Illustration by Leif Parsons
It’s the weekend. The alarm clock blares. You think, I can’t possibly do it. Please, just ten minutes more. The week was long, impossibly long, and your body craves rest. As soon as you hit the Snooze button, a nectarine as sweet as a s’more and so juicy you must lean into the bite to save your shoes from a geyser sneaks into your dreams. Hit Snooze again, doze off…. “Good morning,” whispers a peppery arugula into your ear. “I’m ready for my drizzle of champagne pear vinaigrette.” Hit Snooze again, doze off…. “Where are you?” demands the opinionated baker with the wacky sunglasses. “Your weekly loaf of olive bread is waiting for its schmear of fresh dill goat cheese.” Enough already. You fall out of bed, pull on a hat to hide the morning hair, and grab some canvas bags.
Time to head for the farmers’ market—one of the great sensory experiences in Southern California. There’s that aforementioned taste, of course: multiple generations having at it with the samples, stuffing their mouths with bites of pluots and Pink Lady apples, preschoolers dipping speared chunks of sourdough into balsamic vinegar aged 25 years (that always fills me with hope for the culinary future). Smells: windborne bursts of sharp basil and sweet mint, the earthy tang of wet dirt clinging to the tendrils of a newly yanked beet. Touch: farmers rifling through crates with their experienced hands to help you hunt down avocados that are primed to become guacamole by afternoon. Sounds: the buskers banging out beats in their drum circles, the blind man who for years has wailed beautiful, mournful ballads on his guitar. Sights: every shade of green and purple and orange—even berries smushed into the asphalt offer a tragicomic tableau.
“The market is my church; it’s my family,” says pastry chef Sherry Yard in our annual Food Lovers Guide, which for the first time is devoted to farmers’ markets. As the dessert maven for Wolfgang Puck, Yard finds constant inspiration for her recipes among the stalls. That Fuji apple and rhubarb toasted almond crumble at Cut? It started here. I may never create something nearly as delicious, but that I have the same access as Yard to the same ingredients—the finest produce, possibly, in the world—certainly keeps open the possibility, no matter how remote. Endless possibilities—just bag them and take them home.