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19 April 2007

shouting about vegetables

the bounties of spring

I don't know anyone who grows as excited about vegetables as the Chef does.

One afternoon, when I walked toward the restaurant with his coffee, he gestured me inside, wildly. "Look!" he shouted, his eyes wide. "Look at what arrived!"

Inside the restaurant, splayed out on the floor, were more than a dozen boxes of produce. The Charlie's truck had arrived in the brief ten minutes when I had been gone. Each week, and sometimes twice a week, a man in a large white truck brings organic and local produce, the latest in season, to the Chef's restaurant. It's one of his favorite days of the week: the produce delivery day. The morning of those days, I sense his anticipation. We always leave for work a little early that day.

But on this particular afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, he was especially excited about the delivery. Inside were the first vegetables of spring.

"Ramps!" he said, pulling the long green strands from the box. "Smell."
Before I met the Chef, I had never heard of ramps. Now, they have come to symbolize spring to me. Originally appearing wild in the southern part of the United States, they are now cultivated widely. Floppy and vivid green, they smell something like a particularly pungent onion and some ripe garlic.
The Chef loves them.

"Asparagus!" he shouted. Now that this delectable has been around for a couple of weeks, asparagus has grown more ubiquitous in the markets. But on that day, I hadn't seen one in my hands in ten months or more. I stared at the little buds nestled in the tips of the asparagi, marveling at nature again.

"Sweetie, look, it's English peas." Firm and green, these had the crisp bite of a green vegetable that no winter-time morsel can ever provide.

The same day, we had stopped at the seafood store, and he had picked up a box of the first halibut of the season. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but before I went gluten-free, I had no idea that fish had a season, as much as vegetables. Now, we eat what is offered, when it arrives.

Excited by these bounties, the Chef ran back to the kitchen with the vegetables he had pulled out for me to see. He came back with this black plate, arranged with greens and firm-fleshed fish. "Take a picture!" he said.

And so I climbed up on a chair, and looked down at the bounty before me, through a camera lens. It's spring, my love was beside me, bouncing on the heels of his hiking boots in his excitement, and there are — hopefully — many more seasons to come.

I snapped this picture.

14 Comments:

At 6:37 PM, Blogger ~M said...

Yummy spring. Now I just wish that the weather would warm up :) How can I find out what fish is in season?

Thanks!

 
At 6:48 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Spring veggies! Yay! My 7 year old daughter just loves spring veggies! (which is a big yay for me :) ).

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger Mike Eberhart said...

I'm all for wonderful vegetables! Though, here in Ohio the best ones are most readily available when in season - August or so. Especially locally grown tomatoes, or Sweet Corn - love that stuff, and it is good enough to shout about! So, I can understand the excitement.

 
At 1:02 AM, Blogger Dianne said...

I too love fresh vegetables! I never use anything out of a can or the freezer! Ramps!!!! I'm fascinated, as I've never heard of them. What did the chef eventually create with the fish and veggies?

:)

 
At 1:27 AM, Blogger Gemma said...

Here in Scotland we aren't quite ready for spring vegetables yet although it is thankfully not far off and when the new asparagus comes in I will be first in the queue to buy a big pile to eat lightly cooked and dunked in melted butter - heaven.

 
At 3:18 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

Mmmmm, we had our first asparagus last night. Not our own yet, I'm just planting or first bed this spring. But roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon and sea salt and cracked pepper. Oh! So good.

I had no idea that fish has a season, I'd love to know where to find that info too!

 
At 7:33 AM, Blogger Krista said...

I have a funny fish story to share with you. I live in Colorado so you can imagine that the fish we get here is at least one day older than the fish you get on the coast. Apparently, the grocery stores here provide little or no training to their meat department staff regarding fish beyond 'This is how you wrap a piece of fish in paper.' Not to be deterred from the freshest piece of fish I could get in the suburbs (I've since come back to the city and county of Denver), I walked up to the fish counter one evening and asked the young man behind the counter, 'So, what looks good tonight?' His eyes got as big as the gelatinous scallops on display, he looked me up and down, and his jaw did that preverbal stuttering thing. I was absolutely mortified! This guy thought he was about to have a Penthouse Forum experience, and all I wanted was to know what piece of fish to take home to my then boyfriend. 'I'll just take a pound of the salmon fillets, thank you.'

 
At 7:44 AM, Blogger Michelle Ann said...

I love this story. The chef behaves like I do when I harvest the first heirloom tomato in the backyard or the basil is finally big enough to pick. I get excited just thinking of all the things I am going to cook....

 
At 8:25 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Beautiful! There's something about the first bounty of Spring. I was beside myself with excitement yesterday when I got a shipment of asparagus crowns - future Spring in a box!

 
At 2:33 PM, Blogger celticjig said...

I love fresh leeks plucked from the soils of the woods of NW Michigan! I always dig as many as I can while hunting for morel mushrooms and the season is almost here! I drove by a forest today and noticed the little leeks popping up their heads! I more recently learned that in the chef world they are called ramps. By the way, I am finally changing my blog address (and design) to www.freshginger.org It is still under construction, but it will fit my personality much more than my current one!
Ginger

 
At 11:58 PM, Blogger Food Allergy Queen said...

What did the Chef do with the ramps? I'm thinking maybe grilled and drizzled with olive oil maybe? That's what I do with spring onions.

Great picture.

Food Allergy Queen

 
At 8:55 AM, Blogger Lynn Barry said...

You two are so cute! HUGS

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Claire said...

Ha! When you said something about ramps, I though the Chef was telling you to go to the ramps where they were unloading the veggies. OBVIOUSLY, I've never heard of them either! LOVE asparagus. So good.

 
At 7:10 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

M,

You know, I think the season depends on where you live. Here, I consult Seasonal Cornucopia, my friend Becky’s website. She has compiled an incredible resource, all the produce and fish in this area, and exactly when they are in season. Take a look.

Jeanne,

Your daughter is very lucky, that she loves spring vegetables, and that she has a mother who recognizes it.

Mike,

I love summer vegetables too. Tomatoes in season are the best possible joy. But there’s something vulnerable and beautiful about spring vegetables too — the first to poke their heads above the recently frozen ground.

Dianne,

Yay for you! I try not to use frozen or canned vegetables either, if I can help it. And what did the Chef use the vegetables for? Well…

The English peas went into a forbidden black rice with basil sauce, and he topped it with the halibut baked in banana leaves. The asparagus went into the vegetable rolls, which I have been helping to make. And he pickled the ramps, which is especially delicious. They are also in the vegetable rolls, which are served with his own peanut sauce. He’s so good.

Gemma,

Oh, I love asparagus. You just made me want to eat more! The asparagus in this photo is from California, but now we have Washington grown. YUM!

Kelly,

Your version of asparagus sounds fantastic. Oh, I’m getting hungry….

If you have a good fishmonger in your area, or even an organic market? They could help you with it. I’d also recommend Helen’s blog, Beyond Salmon. She’s fabulous.

Krista,

I LOVE that story. My god.

Michelle Ann,

Oh, me too. The idea of cooking, and the tastes just forming in my mind, is almost as good as cooking. Some day, he and I will have a garden. I can’t wait to grow my own food.

Kathy,

Asparagus crowns! Wow. Again, someday I will have my own food, the one I grew from the earth. I cannot imagine the excitement of that.

Celticjig,

Oh, I love the idea of hunting for wild leeks (probably the only kind of hunting I could do). Have a wonderful time during that season. And thanks for the heads up on the new site.

Food Allergy Queen,

Oh, that sounds like a fabulous idea too. He actually pickled an entire case of them. We’re going to be enjoying them for awhile. But he also loves to cook them with fish, in particular. There’s something delicate about both foods.

Lynn,

Oh goodness, thank you. You know, we never intend to be cute. I can promise you that. And I’m sure that when I was single, I would have been a little sickened by all these stories of love. But they just pour out of me. And I think part of the reason I cherish him so much is all those years of loneliness without him.

Claire,

I read your comment to the Chef, and he laughed out loud! The thought that he would ever order me to unload vegetables made him laugh. Or the thought that this tiny restaurant would ever have a ramp for unloading produce!

 

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