Saturday, October 31, 2009

fungi, holidays and burak

It turned cold. Suddenly, everyone at the Westside Community Market wants to hurry up and be done with it – the shopping, the selling, all of it.

I’m thinking of turning on the truck to warm up. I have three layers of socks and still my feet are cold – this from the mushroom man. I call him that because he is the one vendor who’ll always have some form of fungi on his table. Beautiful oysters and shitakes. Ed likes oysters and so we always buy oysters. Today I buy shitakes. Such an empty act of defiance...


It’s Halloween. I’m scheduled to work at the shop and if I am lucky no one will trick the place or show up in a gloomy costume. I’m only mildly amused by this day. I think holidays that weren’t yours during childhood continue to escape you when you’re an adult.

You would conclude, therefore, that I would have become like Ed – scornful of all celebrations. My grandparents had no time, nor use for them, and my parents attempted repeatedly to cut out Christmas and birthday fuss once I reached what they must have believed was the age of reason (thirteen). But actually even then I fought them on this and I continued to haul trees into the house and my sister and I took over hosting birthday parties for each other. Both Christmas and birthdays remain as important for me as any milestone out there. I’ve added Thanksgiving, too, even though we did not ever celebrate that one in my Polish childhood home. Another empty act of defiance...

[I do have to give my mom credit: her sense of duty forced her to drag in a holiday tree in those early years. And the few birthday parties she organized for us in that first decade after the war, were full of pizzazz – she was good at that. Her friend would bake us a cake (my mom, to my knowledge, never baked) and we would play the very American games of pin the tail and musical chairs. I laughed so hard and with such merriment at my own seven-year-old birthday party that I bit the glass with kompot in it (kompot was the drink of choice in postwar Poland; it’s a juice made from cooked fruits). I remember that the adults screamed in horror. In an empty act of defiance, I continued to laugh...]

My only photo attesting to the spirit of this Halloween day comes from the market. Here you go, the colors of October 31st :


Otherwise – what can I say... It was cold and so I hurried. It wasn’t hard to zip through the market. I have seen enough squash and pumpkin to satisfy me for a long while. Not much else by way of color. Oh, wait, excuse me. I did buy this. For the name alone. Rainbow swiss chard.


No, that’s not true. Not for the name. For the taste, the hope, the health – yes, na zdrowie! For the childhood memories of botwina and burak. I write this with a smile. Burak – beet – is absolutely the only food I refused to eat as a child. Ah, defiance...