Eating in the moment

This has been a weekend of in-the-moment food adventures. Yesterday, a friend called to say that the new Rita’s (<–turn your sound down if you click on that link) was giving away free ices that day and that day only–and right now was my chance to meet up and claim my frozen delight. I ran out and did just that, going with a cappuccino cream ice that really hit the spot.

Later that day, I made a simple fruit salad with a complex-looking design for a dinner party. To better explain what I mean by that, see the illumination below:

Watermelon basket

The recipe for this is quite simple, although it helps to be artistically inclined. Get yourself a medium-to-large oval watermelon. Cut it in half to make two bowls or cut it to look like a basket (by taking slices out of the top, then hollowing it out by scooping with a spoon, cutting with a knife, or melonballing it. Scallop edges with a paring knife if desired). Put pieces of melon into your bowl or basket, tossing with blueberries as you go.

The thing about this dish is that it’s delightful if served right away, and nasty if you wait. As you may have experienced, cut watermelon that is neglected for too long will develop a gooey outer layer out of spite. So you need to prepare and eat your watermelon within a very short time. As for the yogurt sauce, it isn’t as finicky. But that does kind of require a formal recipe:

Yogurt Sauce for Fruit
2 cups vanilla yogurt, or plain yogurt with maple syrup or honey added to taste and some vanilla extract
2 Tbs. fresh mint, chopped
Sprig of mint
2 Tbs. rose water, available in Indian groceries (optional)

Combine yogurt, mint, and rose water (if using). Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Serve beside fruit salad.

The rest of the story goes like this: the fruit salad went over well at the dinner party and was gobbled up before it could get slimy. Happy ending!

Then today I came out of Glut Co-op and stumbled upon yet another great moment in in-the-moment eating: a dude selling green coconuts out of his pickup. I’ve seen him around before, and am always transported back to Ghana or Jamaica, where men with piles of those smooth, green fruits machete-slice them to order. The green coconuts are full of coconut water, a refreshing and slightly sour drink that’s lighter than coconut milk (which is not naturally-occuring — it is made by mixing water and pulverized mature coconut flesh). I was considering getting one, because in addition to the nostalgia, consuming a green coconut is a very satisfying activity. You first get the top cut off so you can drink the water, then the machete guy will cut it open so you can scoop out the Jello-y flesh.

I was deciding I’d better get on my way when I saw something else going under the machete. Was it the coconut branch? Was he breaking it down after lopping off the fruits? No—I’ve been too far from the equator for too long. Of course, it was sugar cane! I requested a bit of it and the coconut guy proceeded to shave the tough outer skin off a piece the length of my forearm.

“How much for that?” I asked, wallet out.
“It’s four dollars for the whole stick, but for that…” he waved it away and went on with a conversation he was having with another “customer.” The selling was obviously more of a social activity for this guy than a lucrative enterprise. Let’s hear it for Mount Rainier!

I realize now I should’ve offered a dollar, or at least some change, but I was too delighted at the time. I walked away pushing my cart of groceries and chewing happily on my sugar cane.

Of course, I couldn’t finish the whole darn thing. Sugar cane gets boring after a while – just sugar juice, really (although it doesn’t harm your teeth like processed sugar. It’s about as innocuous as any whole fruit). Soon, I was reminded that this stuff is another in-the-moment treat. It gets dry and not as much fun to chew very soon. By the time I got home, it was obvious that it would require therapy to get it back to chewing- or mojito-grade stock. I sliced it up and put it to soak in water.

All of the food I had bought I carefully horded away in cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. I compartmentalized it into “cook with today,” “use for upcoming dinner party,” and “save for later date to be determined.” But the sugar cane had its moment, and the moment was passing.

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2 thoughts on “Eating in the moment

  1. Your adventure to Rita’s sounds fun. I love free ices! The basket looks lovely and I’m glad to hear that it was kept slime free. My spontaneously running into friends at the Folk Life festival and them giving me the fried rice they didn’t want seems not as cool as being given free sugar cane. I I’m gonna have to seek out a sliver of cane myself. If the guy throws it in along with a macheted coconut for 1 E.C. dollar, it will make me nostalgic for my Carribean trip too.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/12/AR2007061200452.html

  2. Glad you came upon this post! I was going to let you know about it, since you were responsible for that Rita’s adventure (doff o’ the hat for that) but you found it all on your own. And thanks for the article!

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