About 3 weeks ago, we had the good fortune to present Cassoulet to the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market where contributors Phyllis Grant and Liz Crane, expertly talked about their stories and demo-ed a recipes. Liz whipped up a crumbly jam tart that is basically a delicious, giant cookie, much easier to make than pie, and Phyllis made a version of her signature dressing  anchovy/mustard/shallot dressing to drizzle over potato and asparagus salad.

But as great as that event was, for me, the backstage story was the real surprise of the day. Because her brother had his first baseball game, Ella came with me.  If you’ve read my story in Cassoulet, you know she’s no stranger to markets, and she knows the Ferry Plaza Market well enough, which is to say, she knows it generally, but there’s still lots to explore. While we were prepping with the CUESA staff and volunteers, Ella asked if she could walk around the market by herself.  She’s 10. This means one week she might be reading Baby Mouse, the next week The Hunger Games.   I looked her up and down, gave her $5, my phone, and my blessing. She disappeared, only to return for the staff-baked French toast.

Here’s what she spent her money on:

  • 7 honey sticks, various flavors
  • 1 chocolate macaroon
  • fat cat cupcake liners

Here’s what she sampled:

  • olive oil: blood orange, meyer lemon
  • brittle: milk chocolate, almond
  • boston beans
  • a potato
  • french toast
  • Phyllis’s dressing

All the way home, she talked and talked and talked. She told me what she saw, and how she sat on the bench at the end of the hall and just watched people. She asked me questions, and answered my questions. She was relaxed. She was grateful. She had been open to the world at the market, its rushing crowd, its sensory pleasures, its joyful newness. And now she was open to me.  She slipped so easily into her independence, and it astonished me how vital it was to her.

The market has taught me a lot of things over the years. Now it’s teaching me how to let go, how to teach confidence, launch adventures, love being free in the world.

[I wrote and scheduled this to post to be published just minutes before I learned about the devastation in Boston.  I am posting it without revision.  I would be naive not to recognize that threats to our safety may be more urgent and pervasive than ever before. But it remains true that I will raise my children to live in the world–and in public spaces–with awareness, but also without fear.  In fact, doing this is probably more important than ever. ]