Our first date was at the Farmer’s Market. Of course, we didn’t call our rendezvous a “date” at the time, but that’s what it was. I called it “shopping.” And it’s true, I was there to shop. Grocery list in hand, it was a mission to buy exactly what was needed and in the precise amounts for the recipe I was making. Before I met my wife, you see, I approached cooking (and the requisite purchasing of ingredients) something like a German approaches bridge-building: namely, as an exercise in precision. I was a good cook, but an exacting cook. If a recipe called for Gorgonzola, bleu cheese would not do. On those occasions when I cooked with my father, a chef, I was horrified when he would suggest that I dispense with the measuring devise and “estimate a teaspoon.”
Why this comes to mind now may have something to do with the meeting this morning with a business consultant. I had brought with me the work I’ve been doing these past couple of weeks on retail pricing charts for Duba & Company’s inventory (it’s one of the last things that needs to be in place before we can open our online storefront). His concern was over there being too much time and attention given to computing costs, weights, and measurements (“estimate”, was his advice). A case of analysis paralysis. Unless you’re dealing with pharmaceuticals, building an airplane, or space travel, close is close enough. In other words, “simplify!”
Somewhere in the past couple of years I’m happy to say that–in at least one area of my life–I have (my wife takes credit for it). I’ve discovered the joy of showing up at the market without much by way of a shopping list. I’ll take a walk around to see what’s in season, what’s being offered, and to look for inspiration, waiting for something to present itself. And it does! There was the time last August that I walked away from the Rockford Market with the ingredients of a fresh, simple, but brightly flavorful lunch of blackberries, smoked white fish, rustic bread, and a smoked onion marmalade. Later that same month, after visiting the Fulton Street Farmers Market, my wife and I left with a picnic basket of mealy crackers, farm fresh cheese, chutney, and–after one more stop–beer. We toted the makings of our lunch to the top of Pyramid Point where, on the bluff of this sand dune, we enjoyed the contents of our basket while looking out over the lake that lends Michigan its name (or maybe it’s the other way round).
Maybe in these recollections I’m looking for a kinder, gentler approach to accounting. Maybe I can’t wait for the warmer weather that brings with it a bustling Farmers’ Market. Or maybe it’s time to start laying plans for a summer vacation (but not, of course, laying holiday plans in the manner of that infamous German-American vacation planner, Clark Griswold).