Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Cooks Salad

The breeze was stiff, and cleared the air of humidity. It blew in across the table where I stood in front of Mr. Kelley of 'Mrs. Kelly's teas', and like smelling salts for the spirit, it brought my senses to life.

Mr Kelley noticed it too, and in mid-sentence he leaned in and lowered his voice to a whisper
"it couldn't be a more beautiful day could it?" he stated. I smiled and breathed in the air, reminded of the days when I practically lived every moment exposed to the wind.
"Yeah" I replied, noticing how the crisp blue sky sparkled off of everyone's eyes, "it is beautiful".

I continued on to the demo tent, and discovered that today's chef had already arrived. Bill Roehl, aka the Minnesota pepper king, was sitting at one of the square, black, metal, four-top tables. He had a notebook in hand and a Grateful Dead patch on his hat. He had dark brown eyes and a trim beard, and looked like the sort of person who might have at one time been a shaggier, more dreadlocked version of his former self. Currently, he is a family man with a carrier type job at a University, and a blog where he reports on happenings in local politics. He is a fellow east coaster, and we spent our first few moments chatting about possible connections we might have back in our home towns.

I shopped with Bill, making sure to introduce him to the vendors that might have the ingredients he would be interested in. I almost felt guilty about how much time I was spending chatting with him and the vendors about food, but as my boss walked by she bestowed an encouraging grin, and I realized that what I was doing was actually a part of my job description.

I love my job at the market.

The pepper king was nervous, hence the early arrival, but his performance was exceptional. He had an Emeril like presence in front of the crowd. He pulled them in with the smells of garlic, Italian sausage, and the hazy heat of peppers sizzling. Then he kept them entertained with personal anecdotes and a glimmer of joy. I stood a little off to the right, tending to the contents of two giant frying pans as though I were spinning records. The frying pans were about half the size of me. I lifted them with both hands, tossing the contents into the air and catching them back in the pan. Cooking in front of an audience is exciting, it's like playing a concert. The crowd and the chefs feed off of each other. Local chefs often come to watch these Saturday demos on the days when they are not presenting. The market seems culturally fertile, like a place where a culinary movement might sprout. In any case, we have fun with each other.

I made this salad with the chefs from today in mind.

Saturday Cooks Salad
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 ronde de Nice, diced raw
1/4 cup cubed provolone cheese (optional)
1 small bunch thyme

Dress with:
3 Tbsp hazelnut infused olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp tamari soy sauce
2 Tsp buckwheat honey (or dark brown honey)

Christina's vote: "Incredulous"

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