I admit it. I wasn't prepared to love Charlottesville.
But I'm falling hard.
I think I knew I was a goner when I saw the farmer's market. And granted, the Saturday City Market near the Downtown Mall is just one of the options. But it was plenty.
On Saturday mornings from 7 till noon, the market takes over a big parking lot. Tents and booths stand cheek to cheek, interspersed with a banjo player or maybe a bagpiper or, if I'm lucky, a bluegrass band.
There is more than food. Handmade skirts with vibrant spin-me-around patterns. Pretty silver jewelry, beaded necklaces, pottery of all shapes and sizes. Flowers with bright red petals and orange feathery anthers peeking out. Plants happily potted, probably praying I don't take them home.
And then there is the food. What draws me out of bed every Saturday morning I've lived here. (OK, that can be counted on one hand — but still!)
Fresh eggs with a yolk as bright as a UVA T-shirt. Sausage made from pigs raised in a pasture just a drive away. Mounds of collard greens and other mysterious leafy things. Wise, weathered-looking garlic. Fingerling potatoes, itty-bitty and cute. Spheres of electric purple onions, though I suppose technically their name is red.
Rainbow rows upon pint cartons upon cardboard boxes of tomatoes. All kinds. Yellow, green, red, orange, pink. Little marble-sized ones to golf balls up to a bumpy fistful of a fruit. They come with fanciful names under a handwritten sign: "Heirloom," the buzz word.
Bell peppers for a fraction of what you pay in the grocery. $3 for one? Try $2 a pound for glistening red creations, just waiting to be popped in a pita or sliced for a salad.
I wander, I look, I try to hold back and think it through, but I always end up with my bags and arms full, hobbling around like an accidental juggler, hoping my eggs don't crack or my peaches don't bruise.
Here's today's bounty:
A few favorites. A bouquet of flowers for $3. Fleeting happiness sits on my kitchen table.
A sugar baby! Yes, that's this melon's name. $1 a pound, so this babe came to $3.50. I can't wait to crack it open. Mmmm.
I try to only buy my eggs from local farmers. They taste so much better. They look so much better, so much brighter and orange, rather than a meek yellow.
The grapes here are concord grapes. I don't believe I've ever had them before. They burst in your mouth with a splash, as if Mother Nature snuck into Willy Wonka's candy factory. $2 a pound.
Beets are a recent acquaintance of mine. I was skeptical, but they prove to be yet another reminder of giving the unusual a chance. (Or as I've heard all week at school: "Embrace the weird!")
I had them roasted not so long ago, and I was astonished at how sweet and pleasant they are. I'm hoping we become friends.