There are farmers’ markets that are basically foodie self-esteem polishers, and markets that aren’t (I’d link to the South Side Market in Fort Wayne here, but it’s so “aren’t” it doesn’t even have a website). Detroit’s Eastern Market is somewhere in between. The long winter precludes locally grown produce much of the year, but there’s a major produce hub in the city, and lots of wholesalers use the market to offload stuff that’s just a little too close to its sell-by date, so even in the dead of winter you can get some bargains on grapefruit.
But there’s always a healthy percentage of mom-and-pop outfits, and a few weeks ago I paused at one in the furthest-flung shed, where a portly Lebanese man stood behind a booth offering “extra extra virgin olive oil.”
“Extra extra virgin?” I said. “I spend all this time learning olive oil grading, and now there’s a new one?” He wasn’t amused. “Try some,” he said, gesturing to a basket of oil-soaked croutons. I told him no and asked what made it so virginal. “I make it here from my family’s olive trees, in Lebanon,” he said. “It is the best.”
I thought for a moment about how a guy would go about importing just his family’s personal olives, what sort of border inspection would be involved, the problems of transporting delicate produce halfway around the world, etc. Then I looked at the bottles. It was a cold morning, and the oil had congealed in the bottles to a murky green glop. “You take it home, it warms up, it is fine,” he said. No salesmanship, just plain statements and a certain rock-solid dignity. This is why I stay out of animal shelters; I would select all the one-eyed, three-legged puppies and kittens. It was $15 for a liter. What the hell.
I took it home and put it on the shelf. Four hours later, the glop had diseappeared, and the oil was a lovely yellow-green. I tipped a little into a saucer. Waiters and foodies are always gassing on about olive oil — how you can cook with this grade and not that one, how this one is fruity and this one is acidic, how the Italian product differs from the Spanish, etc. — but I confess I’ve never been able to taste huge differences in them, unless the bottle had been spiked with peppercorns and garlic. I buy 90 percent of my olive oil from Costco, and rely on the vinegar to carry the day on the salad. It just so happened, this day, I had a loaf of fresh Italian bread. Broke off a piece, dipped it in the oil, and…
Well. My mouth went to Lebanon for a few moments. It wasn’t Hezbollah’s Lebanon, but a sunny place in the country, with a view of the ancient hills. I rested in the shade of a tree with a gnarled trunk as big around as a 200-year-old oak, but it was still warm enough that the breeze was like breath, and…
Blinked. Back in Michigan. Friends, that was some butt-kicking olive oil. I actually licked the saucer. I’ve heard that Mediterranean fisherman sometimes begin their day with a shotglass of the stuff, instead of coffee. I’m going to start doing that. Or maybe pouring it on my cereal.
I mention this because? Not sure why. I have to go make tiramisu in a few minutes — Bossy’s coming to Detroit tonight — and I need to get in a food head. Not that I will be putting olive oil in my tiramisu, mind you. It’s just fun to think about food on a Friday.
It beats thinking about politics, but Bryant Gumbel offered an in-between stop this week. On his HBO “Real Sports” show, he profiled Barack Obama, basketball player, featuring footage of Obama playing then (in Hawaii) and now (with some friends, in long Adidas exercise pants, not shorts). He’s not bad, I have to say, quick and crafty for a 46-year-old, a real (dare I say?) team player. Gumbel made a mention of Obama’s game being a factor in “basketball-mad Indiana,” and I wondered if he was right. Indiana loves basketball, true. But it doesn’t love all basketball.
It’s safe to say the Hoosier game is the Knight version — no showboating, no star antics, very Larry Bird-in-college. The NBA style, the ghetto game, not so much. Obama made an interesting comment about basketball being a black art form much like jazz, paraphrasing from memory, “individual improvisation within a defined structure.” Improvisation starts with an I, and you know what they say about where that letter appears in “team.” Beware, Obama. Tread carefully.
Only one bit of bloggage before I tiramisu (yes, it IS a verb), but I recommend you treat it with extreme caught: typeracing! I had no idea I could type 70 words a minute — if only my brain worked that fast.
Have a good weekend, all.
Connie said on April 25, 2008 at 10:06 am
I buy most of my olive oil at Trader Joe’s. South Bend has a great funky farmer’s market with a kind of hippy vibe. We were just talking about making a trip there tomorrow, as we’ve not yet managed to find local asparagus. Goshen also has a great small farmer’s market, with a kind of Mennonite vibe, if there is such a thing. But SB is the one with all the free puppies and kitties to resist.
Connie said on April 25, 2008 at 10:07 am
Sue said on April 25, 2008 at 10:24 am
Our farmer’s market is very small, and I’m uncomfortable going there, because I feel sorry (yes I do, silly of me) for the old guys selling buckets of crappy apples etc. from little card tables. I can’t buy everyone’s crappy apples and potatoes, so I go to the bigger market in West Bend. Also, being a gardener, I don’t go that often since everything I need is usually in the back yard already. Fall is my favorite time for farmer’s markets. Pumpkins, apples, lots of cheerful people… Not that I’m looking forward to fall, mind you. Snow’s predicted tomorrow.
Sue said on April 25, 2008 at 10:29 am
Oh, and I forgot: have a great time tonight, and don’t forget to let us know all about it. I am so sorry I had to miss the Bossy Chicago stop. I would have loved to drink one of those cat-bowl gin things they had. And sit out on the deck, and see Bossy’s Chicago husband and her new Saturn. Damn.
Dorothy said on April 25, 2008 at 10:43 am
Dying to get the link to typeracing. I’m mighty speedy I must say.
We buy our olive oil in the Strip District when we visit Pittsburgh. We like both the Italian and the Spanish variety. Dipping good Italian bread into some warm olive oil is the b-o-m-b.
Gena said on April 25, 2008 at 10:48 am
Know how you guys felt when all the strangers showed up during the Goeglein affair? That’s what it’s like in the Fort right now. Candidates everywhere. Every button on the car radio punches one up. Never figured we’d be invaded by…uh.. democrats.
nancy said on April 25, 2008 at 10:51 am
Typeracing link added. D’oh.
Terry WAlter said on April 25, 2008 at 11:02 am
Terrific olive oil find, Nancy. You’ll probably want to chase it with the favorite drink of this blog site; Obama Kool-Aid. As far as his basketball skills making a one vote difference,I doubt it. The Indiana Pacers had the lowest attendance in the NBA this year. Guess people didn’t want to pay to watch the prison team play. I see that Barack finally relented & decided to appear on Chris Wallace’s show. Hillary has been on twice. If you want to play the game on the big stage, you have to go against somebody that can block your shots. Somehow I don’t think he’ll be throwing down slam dunks in this one. Should be interesting.
brian stouder said on April 25, 2008 at 11:29 am
Today Michelle Obama will be in town for a 4pm rally at a high school a few miles from where we live….I’d love to go, but a person would really have to get there around 1 (I’m guessing) and line up for the opening of the doors at 3pm…..and, having bills to pay and so on, I “have other priorities” as someone once said (and anyway, I’ve already spent all my marital capital for today, as tonight is game night)
Tomorrow morning Senator Clinton will rally her supporters downtown at a park…I’m thinking the young folks and I will head there so they can see the crowds and the newsies – and maybe catch a glimpse of the candidate; and we have another full week for more possible visits from the candidates and their surogates.
Wonderful stuff, really. (Those Iowans and New Hampshirites must be spoiled rotten!)
edit: link to Ft Wayne’s farmer’s market
Jim said on April 25, 2008 at 12:32 pm
Connie, there is DEFINITELY a Mennonite vibe in Goshen! And I’ll just leave it at that …
Jolene said on April 25, 2008 at 12:46 pm
Just curious . . . is it Goshen with the “o” pronounced as in “go” or in “gosh”?
Connie said on April 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm
Go, long o.
Jolene said on April 25, 2008 at 12:56 pm
Thanky, ma’am. That’ll be my “learn something new everyday” fact for today. I have low standards and, obviously, am slightly clueless since it just this minute occurred to me that I could have looked that up w/ a couple of keystrokes. The “ask a person” approach to learning small things of that sort is, historically, so much easier that I sometimes forget about the other possibilities at my fingertips.
John said on April 25, 2008 at 1:15 pm
Are there other “Goshens” pronounced a different way? The ones in Connecticut and Virginia are long O also.
Sue said on April 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm
Jolene, if you’re a “learn something new everyday” kind of person, check out Puntabulous.com on Tuesdays, for his “Teach Me Something Tuesday” feature. You can add your own fun facts in the comment section. Disclaimer: you are warned in advance about whichever header (or masthead or whatever it’s called) shows up.
Kirk said on April 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm
Goshen, Ohio and N.Y., also long O. And my grandma used to say “Land-a-goshen!” In my tongue, it was about the same as “Holy shit!”
sue said on April 25, 2008 at 2:22 pm
You guys all had me fooled about Indiana being so dull. Check out iambossy.com and see how those Indiana girls kick up their heels. I want to be from Indiana.
John said on April 25, 2008 at 2:24 pm
I’ve heard “Land of Goshen” a lot from my midwest relatives. My aunt used to say “Crime in Italy” and it wasn’t until I was an adult did I realize she was trying to say “Criminy”.
Jeff said on April 25, 2008 at 2:33 pm
There’s uniformity in “Goshen” pronunciations thanks to all those 19th century KJV Bibles on every shelf, with the pronunciation sounded out for the odder-looking (to English eyes) words, like Goshen.
With the long O.
John c said on April 25, 2008 at 2:57 pm
Not that anyone really cares, but as an unabashed Larry Bird-o-phile, I can state categorically that it is a myth that he is the embodiment of “white” basketball. Yes, he is perhaps the whitest looking player ever. Also the ugliest. And his team play might fall into a lazy categorization of a white style. But fans of the Great One know his game was pure funk, without the slam dunk.
One night against Seattle the Celtics were coming out of a time-out. There were only a few seconds left and they were down by one. Bird walked up to Xavier McDaniel, who was guard him, and said: “Here is the play. I am going to get the ball here, dribble over to there, shoot it directly over your face and win the game.” Then he did it. That, my friend, is pure big-city, get that weak-%$# s&#t out of my house playground ball. (Hearing the X-man describe the moment over video-tape of the actual play is priceless for those of us nostalgic for the shorty-short days of the NBA.)
nancy said on April 25, 2008 at 3:06 pm
You guys all had me fooled about Indiana being so dull.
Lead headline in today’s News-Sentinel:
Library late fees rising by 15 cents
brian stouder said on April 25, 2008 at 3:16 pm
The Journal Gazette headline trumped them (as usual)
Board OKs more than doubling library late fee
Sue said on April 25, 2008 at 3:31 pm
What are you saying? That library news isn’t front-page important? Where I come from people can get arrested if they don’t return their books (41.943.61, Theft of Library Materials).
ellen said on April 25, 2008 at 4:11 pm
John, I think “criminitly” is a Midwest thing. It is used like “criminy.” My Kansas parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all say it that way. As do I, when trying not to swear around the kids.
John said on April 25, 2008 at 5:17 pm
You are right. I had never seen the word spelled before, but now that I know how to spell it, I can find references everywhere. My dear Aunt Mildred (Aunt Sissy to us kids) was born, lived and died within 10 miles of the Kansas border. She was on the bushwhacking, bourbon-drinking, Democratic voting side but I don’t believe she ever engaged in any of those behaviours.
Kirk said on April 25, 2008 at 7:40 pm
I’ve heard it more like “criminettly.” My mom used that one.
basset said on April 25, 2008 at 9:56 pm
Bird is a year younger than me and from the next county east – the basketball team from my high school played his, if I’d been on the team or at least gone to the games I would probably have a story to tell here.
best I can do, though, is describe how I used to get in trouble for slipping out of the gym last period on Fridays when we were all supposed to be in there cheering on The Team before The Game that night. By rural Indiana standards, that’s positively perverted.
Hattie said on April 26, 2008 at 12:48 am
Hilo farmers’ market:
Dexter said on April 26, 2008 at 2:37 am
I am educated by Zingerman’s of Ann Arbor regarding olive oil. I won’t bore anyone with the few facts I recall, but I do know that Romans imported Spanish olive oil, and the best olive oil comes from Espana. That’s all I buy.
Zingerman’s sends teams to Spain to decide which oils to import that particular year, and they inspect the olives before and during harvesting.
My last big olive oil investment was for a jug of Luis Herrera, Almazari Aceite de Lagrima, January Harvest of that year.
Stone crushed unpressed freerun juice of Manzanilla and Cornicabra olives from Murcia Province’s high, remote Valle La Jimena. That’s in Spain, of course. The information was copied from the bottle I have.
Remember HBO’s “Rome”? Cleopatra and Marc sitting around dipping bread into oil? I do that all the time, too.
A friend who’s Italian used to talk about “getting that hot oil” . I guess that means for bread dipping, but maybe it’s for another gastronomic delight. Anyway, he always said he needed “that hot oil” to keep himself regular. What’s wrong with Metamucil?
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 26, 2008 at 10:21 am
I waited out of deference to our blogmistress, but if she’s not linking this Jon Carroll column, i will:
Two words: color fan.
Two (or maybe three) words: household projects.
Danny said on April 26, 2008 at 10:31 am
What are you saying? That library news isn’t front-page important? Where I come from people can get arrested if they don’t return their books (41.943.61, Theft of Library Materials).
Fort Wayne may think that library stories are front page news, but, this is how we do it in San Diego.
The famous quote from Jaws comes to mind, “I think you are going to need a bigger boat.”
Danny said on April 26, 2008 at 10:41 am
Had to be away yesterday. I did a round trip from San Diego to Seattle and back (redundant how I put that, but it still sounds better) with a meeting sandwiched in between. I am still ragged, but the coffee is helping.
Yesterday, I didn’t have coffee until I arrived in Coffee Mecca. As soon as I got off the plane, I headed to a terminal kiosk with a green and white sign displaying some watery tart with long hair (strategically placed) and huge hips.
Ah to drink from the fount. Actually, I got caffeine jitters from not enough sleep and too much business on my mind. Oh, well.
Good to be back, even if Great White Sharks are eating my neighbors a few miles from here.
Terrific olive oil find, Nancy. You’ll probably want to chase it with the favorite drink of this blog site; Obama Kool-Aid.
Terry, resist the urge to be a sniper. Most of the folks here are cool even if you don’t like who they are voting for. Don’t make me embarrassed to be conservative.
WhiteBeard said on April 26, 2008 at 12:13 pm
From hot oil to politics in Connecticut, President Bush visited my neighbor on Friday with 450 other guests and all I got to see of him was the helicopters constantly flying over our house. The Kent hillside estate of Henry Kissinger butts up against our 36-acre wood lot in Warren at the town boundary so that makes him a neighbor, an unseen neighbor but still a neighbor. But what fascinated me about the whole shebang was my freelance newspaper visual coverage of the president’s visit (4 videos, 62 photos) linked at http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-bush0426.artapr26,0,6781261.story that shows what a newspaper can do in this ever-challenging news arena. The only fault I could find was that one video was sometimes identified as being a protest in Kent, the adacent town, when it was actually in downtown Warren. Not a sprawling downtown, mind you, a church, a liquor store, a town hall soon to be replaced by the Taj Mahal of town halls, a deli, an antique store, one traffic light, an elementary school, a sports field, a pottery shop (oops, that went out of business) and a thriving library.
I have had some indirect dealings with the Kissingers. When his security detail decided that his blueberry patch that earned much money for a church was a danger because they could not let all those berry-picking strangers get so close to the boss, they decided to cut down the hundreds of blueberry bushes. The church people were shocked and I tried to interest my newspaper in doing a story but was rejected so I called CBS in New York and got “Hey, we like it.”
They did a great video, the wire services picked it up along with other newspapers, including Paris Match in France and the Kissinger spokeswoman was constantly saying “Of course, Dr. Kissinger likes blueberries.” The upshot was that the bushes were dug up carefully and donated to the preppie Kent School and after three years were producing record crops again. Linked at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E5D61138F932A1575AC0A965948260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/K/Kissinger,%20Henry%20A.
Dorothy said on April 26, 2008 at 1:00 pm
Danny you live in San Diego? I might be out there in November! My hubby is waiting for approval to attend an engineering class there that week. Since I’ve never been further west than Wichita (in 1979!) I am hoping to go along. I’ll keep busy exploring the area and looking for quilt shops and yarn shops. Maybe we can do lunch one day! And let’s agree not to talk politics!
Danny said on April 26, 2008 at 1:12 pm
Maybe we can do lunch one day! And let’s agree not to talk politics!
November? Cool. Let me know and I can give youz guyz some tips on good stuff to do too.
And not talk politics. In November? Hmmm… Just kidding.
Dorothy said on April 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm
Well it would be the week before Thanksgiving if I come, and the election would be over. So one of us would have bragging rights, I suppose.
LA Mary said on April 26, 2008 at 3:44 pm
Dorothy, bring Augie and we can meet at the Huntington Beach Dog Beach. No leashes required.
coozledad said on April 26, 2008 at 9:35 pm
We’re still trying to figure out who the conservatives are here in old North Carolina. Are they the ones who want to continue the Plessy vs. Ferguson tradition, or are they merely hardened anti-Semites, who lost the war with Adolf Hitler. I have a hard time figuring it out down here, because there’s so much crossover.
I used to consider myself a conservative, until I realized it was code for a kind of bland appeal to a sunny pre-WWII racism, where we could count on our white allies to preserve the white wedge against that insidious black tide.