Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seduced by the first spring vegetables at the farmer's market

Kandinsky didn't like green. In On the Spiritual in Art, he describes it this way:

"Passivity is the most characteristic quality of absolute green, a quality tainted by a suggestion of obese self-satisfaction. Thus, pure green is to the realm of color what the so-called bourgeoisie is to human society: it is an immobile, complacent element, limited in every respect. This green is like a fat, extremely healthy cow, lying motionless, fit only for chewing the cud, regarding the world with stupid, lackluster eyes. Green is the principal color of summer, when nature has outlived the year's time of storm and stress, the spring, and has sunk into self-contented repose." (Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, edited by Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo, Da Capo Press, 1994, p. 183)

Clearly, Kandinsky never saw a Virginia spring after the leaves have filled in and before the dry heat of summer has cast its dusty, yellowing net. This green gathers sun to itself, transmuting it into a fiery halo that spreads its own light on the day. Not a contented cow chewing its cud, but a fierce green knight driving out the cold, gray ogre of winter.     

This potent green flashed in my eyes as I drove to the farmer's market, hoping that I might at last find some fresh vegetables and perhaps even some strawberries to dispel the doldrums of winter. And, happily enough, I did. Seduced by the offerings, I bought asparagus, spring onions, peas, fennel, and some ugly little purple carrots.


These may not be at the peak of their flavor, but they have the gift of newness, of being the first green foods to present themselves as miracles of sun and soil and rain. Now, what to do with them? Perhaps try one of Bittman's recipes for the asparagus? With the fresh Haskins bacon that I also purchased at the market? And what of the peas? A sweet addition to a nice pasta, perhaps? Or a stirfry? Perhaps a salad with the carrots?  And what of the fennel bulb? It's not a vegetable I am familiar with, but I am always excited to experiment, to try something new. The spring onions will of course add flavor to all these, and the green tops color. Most important is to have a light touch, to treat this lovely, fresh produce with gentle reverence, allowing their essential selves to sing.  

And what of strawberries, any luck there? Happily yes. Some bumpy, imperfect red beauties. These gems are too special to mess about with at all. Perhaps a few specks of sugar to bring out their flavor. Or even a tiny dusting of white pepper. Again, a light touch to allow their own true nature to shine.   

That's the beauty of real, fresh food, in season: You don't have to do much with it to make something extraordinary.  

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