Sunday, March 8, 2009

My feet hit the ground with a hard thump, my body contracting and bending to take the force of impact after jumping out of the small tree. The local kumquat tree had become a regular staple for free citrus throughout late winter and early spring and since I often found myself researching in the Sacramento State library on my weekend regular picking sessions had become routine. I had begun wearing my most tattered clothes, strapping on my running shoes, and bringing an old burlap bag that once held jasmine rice but now had become repurposed as a tote. While the slogan on the top "From the foothills of the Himalayas to your table" no longer applied it had a certain charm to it and was able to carry a few good pounds of kumquats.

Straightening myself out I reached into the bag and pulled out one of the oblong fruits, its bright orange peel releasing bursts of perfumed oil at my touch. I popped it in my mouth and bit down - the skin's oil and sugar rushed and gave way to the overly tart fruit in the middle. The pucker inducing sweet and sour flavors were worth the trou-

"Did you just put that in your mouth?" a voice behind me questioned. Their tone was heavy with affront and reprimand, as if turning the corner they had seen their only child eating out of a trash can and they were too late to stop them from swallowing an old coffee filter.

"Yes." I replied with some difficulty as I had yet to swallow. I swallowed. "Is there a problem?"

The person who had questioned my snack was a small woman. She was petit, dressed in a manner that I would associate with an oppressed librarian who fantasizes about a man who always peruses the new non-fiction selections. The lenses in her glasses were thick enough where I assumed she could see into the future, but at the moment they made her wide eyes surprisingly large and far wider, the whites as big as bone china plates.

"How can you eat that?" The reprimand had turned to total curisoity and disgust. I wondered if the arch of her eyebrows would meet her scalp.

"It's fruit off the tree. They're kumquats. Would you like to try one?" I said, reaching into the bag and pulling out what seemed to be the best example of kumquat. It was orange like a kumquat and had that perfect kumquat ovaloid shape. A prime example of kumquatiness.

"But it just came off the tree!" her magnified pupils flaring at the thought.

"Yes, well, it is fruit. That's where it comes from."

"But it hasn't been handled!"

"I'm quite aware of that. That's what makes it better. Would you prefer the irradiated, tasteless fruit from the store?" I queried, somewhat lost.

"No, I buy at the Farmer's Market, but the farmer's have raised it and picked it, I know where it came from."

I admit, I was a bit befuddled, the dots were laid out but I couldn't connect them into a recognizable picture. "The tree is here." I pointed to the tree. "I picked it." I pointed to myself.

"Yes, but you aren't the farmer."

"There isn't one. It just grows on the campus."

"But it's not sustainable and it hasn't been cleaned," her voice was a sure clear bell of the Slow Food Nation. She had read her Carlo Petrini, she was an advocate of the gourmande lifestyle. Clearly though this woman had missed the kumquat orchard for the trees.

I realized that the conversation, like my attempts and cooking rice successfully at home, was doomed from the start. She wouldn't have these kumquats, not unless I were labeled "farmer" and had them in a pile with a small sign at Farmer's Market on Sunday, 8am-Noon, the corner of 10th and W. These were not proper, Slow kumquats. They were ornamental to her, something else that was not in proper categorization.

"Well, I enjoy them," I said, slightly piqued. Her eyes stared back attempting to use their all seeing power to comprehend what she wasn't understanding, or maybe they were trying to communicate to me through some telepathic means that what I was doing was quite wrong.

Turning to leave I popped another kumquat in my mouth and bit down hard with frustration, sending a bit of juice squirting out the corner of my mouth and dribbling down my chin. I wiped it away with my sleeve and continued on my way back to the car, immediately regretting parking so far away as I would spend the next 12 minutes fuming to myself about the petit woman with humongous eyes.

"Handled..." I muttered.


  1. How, well, odd. Really?

  2. Ohhh...that was just somewhat "entertaining" and incredulous! (ps. I do the same with kumquats freshly picked!)

  3. Ah, the world would be a boring place without the closed-minded to keep us entertained :)

  4. So you are supposed to let the fruit go to waste because it is not "sustainable"? WTF?

  5. Those are the type that think they are so much better and so much more educated than others because they shop at the farmer's market, and they eat fresh foods, but they have NO IDEA what or how to be real people.

  6. Are you kidding me? This ACTUALLY happened? I know you are a weirdness magnet, Garrett, but this one sounds baroque even for your string of weird encounters.

    If it is true, this one's better than the Carrot Tree Idiot.

  7. oh, jeez. i'm all for farmer's markets and knowing where your food is coming from, but come on, lady. wouldn't it be great if sanctimoniousness tanked just like the dow?
    but then, you wouldn't have such a good story.

  8. Wow.

    Just wow.

    After the library character's first speaking line, I thought for sure this was going to be an anecdote regarding the intact peel of the now-masticated fruit.

    The actual story is so much more... wow.

  9. Great story. I am left wondering what the petite lady's issue/inability to comprehend was all about? I don't get it....

  10. The only thing I wondered about was whether the grass around the tree was fertilized with very unnatural fertilizer, the kind whose bag states that it shouldn't be used around edibles.

  11. This comment is completely off-topic. I just wanted to let you know that I've tried several of your recipes and I've received rave reviews. Everyone is always surprised by the unique flavor combinations. They think that I'm creating these recipes!! I always direct them to Vanilla Garlic, even though I don't want to give up my secret source. But I have to give credit where it is due, so thanks Garrett! You are an amazing baker!

  12. wow. it would be awfully hard to not start hyperventilating if i ran into that woman.

    (heh. you should have told her you were wildcrafting....)

  13. Not sustainable ... how? Well, I'm sure you've learned your lesson, Garrett. To your very point, be sure to go pick a bunch of the kumquats, then set up a wee booth at the farmer's market, and sell them to her for $7/lb. I'm sure that will make her very happy indeed. And you.

  14. This woman was NOT a true farmer's market shopper. This woman was a yuppie suckup frequenter of Nordstom's, betcha a million bucks, who only last month appropriated words like "sustainable" from someone else at a cocktail party in her McMansion neighborhood, and doesn't have the SLIGHTEST IDEA how food is grown and what it takes to get to her freakin plate. Have pity on her.

  15. Obviously some things are better with a third party between 'em. I never thought food was one of them. Between you and that lady, there should have been a third party.


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