"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wild Food

What it is about farmer's markets that makes me feel wild?  They do not offer wild animals, big mountains, unexpected dangers or adventures.  They take place in suburbia, which is the environment that is most antithetical to wildness.  Suburbia is planned, landscaped, safe, and sanitized.  I often hear jokes about farmer's markets being the required accoutrement for trendy, hip, white people.  I am aware of this stereotype as I pull up to the market in my high-efficiency car covered in love-the-world bumper stickers, step out in my crocs and ripped jeans, and tote my reusable shopping bag and patchwork hippie purse from stall to stall.

This is the first time I have been to my local farmer's market in months, simply due to busy weekend plans.  I have been looking forward to this Sunday opportunity all week.  I am surprised to notice my bodily reaction as I finally arrive at my anticipated destination.  The sight of piles of fresh green beans and barrels of awkwardly-shaped eggplants spilling over stops my breath in my chest.  I feel my feet grounded to the earth and I have the urge to roll in the tomatoes (I don't).  I hear the bluegrass band harmonica wafting from the other side of the market, and a little girl with huge eyes hurls a grimy hand blindly up to a table above her head to swipe a cucumber.  I smile and hug myself a bit in the chilly, early Autumn air.

Perhaps my feeling of wildness actually comes from the knowledge that I am right in the middle of un-wild suburbia.  Something feels slightly rebellious about these "blemished" apples and thin, crooked carrots.  As if the carrot is jabbing itself out into the world with a "Take that, produce section!  I will NOT grow perfectly round and fat for you!  These are my curves and divots and I love them."

Or take, for instance, these crazy things:
Have you ever seen them?  Me either, until today.  I stood puzzled over this bin for a few moments before asking the farmer what they are. 

He replied, "Paw-paws.  They are a local fruit that Native Americans used to grow."  His eyes glinted and he picked one up to show me.  "Feel this."  I do.  "See how soft it is?"  I nod.  "This one will taste like vanilla custard."  He closes his eyes for a moment as if lost in a private fantasy.  I shift a bit uneasily, waiting for him to return to me.  His eyes pop open.  "You just slice the skin open and let it slip off gently.  Then scoop out the line of seeds and eat the rest with a spoon."  He presents it to me like a treasured gift that he has made just for me.  I take it.

"How come I've never seen them at the supermarket?"  I ask, a little worried that this might be a stupid question.

He laughs.  "You'll never see these at Safeway!  They don't ship well.  Best to just pluck them off the tree and let them get soft on your kitchen table for a few days."

And that is when I get that familiar, chest-tingly feeling of wildness - the same one I get when I have an unexpected wildlife encounter in the forest; like I am in the presence of something holy.  This fruit is all about the moment.  Nevermind shipping across the world like bananas or mangoes.  This round, squishy teacher forces us to eat her right where she grew.  She refuses to have it any other way.

Go on with your wild self, you crazy paw-paw you!


  1. now i must have a paw-paw. this post is glorious. simply glorious.
    i've never been to a farmer's market in my life...until i read this.

  2. Really?! You don't know what you're missing! Maybe I'll have to take you before you leave.