Flirting for Food
‘Galatea’ is a columnist writing about her experience looking for work after her recent downsizing. Previous entries in her series can be.
Every Sunday, I go shopping at the farmer’s market. By 'shopping' I mean “eating free samples of fruit and cheese until I’m full,” and “flirting with farmhands to get free vegetables.”
Honestly, I started my farmer’s market freeloading with the sampling. At most stands I can’t even justify it as “Oh, I’m just sampling it before I buy it,” even as I cram my face full of honeycrisp apple slices while pretending to look discerning about a possible investment in a bushel.
But as my food budget grows increasingly slim, I’ve tried to find new ways to get cheap food and remain healthy. In the process I’ve resorted to a lot of weird justifications.
For instance: despite how farmer’s markets are cast as a showcase of the bounty of local produce, all farms produce the same stuff. Right now, every booth has their own version of spinach, squashes, and heirloom apple varieties. So really, I am just “trying to discern between the products of different farms.”
Two, farms are limited by what they’ve planted. I know that right now, this cute guy in front of me is hawking the same tomato varieties that they sold last week.
He slices a tomato into large wedges, sprinkles kosher salt on them and drops them on a large plate, where people snatch them up. I remember exactly what that tomato tastes like. I had one last week. But we’re barreling through November and fresh tomatoes will soon be a distant memory.
“’Scuse me,” I ask the cute guy. “How long are you going to be selling tomatoes?”
“Maybe ’bout a week,” he grins. He grins a second longer than is considered polite. “Tomatoes are three-fifty a pound. You might want to load up on some.”
“Maybe…” I ponder. “Let me see.” I pop a tomato into my mouth. Sweet, firm, savory juciness—yep, it’s good, and still way out of my price range at $3.50 a pound. Every time I go to the farmer’s market I put a very strict limit on my spending, because I have to eat for the rest of the week. But right now, I’m painfully regretting my massive cheese binge earlier.
But at the same time…tomatoes.
I casually saunter to the other side of the table and munch on some slices of pears and apples, all the while keeping my eye on the tomatoes and the cute guy staring at me. I giggle a bit, ask more casual questions about where he’s from, and sigh desperately at the prospect of a luxurious tomato, almost as if I’m Scarlett O’Hara and the tomato is an abusive ex-lover that I just can’t get over.
“Fine,” I decide, turning the tomato over in one hand. “Could you…” I pretend to blush. “Could you help me pick some out?”
My best friend once accused me of wearing tiny dresses in order to get more business cards at cocktail mixers. This time, I’m trying to wheedle a guy out of tomatoes by asking him, “Say, can you tell me how firm these tomatoes should be?” All while staring at him under half-lidded eyes and squeezing a beefsteak tomato like some sort of vegetable boob.
As he slips a spare bell pepper into my bag, I think, Oh god I’m such a slut, let me die of shame to my gender. This feeling intensifies when he winks at me and charges two dollars for the entire heavy bag.
Weeks later, I go back to the market and the cute guy isn’t there.
“’Scuse me,” I ask one of the guys who was working the stand with the cute one. “What happened to your redheaded friend?”
“Oh, Steve?” he responds, and his face falls. “He was fired. He’d been stealing from the stand for pretty ladies.”
My stomach plummets.
“Nah, I’m kidding. He’s working at Eastern Market today.”
Chastened, I become very interested in some organic garlic, and pay full price.