Usually when it’s hot and humid in Minnesota in August, I wallow in nostalgia for my South Carolina upbringing–which leads me to cook some Southern something like fried chicken or peach pie, and post the recipe.
But this August (at least right now, knock wood) Minnesota is at its finest–sunny days in the seventies, with low dew points, and great sleeping weather in the fifties. Instead of my thoughts roaming to the past, they’re sticking right here. It would never feel this good in August in South Carolina!
So I’ll give you a recipe partaking of our own wonderful local produce, which is finally abundantly here after a long, slow, cold spring. It comes with a story that involves two vehicles.
My husband Jeff is on the board of our neighborhood Fulton Farmers Market. Twenty-six vendors bring their produce, flowers, maple syrup, honey, organic chickens, eggs, salmon, artisan cheese, baked goods, and food trucks to a church parking lot every Saturday morning. We walk over with our mutt Murf, turn him over to Will, one of the volunteer dog sitters/walkers from Urban Dog. He runs him around a nearby park until Murphy realizes he’s running farther away from his parents than he likes, and drags Will back. By that time we’ve bought all sorts of fresh vegetables, and get a big, happy reunion with a joyous dawg.
Jeff volunteered to write a piece on one of the vendors for our southwest Minneapolis newspaper, a great excuse for us to go visit Peter and Carmen Marshall’s farm down near Shakopee. We got lost three or four times getting there, but finally arrived in the middle of lush farm fields at the Marshalls’ two story white house. There was an apple orchard in the side yard, a little farm stand for selling vegetables roadside, a red utility building, and twenty acres behind the house bursting with raspberry bushes, corn, strawberries, tomato, and cabbage plants. I was driving our 2007 Volvo station wagon, aka “The Hearse,” black, with dark-tinted back windows. I’ve never gotten quite used to that car. It has some nice features, like heated seats, and it beeps when you almost back into something, but it has bells and whistles I’ve never needed or wanted. Just the other day I set the alarm off by reaching in the half-open window to unlock the door. Jeff, who had the keys, had gone to buy beer while I bought groceries, returning to the car ahead of him. It’s an unpleasant experience to set off your car alarm in a parking lot, or anywhere I suppose, especially an alarm like The Hearse’s, which could raise the dead.
As soon as we got to the farm and got out, The Hearse locked itself with the keys and Jeff’s cell phone inside. I had been driving and had taken the keys out of the ignition and put them in the cup holder between the seats. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t want to leave them in the ignition, as if someone way out in the middle of nowhere would drive off with the car! As if putting them in plain sight in the cup holder was any solution to that! Okay, I guess The Hearse didn’t “lock itself.” I must have done it somehow, pushed the lock on the key fob or the button on the door. I picked a doozy of a place to do it.
Hmmm. We would have to call a locksmith to come out from Shakopee. But Carmen, who was supposed to meet us, had had an emergency in Minneapolis, and the house was locked. There were two people at the farm, Johnny, a customer who had come to get cucumbers to make pickles, and Juan, the farm worker who only spoke Spanish. Johnny tried heroically to help us but he couldn’t find a locksmith in town who would come. The only one he made actual radio contact with on his cell phone wouldn’t come if we didn’t have a cell phone–don’t ask me why–but ours was in the locked car. We were considering hitchhiking back to Minneapolis, a good hour or so away, or trying to get a ride into Shakopee to take a bus into town. Just about then, Juan got a call from Carmen on his cell phone. Jeff asked if there was a car at the farm we could borrow. Carmen had a neighbor bring over the keys to a 1997 red Ford F-150 pickup truck that was in the utility building.
When I first saw that truck, it looked as big as a parade float to me. Huge, high, and heavy. I couldn’t imagine how Jeff could drive it. While I know how to drive a stick shift, I was intimidated by the tall gear shift and sheer size of the thing. Jeff, however, once he figured how to get it into reverse to back it out of the building, was thrilled to get to drive it. He almost took out some branches of an oak tree in the yard, but then we were on our way, sitting high and happy. I realized I had never even ridden in a pickup truck. Could that be? It was not what I’d call a smooth ride, at least not the way Jeff drove it, but it carried us back to the city, where we could get another set of keys for The Hearse. The pickup was the envy of the guys in our neighborhood. And we had managed, in the “crisis,” to score 18 ears of just picked corn from Juan to cook on the grill at our neighborhood block party that night. Jeff drove the truck back the next morning, daydreaming about how he’d missed his calling, how he’d like to be a farmer with a pick-up truck . . .
Newly inspired by our visit to the farm, on Saturday we bought fresh vegetables from Carmen and the other vendors, and that evening I made the following pasta dish for supper. Continue reading “A Summer Vegetable Supper from the Farmers Market”