This particular farmers market might be a little further to drive than I would prefer, but they have the freshest herbs and it’s the only place I’ve consistently found tarragon. Although there’s a supermarket within walking distance to my place, it’s a gamble that they’ll have everything I need. Which is another reason why I prefer this farmers market: the selection. There’s a farmers market which would be a shorter drive, but it’s purely produce. Here, I can find fish and dairy, which I’ll probably need.
I know that labels such as organic in supermarkets are just marketing ploys, just like the spraying on the produce to make them appear more fresh. Farmers markets are not immune from these sort of things. Just the name alone is a marketing tactic, signaling freshness and natural methods. I have no problem admitting such tactics work on me. I suppose I like the idea of buying directly from the farmer, getting fresh ingredients direct from the earth. Or milk just moments after it left the dairy. Yeah, it’s marketing, but it’s effective.
The produce vendors are always my first stop. They don’t seem to mind that I take my time with my selections. I don’t simply want a handful of potatoes, for instance. The more uniform the shape, the more uniform they cook. That goes with any ingredient, of course, but I find I have to tell Inez a surprising number of times. I suspect she teases me whenever I explain my cooking method, but I respond just as if it’s the first time she’s asked.
I originally thought of making fish tacos tonight. That was what Inez and I had on our first date. We were at this food truck event. I suggested we get some things from a few trucks, to sample a variety of what was available. She said she wasn’t that hungry and would be fine splitting a single order of something. While sitting at a bench, she talked about her life, moments where she was happiest, some embarrassing moments. I shared some things about work, my interests and whatnot. She caught me off guard when, while we were talking, she asked me ‘when was a moment I felt most vulnerable’. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. I really wanted to answer that, but I suspect she realized I was having difficulty and changed the subject.
She was full of surprises that night. We opted for dessert at this one truck selling mini pies. As I was discussing how the best thing to add to the apple pie filling while it’s cooking isn’t a touch of cardamom, but a slight splash of apple brandy, she kissed me mid-sentence. Part of me suspects it was to shut me up; I know I can go ad-nauseum when it comes to subjects like food. But I didn’t think it was annoyance since there are other ways to shut me up. Add to the fact that she was arranging our second date right there on the bench and its safe to say a connection was made.
That second date went quite well. Well enough that I wanted to make Inez breakfast the next morning. When we woke, she said she would’ve been happy with some drive-through. But I had everything on hand anyway. I figured a safe, standard breakfast that anyone would like would be best. I had thick cut, applewood smoked bacon on hand, so that was my starting point. Every pantry has the basic flour, baking powder, eggs, and sugar. I try to keep blueberries on hand, and had some lemon, so I made Inez my blueberry-lemon pancakes. Of course, eggs are standard breakfast fare. I had chives, parsley, and chervil on hand, so I thought scrambled eggs would be best, so the chives were the best option. The secret of perfect scrambled eggs is not to let it just sit on the heat in the pan, but to constantly keep the eggs moving. Of everything, the scrambled eggs require the most attention.
Inez came into my kitchen in one of my shirts, asking if she can help. I insisted I had everything under control, but she can get the coffee going. I was midway through the work, so it was perfect timing to start the coffee brewing. I had to teach her how to make the perfect cup. She never seen a French press before that morning, let alone grinding her own beans. She said she just uses a coffee pot when she does make it instead of buying a morning coffee. She laughed a little when I instructed her to use precisely twenty grams of grounds for the two of us. She kissed me when I placed my hands over hers to instruct her on the proper pressure for the press. Push the plunger too hard and fast, and the pitcher breaks.
I barely get the Dijon brushing on the salmon when there’s a knock on the door. If anything, I was expecting Inez to be late. I was hoping she’d arrive to the smell of the salmon permeating through the apartment, but this’ll do. I told her she didn’t need to bring anything, but in that canvas bag she’s holding is a bottle of vodka, some lemons, and a small bag of sugar. The lemon drop martini was one of the first cocktails I made for her; I know it’s her favorite.
“Sal! What is that smell? I’m gettin that mate weight from you.” Inez laughs as she heads to the kitchen. As she inhales, I tell her my menu for the night: Dijon-brushed salmon with a garlic-tarragon oil over baby potatoes and onions, roasted brussel sprouts with oyster mushrooms and shallots, and fondant potatoes with a thyme and rosemary brushing.
“You told me fish tacos, you liar.” She smiles as she empties her bag on the table. I can’t help myself but show her what’s sitting in the fridge. Resting since yesterday is a perfectly whipped chocolate mousse. I made some whipped cream for it this morning. Inez really loves whipped cream.
She takes a fingerful of the whipped cream, savoring the sample. “You do too much, Sal. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love that you do all this, and I love you for your effort and all, but isn’t this a lot of work?”
I set the timer for the salmon. “It wasn’t that much at all. Besides, the significant feelings I have for you, the cooking is all worth it.”
I think I confused Inez. “Significant feelings? Is it too hard for you to say you love me? You’ve said it plenty before? I’ve said I love you a dozen times today alone.”
I don’t think I understand. I’ve essentially said that, though not the exact words.
“I mean, I get it and I get you, Sal. But I need to hear I love you too. And not just that. I know you were angry yesterday when we spent half an hour just trying to find parking. It’s okay to swear and vent and stuff. And yeah, like I said, I get you, but there are times when I wish you would just…I don’t know.”
I let her know how confused I am. After all, I think I’ve made myself clear with tonight’s menu. She knows that it’s for her that I’ve made this meal. That she’s been in my thoughts as I made sure to get the perfect fish at the farmers market. That every seasoning was precisely measured. That I cut the potatoes in exacting fashion for the ideal fondant dish. I ask if she could clarify what she means. Just so I know what I did.
Inez grabs her purse and heads for the door. I follow. “I need to think, Sal. I love you, Sal, and I know you love me. But it’s…I can’t just know; I need to hear it too. I need you to, like…okay, I can’t ask you to not be you, and I like how attentive you are towards me, but I need you to just grab me and kiss me out of nowhere, you know? I need you to just say you love me out of nowhere, you know? I’m sorry, but tonight’s not…I just…the vodka’s on the table.”
And Inez closes the door. The menu was calibrated for two, and I microwaving leftover fish is never a good idea. I wonder if I should try texting her or wait. I think maybe fifteen minutes might be a good amount of time to let pass. I was going to surprise Inez during dessert by asking if she wanted to move in with me. I’m not sure if that’ll happen now, and the thought that she isn’t here is…causing me discomfort.