, dawdlingly, select a pound of potatoes. That's the next of it!

At home your annoyance might billow as all the little things to do swirl up and around you when really, all you want to do is sit outside in that glorious sun. You might realize how terribly sad you are now that today is the last day - your boyfriend is leaving you tomorrow (temporarily) to become an evergreen farmer. You might spread peanut butter on celery, sprinkle raisins on top, call it ants on a log and cry. That's necessary too.

And then you might cook. Those duck legs with potatoes and just a few other things - onion and a snatch of thyme. Panettone bread pudding. (So simple! The bread being what it is you don't even need more butter or sugar or even fruit. You just slice it into large cubes, toast them to a handsome brown, whip up two eggs with 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup cream, soak the toasted cubes in that for about 5 minutes, ladle into a greased baking dish that goes into a water bath in a 350 F oven until the custard sets and the top crusts (a toothpick will come out clean)). You might eat outside, rolling up your sleeves and removing your socks, devouring crispy skin, gamy meat and crunchy fat-soaked potatoes sopped with sharp greens. You might think how filling it all is, the fat, the sun, the simple sigh from the guy across the picnic table from you. You might feel perfectly satiated.

Roast Duck and Potatoes
Adapted from French in a Flash 

The original recipe called for scallions (which might be nice) and peas (which won me over) but I didn't have either. Next time! Also, as I did not have any herbes de Provence in my otherwise extensive spice drawer I used my imagination and crumbled some dried thyme, rosemary, tarragon and oregano together. Turns out, standardly, herbes de provence is a mixture of savoury, fennel, basil and thyme. Work with what you've got!

1 pound small, buttery potatoes (or more, if you like)
1 medium onion
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 duck legs, thighs attached
herbes de Provence (see note above)
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Slice the potatoes into thirds. Peel the onion, leaving the root end intact, then slice into rough chunks held together by that root end. Toss the potatoes and onion with the thyme, 1/2 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper. Slide into the oven to start softening.

Trim any excess fat off the duck and reserve. Rub the legs with the remaining 1/2 tsp olive oil, sprinkle with the herbes de provence and season with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet (oh boy it's going to love this!) over medium-high heat and add the reserved duck fat so that it starts to render. (You can eat any pieces that go particularly crisp.) Place the duck legs skin side down into the pan and sear for about 4 minutes, until the skin is beautifully golden. Flip and sear for another minute.

Place the duck legs on top of the roasting vegetables. (If you like, you can also toss the vegetables with any duck fat left over in your skillet). Cook for 30 to 35 minutes, until the juices run clear. Rest for a couple minutes then serve on a bed of sharp greens to provide contrast and soak up the juicy fat. Eat and be full, in the richest sense of the word.

Serves two.