I had the nicest day yesterday. For a while, at least.
I decided to go for a walk down by the water with the Brodester. It was overcast, not yet full of summer crowds, and perfect.
“Oh ho!” I said to myself. “Since I’m here I might as well pop on over to the most amazing farm stand in the world.” It’s a little hole in the wall that you have to know about in order to find, but its small size belies what lies within.
I’m not kidding when I say this place has magic produce. Alice Waters has buyers for Chez Panisse fly stuff up to her place every day from this stand. I don’t go often, but when I’m in the area, I’ll stop by and get a couple interesting looking items that probably cry earthy tears when they realize they are going to be destroyed in an amateur kitchen as opposed to being properly handled by a pro chef. I have ruined more than a couple things from there in an attempt to be fancy, but their tomatoes are so divine nothing else really matters.
It’s about 5 miles from the park to the farm, not too bad if you jump on the freeway. So I did, and as I accelerated up the freeway I heard the radio DJ chirp those dreaded words, “It’s Coupon Day at the County Fair!”
The farm stand is off the same exit as the county fair, which opened this week. I forgot, since I don’t go unless I am forced to at gunpoint. About 10 seconds onto the freeway, traffic hit a standstill. And there we sat, for 20 minutes, until I reached the next exit.
Because the farm stand is on the opposite side of the freeway as the fair, I figured once I made it to the bottom of the exit ramp I would be OK. Sadly, this was not to be the case. Coupon Ride Day is apparently a very big deal as far as county fairs are involved, and the fair parking filled up within the first hour. So the hordes were now being redirected to my side of the freeway, to an empty polo field.
The road, which on normal days sees little more than a trickle of cars passing by, was itself a bit of a parking lot. All I needed was to get past the polo field, and just past it, my farm stand, and the most amazing tomatoes I’ve ever eaten in my life. Like candy, these tomatoes. Now that I was committed to the exit, I had to stick it out. I’d already invested 45 minutes by this point.
By the time I hit an hour, I was starting to get concerned. The bus I spotted off in the distance was still off in the distance and had not yet entered the parking lot. The DJ was saying something ominous about “4 hour waits to get into the fair.” And now I was thinking about having to pick up my kids from school.
For lack of anything better to do, I started to mutter. The mutters turned to gestures, and some ranting about county fairs and the like, and there may have been a few words in there I’m not supposed to use. It was about this time that I felt a soft nose on my elbow. Brody, concerned I was losing my mind, just checking in to make sure I was still sane enough to feed him.
So I petted him, took a deep breath, and made an illegal U-turn to get back on the freeway.
I still hadn’t given up hope on the farm stand, mostly because I’m stubborn, so I ended up driving aimlessly in a northeasterly direction in the backwaters of Rancho Santa Fe trying to find a back way in that would avoid that nasty tangle of cars using the force as my sole method of navigation. Brody by this time had come to start breathing on me, sensing I needed this constant reinforcement.
As I came down the hill back towards the valley, I had a moment of panic thinking I miscalculated and was going to end up in the exact same line of cars I had just exited, but by some miracle it dumped me on the far side of the polo field and straight on route to the farm stand, where we arrived a short 5 minutes later, breathless and ecstatic. The skies parted and the sun shone down on the humble little stand. The wait was worth it. Those tomatoes would be mine.
Brody and I headed on over and got in line. I picked up some lettuce, then a melon. “Where are your tomatoes?” I asked.
“No tomatoes yet,” the woman replied. “Would you like some broccoli rabe?”
I would not, in fact, like some broccoli rabe. I would not have inhaled diesel fumes for an hour and a half to get broccoli rabe, even though it might be the finest broccoli rabe in the world. My hand started inching towards the melon, as I contemplated tossing it at the offending rabe like a bad carnival game that 500,000,000 fellow citizens were at that very same moment enjoying.
Just as my disappointment reached its zenith, I felt a small fuzzy nudge again on my hand.
Brody perhaps sensed I was about to get arrested, and then no one would be available to feed him. So he did what he does best, stick his furry head in my hand and demand a little love. Can you believe it? My dog redirected me. This stuff works, people. And instead of chucking the melon through the back wall, I gave him some ear scritches, and as I physically felt my blood pressure going down I started to really get why so many people rely on emotional support dogs. He just saved a melon’s life.
So we bought the melon, and some lettuce, and some strawberries that turned out to be just as good as the tomatoes. And she threw in a peach since I told her those are Brody’s favorite. At home, a pupsicle for the dogs. Brody and I will go back for the tomatoes in a couple weeks.
After the fair ends.