We drove 19 hours from Seattle to L.A. this week and I had only one request: take me to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
You see, we were supposed to be in Mexico this week. Just before the economy tanked, we had made a reservation for a week stay in Sayulita, just north of Puerto Vallarta. We had rented out the top two floors of a house with a pool, not far from the beach. April and I were lucky to be able to afford this trip (thank you Grandma) and had crossed off the days on the calendar, for months.
But then, one day, the day before we were to leave, an idiot was born. I started packing us up, grabbed our passports, flipped them open and stared in utter horror at the expiration date on mine.
Expired 32 days. Ago.
The day: Sunday. We were supposed to leave at 6 am the following morning. Our plane tickets? The non-refundable kind with steep fees. An expedited passport? Might take a day, might take 2, but the airline tickets would be beyond our financial abilities. April was at work, doing inventory before she got out of town. The call I placed to her was one I’d rather forget. Luckily for me and speaking volumes about her, she said the following words, “I would never make you feel worse than you already do.”
“Road-trip to California!” she exclaimed, expertly disguising any disappointment from her voice. I gave her a virtual blank check by way of apology. “Whatever you want to do this week,” I say, “we’ll do.” She grabs the phone and calls up her closest friends that dot the map along the west coast, places she’s lived with people who are family to her.
We hit the road, singing Air Supply at the top of our lungs and then holding our breath as we pass the putrid methane-soaked towns 100 miles north of L.A. We listen to KCRW’s Good Food and I feel the Disneyland-esque tingle of excitement to visit the famous farmer’s market I’ve been hearing about for years.
This is my favorite thing in the whole world to do. Travel to a place I’ve never been. Shop at a local farmer’s market. Revel in the incredible products, so different from home. Chat with the farmers. Spend money with the same ease that movie stars drop it on Rodeo Drive, knowing that this week - I’m on vacation - food is officially off my list of things to budget on.
We buy everything and feel personally responsible for lifting the local economy. Our fingers are puffy and red, the circulation long cut off from the weight of our bags.
We ate these out of hand, they are sweeter and more complex than the oval ones I'm more familiar with.
We take home our harvest and I plan for a brunch the next morning, just before we pile back in the car to start our drive up to San Francisco. On the menu: my version of chilaquiles (fried tortillas layered with roasted vegetables such as heirloom tomatoes, poblano chiles and onions with eggs poured over the top along with jack or spicy gouda cheese and baked until puffed as in a frittata.) I made a roasted tomatillo salsa and some simple guacamole. To start I stuffed squash blossoms with a mixture of tomato, basil and fresh goat cheese, then fried them until brown in a pan and served them with a balsamic glaze. To finish we ate little bowls of mixed berries and kumquat slices served with a lime zest simple syrup. We drank fresh squeezed tangerine juice mixed with lime wedges and sparkling water. We smiled vacation smiles and wondered what Mexico could possibly have that we were missing at this moment.