A Lot to Love at the Winter Markets
By Lesley Stiles
February is chock full of hearts: heart for lovers, heart for health, and heart for black history. While hiking the other day, I had a random thought about my parochial days at Christ the King school as a left-handed child. How bizarre that not long ago (seriously, I’m not that old), I was being rapped across the knuckles for using my left hand to write and eat. My mom went through the same thing during her parochial career, and it occurred to me that civil rights might have traveled a similar path. At the same moment I was being whacked on my left hand for forgetting to use my right hand, black kids in America were being beaten for attempting to go to a “white” school, trying to buy a soda or ice cream after school, or even finding a place to go to the bathroom or sit down on public transportation. Schools have been integrated, and I have not checked lately, but I’m sure that left-handed kids are allowed their diverse writing style with no questions asked these days, but it seems that progress may have stalled a bit over the years. Along with opening your heart to your loved ones, try opening it to everyone and everything this month.
When my son Lucas was in 1st and 2nd grade at Strandwood Elementary, he had Mrs. Erickson, one of the best teachers in his school career, and she had a strong mission to teach children about the life skills of patience, tolerance, flexibility, humility, compassion, and love. Nowadays, these skills are referred to as soft skills because they are taught to youngsters, but I think (and I try not to say “I think” too often in this column) they are solid life skills and can go a long way towards opening hearts and fostering tolerance among all of us during this month of heart and love.
Winter produce is peaking in February, reflecting even more love for health and good foods. Princess Grapefruit, aka Cocktail Grapefruit, are shoving their large, pale yellow orbs to the front of the line, demanding a ride in your shopping bag nestled next to Paige mandarins and Satsumas. As choices and varieties of fruits hit their all time yearly low at the farmers’ markets, dried fruit offerings from the fruit tree farms are not to be overlooked. Chewing and savoring a dried white nectarine with tropical and warm flavors that burst onto your tongue is not to be missed. Local raw nuts, probably weighing down the same tables, are also sweet and crunchy on their own, without the tannins of long-stored, massively grown nuts. Ever popular Cara Cara oranges and sexy blood oranges are popular treats and are sweetly beguiling, habit-forming snacks for any time of day or night. Greens of all kinds are ever present, sporting sweet, crunchy, organic, nutritional love in every bite. Morning shakes are so amazingly embellished by the addition of spinach or kale and will keep you going long past the mid-morning slump. Vibrantly emerald, underappreciated parsley is a stellar love match for abundant lemons as eye and flavor candy on any concoction savory. In some circles, Mediterranean native parsley is considered the world’s most healthy food and offers every nutrient from vitamin A to K, with fiber, iron, calcium, antioxidants, breath freshener, plate garnishes, and palate cleansing. In days of old, parsley wreaths and boughs were invoked, incanted, and infused with spells to ward off evil drunken sprits that brought wily, late-night tricks to the manor.
Ask the French about bouquet garni, bundled up parsley w/thyme and marjoram to flavor soups and stocks. Osso Bucco would be naked without gremolata, chopped parsley with copious amounts of garlic and lemon. Delicate fine herbs artfully upset the ménage a trois of chervil, chives, and tarragon on a honeymoon together with parsley, elegantly careening across our taste buds. My personal favorite, a powerful, competition-winning, secret weapon, combines chopped parsley, fresh lemon juice and zest, chopped garlic, and grated parmesana reggiano to garnish delicate soups, seafood stews, and addictive, buttery croutons, along with anything else, including body rubs. Charmoula marries parsley, cilantro, mint, garlic, lemon, and freshly toasted and ground cumin to round out roasted codfish or grilled chicken breast. A proven antioxidant, chewing a good handful of parsley can calm your jumpy stomach while at the same time sweetening even the most potent of garlic breathe, allowing you peacefully and in a relaxed state to love your clove with whom you love.