Look at this: Union Square Market Map

Drool, right?

It’s seeping potential. Imagine the eats you could make with all this.

Union Square Market, NY: Hand painted rustic signs, that really are rustic, not just ‘designed’ to look that way. Awnings. Baskets. Blackboards. Plumes of carrot tops. Goose eggs. Rooftop honey. Blueberries. Flags proudly proclaiming ‘Organic’.

I would like to transport myself there twice a week, for forever. It’s actually open four times a week but I have things to do here so it’d be a co-share arrangement.

And when I float home across the ether I’ll bring back a bag of goodies from ABC Carpet and Home.

It’s my favourite place and it’s right next to my other favourite place so it’s like a Mecca of goodness.

Part of the ABC of A.B.C. is to make home a sacred space. “Beauty, experience and magic”.

Geographically, it seems so distant from my home in Hawke’s Bay. Is it possible to have a home and a home-away-from-home so far from each other? One rational, emotional, practical; one spiritual, romantic, fantastical. The tunnel between the two would pop out in the market. We’re both market towns, HB and NY. Rural folks bring their produce to the centre and urbanites gratefully buy. It’s a meeting of people and cultures, energies and sensibilities, food and drink.

I could drill through bedrock to get there. The portal: our own markets here in Hawke’s Bay. The idea that all over the world people are growing stuff, selling it, exchanging product and chatter, and cash, then people are taking that stuff home and cooking it, sharing it, eating it. That is trade at its most raw, pure. Ancient and honest. Money made from hard work and solid principals. And a meal made from the same.

Bring the rainbow

Simple food, prepared well outstrips flashy fluffing with a pile of fancy fare. And the simplest of all is the humble vegetable. VEDGE is a vegan restaurant in Philadelphia and what they do with vegetables would garner the envy of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, he of the ultimate veg-head Vertumnus.

Vegetables are beautiful.

Meat comes in two colours: blood and blah. Vegetables bring the rainbow. “Eat your greens,” mothers tell their issue, “Eat your oranges, your reds, your purples, your yellows, AND your greens!”

VEDGE is the baby of Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby who have captured their restaurant in a cookbook, also called VEDGE. “100 plates that redefine vegetable cooking,” they say.

The ideas are simple enough to be easily dismissed. But there’s an aftertaste that makes you linger longing for more. Look again at that roasted carrot, come closer and see what’s been done with those Brussels sprouts.

Dinner hosts shrink at the thought of a vegan coming to tea. “No eggs?!” “No cheese?!” “A single serving of nut loaf?” But VEDGE offers so many inspired ideas the whole table will soon be devouring vegetables.

Few people raise meat to eat in their own back yards. But vegetables are so do-able. There’s such variety there, not just in type but in specifics. Take tomatoes: cherry, roma, yellow, plum, bush, brandywine and beefsteak. All ready to go, cheap to grow and offering up a hundred different meals.

Embrace the vegetable, make it the hero on the plate, invite some veg heads to tea and show them your moves. If you get it right with the vege you may even find you have no room left for the meat.



Squash toast

Just when I think I’ve tasted too much, smelt too much, thought too much and talked too much about food I find something that reminds me that some simple food needs so little to make it perfect.

Recently, as blood thirsty children loosely disguised as Halloweeners traipsed around the neighbourhood in search of sugar, I found a sweet little recipe for squash toast. So perfect when there’s hollowed out pumpkins lit from within on the porch but so wrong when we’re six months from traditional ‘harvest’ season.

Smitten Kitchen blogs her edible adventures from a tiny kitchen in New York City. She calls herself fearless. And attempts mastery of some complex things, restaurant standard but prepared by a mum in the city with a toddler at her ankle. “Comfort food stepped up a bit”, she says.

This squash toast recipe originates from Jean-Georges Vongerichten via ABC Kitchen NYC – miles away from Smitten Kitchen in equipment, combined experience and skill. The recipe comes out of Jean-Georges’ commitment to keep things simple and tasty. His food is not weighed down by tradition and he looks to the East for inspiration. Heavy stocks and creams are replaced by vegetable juices, fruit essences and light broths. Herbs, fruits, veges. And he keeps things true in another way too: no pesticides, insecticides, antibiotics, hormones. His restaurants may have grown up to be some of the big players in the game but his happy place is a simple kitchen, and his favourite food more likely to be found at a Thai street-food cart than on an a la carte menu.

A recipe for squash toast has sent me on a yummy little journey through different kitchens. A recipe can become an heirloom, a keepsake, a gift, a memento, a snapshot. From the huge kitchen of ABC to the tiny one of Smitten, a recipe becomes a portal through which a love of simple deliciousness can travel from one cook to the next.

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