“Are the eggs organic?” It usually starts this way.
My Portlandian customers arrive on Saturdays. Nice folks, driving nice cars. Moving along the stand they bob in and out, inspecting it closely while holding a distance of apprehension. They’re quick to mention where they’re from as if to present appropriate credentials for tough veggie stand questioning.
“Not organic,” I say. “Just spoiled.” They rarely smile.
“Do you spray?” The tomato is turned over and over once again. Can one have disdain for a tomato?
“As little as possible.”
Anyone who knows me knows I love to chat. I like learning new ways to cook, where folks vacationed, how happy everyone is when their grandkids arrive and equally happy when they go. Often I think that I live vicariously through my customer’s stories.
But the Portlandians offer none of this. Veggie shopping is serious business.
“Have ‘ya tried Car Wash Café?” I finally ask.
This breaks the ice. “Oh, we love that place!” All Portlandians claim a close friendship with Susan, the owner.
“Funniest thing, my chickens are addicted to the Car Wash Café,” I smile. “I keep feeding those girls chicken feed but they barely touch it. Today Susan catered a wedding, filet and salmon.”
“What?” They take a step in and I open the bin that holds the eggs.
“Susan gives them 5 gallon buckets of scraps every day,” I smile again. “Darn chickens eat better than I do.”
Most Portlandians eventually warm. A few are my most faithful customers. We talk about why and when sprays are used. The vigilance of squishing bugs in the service of saving a zucchini. I explain the best I can about how I grow and which veggies are the ‘cleanest’. Someday we may move into more personal territory but for these customers, veggies are as personal as it gets.
Don’t get me wrong, as one who is deeply concerned about food and the transparency of growers and suppliers, I get it! But wrapped in the frustration and suspicion of “big ag” please don’t let me lose my sense of humor.
A final note, the girls also receive incredible scraps from Jackie, Nancy and the Crew at Carried Away Cuisine. And check out the new PEEPS ~ more mouths to feed ladies!