The Farmers Market in Des Moines is a behemoth of a thing and always sounds fun until you arrive. You get up too early in the morning, you jostle into a hundred people and their poorly mannered dogs, every stall looks the same and if it isn’t the same it’s kitschy crap — like birdhouses made out of tin ceiling panels. The popularity of this craft defies my understanding, and even with my Martha-colored glasses on I don’t get it. Leave them on the ceiling where they belong in all their glorious antiquated splendor!
When I saw an advertisement for the Sarasota Farmers Market, I immediately wanted to go because that is the cultural thing to do on a Saturday morning, and because I wanted to see what kind of produce was available in Florida this time of year for future reference when I purchase my underpriced foreclosed home in some derelict district shadowed by an overwhelming abundance of live oaks and blossoming magnolias. I assumed it would be the same kind of thing at this farmers market — the same thing over and over again, and for the most part I was right. But — there were palm trees! You could just go and buy them and stick them in the ground! It is obvious of course, but the fact that these splendid trees exist and I cannot appreciate them every single hour of every day slays me.
There were dogs everywhere, but they were gorgeous and well behaved. I have never seen such a collection of beautiful mutts — from the most perfect golden retrievers, movie ready Old English sheepdogs, pomeranians in strollers, and more. I was in an animal lover’s heaven and it was so nice to see such a variety of animals behaving and not barking in a frenzy. Then, I saw the parrot. Oh my God — it was awesome. There is a parrot that goes to the farmers market in a basket! I broke down with the cuteness of it all. Then, you won’t believe it, there was a baby parrot inside a screened in portion of the basket. I’m pretty sure I squealed with glee. It was the most wonderful thing I’d ever seen.
I thought that, but then I looked up at the stores. There it was — like a mirage from a crap John Wayne movie, Sur La Table! I had no idea that there were Sur La Table stores, I had assumed they were just online. You can only imagine my delight to learn the contrary. Ma, Pa, and I all rushed in — well, I rushed in delightedly, they strolled in. Jessica didn’t come at all because she was still in her bed dying of the shingles and loving every minute of it.
It beat all of my expectations, which were admittedly nonexistent, it was like Williams-Sonoma, only stuffed. The place could have collapsed under the weight of all the products. I dashed between people, looking at all the glorious merchandise. There was a room of espresso machines. A room! I could have died there. I followed around a couple, probably in their 60s, and delighted in eavesdropping in their conversation. The wife or mistress would barely acknowledge a product, before her husband or whatever he was said, “Whatever you want Lucinda.” Lucinda got everything! I wanted to be Lucinda.
I bought a bar of Valrhona chocolate and a box of Valrhona cocoa powder — it is supposed to be the best available, and I have never seen it for sale around home, so I just had to have it to make Valrhona macarons. I checked out and stepped outside.
You aren’t going to believe what happened next. I still can’t. Across the street sat Whole Foods. I have been dying to go to a Whole Foods since Martha first uttered the words. I basically exploded with glee when I saw the sign. Sarasota is now, officially, with no doubt, my favorite city in America — maybe the world?
It was more wonderful than I had ever imagined it could be — aisle after aisle of organic foods, freezer case after freezer case of vegetarian meals. (They even had Gardein meals!) Walls of rice and herbs and pasta and so much more. You could even grind your own peanut butter. If that is not the greatest thing ever, I don’t know what is. There were boxes of disposable flatware made of cornstarch — CORNSTARCH! I was about to have an eco-attack of joy and then I went to the bathroom. It was incredible. The toilets flush with rain water they collect from their roof! The urinals don’t use water! Everything is automated: the water, the soap, the high-powered hand dryer. As I stepped out, I was beginning to weep, so overcome with the grandeur of the place when I saw a huge box showing all the swatches they had used to design the building. This was just so great. I couldn’t take anymore and we went to lunch.
The last time we were in Sarasota we discovered a very tasty authentic French bakery and cafe called C’est La Vie, which we all enjoyed, even if their macarons were laughably bad. I ordered a leek and gruyere quiche which just sounded divine and a pain au chocolat, which was divine. Sadly, they were out of that quiche, so I had the spinach and goat cheese quiche instead, which was incredible. I have never had a better quiche. Look for it on my menu soon. I loved everything!
We sat next to a mother and daughter, the daughter a few years out of college, and I immediately couldn’t stand her because she was wearing a skiing vest. That isn’t even cool in the Hamptons anymore, Lady! Plus, she sat like she had a rod up her spine, thought she spoke French, and ordered a Sauvignon Blanc. Yuck! She disgusted me. Her mother was a total ignoramus, too. She called the waitress over and demanded a fresh basket of bread. The waitress looked at the full basket of bread and then curiously inquired as to why. “It’s moldy!” the woman said angrily, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. I spit up here laughing. The bread, the waitress said, was not at all moldy, it was just the flour from the rising still on it. The woman insisted it was mold. She made me want to hit.
We bought a boxful of pastries — tarts, madeleines, eclairs…flan? I don’t know why they have flan in a French bakery, but they did, and some more, then headed back to the hotel.
I frolicked on the sand some more, picking up more and more shells. There was an abundance of black and grey shells today which I could not pass by. Shadowbox alert! They are going to look stunning hanging in my grey walls when I paint my second bedroom this Winter.
After a few hours of this delight, we all packed ourselves back into the car and drove Jessica to see the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I didn’t have any interest in going, and because of this, was disinvited by Jessica. I didn’t mind much. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know how I feel about movie theaters. (I know that this is going to sound hypocritical, but I do want to own a movie theater. Don’t hate.)
The rest of us drove up to Anna Maria Island to go to the Green Turtle, a tourist gift shop that has the rudest owner on the face of the Earth, but that only adds to the charm. Ma can’t stand her, but I find her mannerisms enthralling. How could somebody be so awful? She shouldered me on her way out the door, blowing smoke in my face and mumbling something that sounded like hello. I was the only one she acknowledged, so I felt quite special. I choked a bit for fresh air and then headed inside.
It’s always the same, but I love to come anyway. I bought ten different starfish to accent my Christmas tree and a badass woven bracelet that cost a whopping ninety-nine cents. Ma got a sweater and Pa got shells for his coworkers. I went to the checkout first and watched as she slowly, yet methodically wrapped up all my shells. She obviously cares, but she has no social skills at all.
[Please note my BA bracelet next to my BA Swatch and my BA sweater that I got for 23% the original price. Black Friday is BA.]
It took her at least fifteen minutes to check us out. Ma had the stupid idea to pay with cash, which totally confused the woman. She insisted on having small bills and did some creepy little dance while she waved twenty dollar bills in the air saying, “This is the one we want. Yes, this is the one…”
We drove home and I made myself some dinner: pasta with Plugra butter and faux-chicken by Gardein. It was all delicious, but I didn’t have my kitchen scale with me, so, I didn’t know how much pasta to cook. (If Ma would have let me purchase that adorable travel scale in Stillwater, I could have brought that along with me!) I made way too much and stuffed myself. I felt ill. Then, because we had it, I ate probably a fourth of the cake. I collapsed onto the bed and watched Saturday Night Live — that show is such crap, but I watch it every week just hoping it will make me laugh. Sometimes it does.
The last thing I remember doing before losing consciousness was swaying and loudly singing Florence + the Machine as Pa yelled from two rooms over to shut up. It was a strange day.