I recently (minutes ago) found myself in a conversation about Madison. I’ve had these before – they are not really about what there is to like about this town, but how it suits some so well and others – eh, not one way or another.
Many have argued that it does not suit me much. That my frequent departures, my joy at being within spittin’ distance of the Mediterranean, my inexplicable radiance at the prospect of a tedious overseas flight – they are all good signs that I should have considered living elsewhere.
Truth is, there are some things about Madison that I love just so damn much. And honestly, what I like about being within spittin’ distance of the Mediterranean cannot be found in many places that are not within spittin’ distance of the Mediterranean (climate, regional foods, attitude toward…life). And yet, I am so willing to argue that Madison, like no other, has the aromas of la vie mediterranee up and down its midwestern soul (and there is a lot to be said for that midwestern soul as well). I wont spell it out, but I will tell a story that, to me, conveys tons.
I am at the Saturday farmers market. True, it is dangerously close to noon. The real shoppers would scoff at my late arrival. Me, I’m leisurely. I need garlic, greens, mushrooms, apples, potatoes. You can always find these, even if you are a lazy-come-late shopper.
Except Harmony Valley is out of arugula. Damn! I want that peppery leaf in my salads! The people at the stand would do a lot for me, I know, but they will not grow fresh arugula on the Capitol lawn and harvest it in time for my evening supper.
Robert, a farmer over at Pleasant Hill (certified organic!) – that’s a few stalls down – is hanging around, chattin’ to the Harmony Valley folks. He hears my anguish. (I can get worked up about arugula, I know that.) He tells me to come by his farm – I should be able to find some bunches still worthy of harvesting.
And so Sunday, I am out in his field, surveying the arugula – one that bravely withstood the 18 degree night we had last week. I poke around the heart of the clumps and pick out a few crisp leaves.
And while there, I dig up some carrots, which Robert then rinses carefully as we discuss weather issues and farming in general. Maybe I haven’t a whole lot to contribute to this, but I do listen as he tells me about waking up each morning with the worry of yet another low temp reading. Coldest fall since I started farming – he tells me.
Maybe you can’t smell in that la vie mediterranee. But I can. On so many levels. If I cannot have France, Italy and a bunch of other sea hugging places on the other side of the ocean, I’ll take Madison.