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Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Liturgical Calendar of Food

While the negligible risk that I might be hoovered up to Heaven is safely past, I remain focused on spiritual matters.

By which I mean food.

I worship at the altar of all things digestible. Instead of a lambent swirl of lute-playing angels and chubby cherubs spiraling up toward a white-bearded old guy in a toga, my paradise is an infinite sushi restaurant. Saint Peter and the angels greet the patrons loudly in Japanese. If I have been spectacularly good in this life I will be seated at the counter between Mark Twain and Dorothy Parker. If my behavior has been less-than-exemplary but still worthy of admission it will be Steve Martin and Dave Barry. The Archangel Gabriel draws pints of microbrewed beer produced by the Almighty Himself in small batches His spare time, and Archangel Michael slices up plates of tuna and salmon with his sword. And there is coconut-passionfruit ice cream for dessert.

Hell, on the other hand, is The Olive Garden.

Thankfully, I don’t have to wait for Judgement Day to dine extraordinarily well. We are fortunate here in the Great Northwest to blessed, if I may use that word, with a mouthwatering array of local food that would be the envy of any Italian or Frenchman, especially this time of year.
Our seasonal progression of delicacies begins when the fish guy with the stand on the highway writes “Copper River Salmon” on his whiteboard. The resulting gridlock in his tiny gravel parking lot nearly blocks the turnoff to the weekly Kiwanis pancake breakfast. Hungry patrons wait in their idling pickups and BMWs while he pulls the garnet-colored filets out of the coolers and slices off chunks to wrap in waxed paper for the ride home to the marinade.

Next up is the opening of the produce stand on the main crossroad in the Vashon “financial district.” This event is all the more eagerly anticipated because its exact date, like that of the Rapture, can’t be predicted by mortals. The owners will only set up when the Eastern Washington fruits and vegetables they bring over the pass each week are are at their peak, the timing of which varies from year to year. Every May weekend I drive past, hungrily eyeing the vacant corner until one glorious Saturday it’s there. I screech into the first parking place I can find and rush to join the mob of fleece- and Crocs-clad islanders vying for cherries and asparagus with the fervor of crude-oil futures traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

For the next four months it’s an unfolding cavalcade of Walla Walla sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, corn, and apricots, culminating in a crescendo of berries that leaves my asleep in a lounge chair surrounded by empty cardboard pint containers like a black bear in an abandoned picnic site. By early October the peaches are starting to get a little woody, but by this point its time to start griling the Toulouse sausage from from SeaBreeze Farm, and the fall Chinook and winter halibut start showing up again at the fish stand.

I have no idea whether there’s a heaven, or whether I’ll be eligible for admission if there is one, but I am eternally grateful to whatever forces or fates conspired to place me here in culinary bliss on earth.

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