The kiddo and I drove down to Alachua County yesterday afternoon to visit a good friend of ours and to see her husband’s newly acquired chickens. Halfway through our two-hour drive is a small town just between Jacksonville and Gainesville and all year long it is crowded with roadside fruit stands and mobile vegetable carts. Starke isn’t known for much else besides its AAA designation as a speed trap and for being home to the infamous state prison in which death row inmates repeatedly file appeals and ultimately meet their fate. It also has an extension of Gainesville’s Santa Fe College, a Wal-Mart, and, much to my surprise, a new stoplight at the turn-off for the town of Brooker (which helped me not at all whatsoever why the hell do I keep getting LOST OUT HERE!….damn! My phone signal???? Just went out. Navigation!?!? ZILCH!!!!).
The drive home was much better. I decided to stop off in Starke at one of those roadside stands. Seeing as this town is full of produce vendors and markets all called NORMAN’S (I, myself, am a Norman), I have used my name as a discount-getter in the past. One Halloween, many years ago, I was again traveling to Alachua County to visit another friend of mine and her kids and decided to pick up some carving pumpkins along the way. I joked, “I’m a Norman. Do I get a discount?” The answer? YES, YES YOU DO!!!!!!!
But the woman at the roadside stand yesterday didn’t look like she even had an ounce of a sense of humor. I paid full price.
The strawberries I bought had just been picked that morning. I actually saw the workers in the field while I was driving south, on my way to Carolina’s place. For that reason alone, I chose this farmer’s stand. I also picked up the kiddo some honey sticks (they’re all the craze here – does the rest of the country go nuts over honey sticks, too?) and for myself, a cucumber. I love my cucumbers! The woman at the stand admitted that not everything for sale had come from her farm, which is located directly behind her, but she was happy to point out what was hers and what was not hers. The strawberries, cucumbers, and honey sticks were all hers. I liked that.
As soon as we returned home last night, I rinsed and dried the strawberries and stored them away as instructed by Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food: A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking, & Creating Community Through Food. This is probably one of the handiest how-to books I have ever purchased since I usually am buying food for just ONE, A SINGLE PERSON, yet most foods are sold, packaged, or priced as though the goods are going home to an entire FAMILY. Sure, strawberries will probably be eaten quickly around here because Elle LOVES, LOVES, LOVES THEM – but, I’ve only just recently become reacquainted with this lovely fruit and can’t promise I won’t make myself sick with bad memories again. It’s best to store perishables in such a way so that they even stand a chance in a “single” household. Elle, like me, is prone to forgetfulness and suffers from “out of sight, out of mind”. (Just to pimp out Bi-Rite’s book even more – it’s simply an incredible treasure trove of how to shop, cook, store, and enjoy every kind of food you can imagine. There are gorgeous photographs to accompany the simple-to-make recipes and a history of the owners of the market itself.)
Technically, I bought the strawberries for HER but she ended up at a sleepover last night and those strawberries were just screaming to make someone happy this morning. To eat them was like my obligation. Next to a delicious slice of toast & Nutella and delicately covered with just the right amount of sugar…oh, man. That kid better hurry home before I eat them all.