Ingredients in search of a meal. Part 1.
I have been going to the Pike Place Market for some twenty years now, and there are memories in every corner of its sprawling corridors and maze of shops. We used to take school trips there; I bought invisible ink and whoopie cushions in the magic shop downstairs and crystals at a stall nearby. My family would frequently have weekend brunch in one of the many restaurants in and around the market when I was growing up; later, when I was learning to drive, I would drive to the Arboretum with my parents, go for a walk, and then head to the market for lunch. Now I am living on my own and they are rarely in town; my visits to the market have sadly become few and far between.
Tonight is my mother’s birthday*; I went to the market after work yesterday afternoon to see what I could possibly throw together for dinner. The first stop is the produce stall we always go to, and I buy a handful of morels, the last of the season, a bundle of asparagus, some tiny yellow squash, bright green snap peas. As I scoop up bright golden Rainier cherries, I lean dangerously close to the raspberries in front of me; two women yell, YOU’RE SQUISHING MY RASPBERRIES! I refrain from pointing out that they could have put the fragile berries in a safer spot; they are in the first row of the fruit section and everyone has to lean over them to reach for other fruits, but I am afraid that they might get even madder so I just apologize and head over to pay. I squeeze my way past hordes of camera-wielding tourists, struggle towards the nearby fish counter. A few minutes and I am on my way with some salmon collars. Next is DeLaurenti, but I am not inspired by anything and leave with only a package of pasta and a piece of prosciutto.
The final stop is Le Panier Bakery, for breakfast croissants, chocolate éclairs, some petit fours, a loaf of bread, and a reviving glass of iced tea. By now I am laden with bags, which bang into the legs of unsuspecting tourists who linger too long in the middle of the market taking pictures, oblivious to the shoppers around them. I hate this part about shopping in the Pike Place Market; it always makes me feel like a salmon swimming upstream when I am in a hurry to get to my next destination and have to dodge cameras and baby strollers. I have one last thing to buy – three stems of white lilies, their buds still tightly closed. I am hoping they will bloom in the next few days. At this point I have spent all the cash on me (another reason why I rarely shop at the market; it is always a blur of food and money, ending with a mysteriously empty wallet, unlike swiping a credit card at the supermarket), with just enough left to pay for parking. Progess towards the car is slightly hindered by the different things I am juggling, but I make it there and deposit everything safely in the backseat, accidentally leaving my iced tea on the roof of my car. Miraculously it stays put until I reach the parking attendant, who gallantly rescues it for me.
And now it is 3am and I still have absolutely no clue as to what I will cook for dinner tonight. I have a fridge full of ingredients in search of a meal, and I will probably spend the entire day waiting for inspiration to strike. I can only hope something will come to mind in the next fifteen hours.
*Actually, tonight is my mother's birthday according to the Chinese Lunar calendar. Tomorrow is her birthday according to the Western calendar, and we are going out for dinner. Phew. One less thing to worry about.