Frankly, if it hadn’t been for the fresh peas I’d bought at the farmers’ market that morning, Phoebe, my 17-year-old daughter, wouldn’t have told me (without looking up from shelling them) that she had slept with her boyfriend for the very first time a week and a day ago.
If you think that the “sleeping together” part of that sentence is what matters, I would beg to differ. It is the “farmers’ market” part that resonates. Because what comes from a greenmarket isn’t just tender peas and ripe peaches and sweet melons. It’s what it can all lead to—which is even more tender, sweet and satisfying.
A cherry tomato can open your heart. Homemade red currant jam can make it sing. Ratatouille can forge a lifelong friendship. Bread-and-butter pickles can be all you need to say. Shelling peas can lead to a totally unexpected and welcome candor. (Note to other mothers of teenage daughters: you know how your usually reticent child will tell you things in a car? How it has something to do with the fact that it’s just the two of you and you are both looking straight ahead, not at each other? Well, that’s exactly what happens when you’re shelling peas side by side. And the bonus is that you have the peas you need for Spring Pea & Scallion Soup!)
I discovered two important things the summer we moved to Northern Westchester County in New York State, where farms and orchards are plentiful and the summer bounty is well… beyond bountiful. The first thing was the sheer happiness I experienced the moment I reached the outdoor market. Six kinds of heirloom tomatoes, baby zucchini, bins of still-dewy lettuces, fragrant bunches of bright green basil, purple potatoes, Crayola-colored peppers, yellow watermelons, sweet peaches that—scalded and skinned—revealed orbs of innocent rosy flesh.