On Wednesdays I saddle up the stroller and walk to the downtown mall; every Wednesday when I get home I am all charged up about life and food and walking in Charlottesville.
Firstly, Wednesday is donut day downtown. That is, the Carpe Donut mobile is parked in the Wachovia parking lot for most of the day. While I don’t always get a donut, it is always an option, and it is a sweet that I feel good about feeding to the big little guy Lincoln. In terms of a small business with a big heart, Carpe Donut is my favorite (not to mention that Matt has been incredibly generous and encouraging when we have collaborated on food events). In my opinion, this town could use more businesses like that one – committed to quality, flexible yet consistent, appropriate to any occasion. All their hard work means that there is absolutely no guilt in eating a Carpe Donut! In fact, I find the opposite to be true — I feel that we should all be eating more donuts, knowing the ingredients are conscientiously sourced and prepared by hand (and donut machine) and seeing such innovations such as composting, recycling, and biodiesel become part of the business model. Thank you, Carpe Donut.
I’ll usually pop into the library while I’m downtown, get some books, and see someone I know – last week it was Natalie Russell, editor of Edible Blue Ridge magazine. With two children and a magazine to edit, publish and distribute, she and husband Steve must feel the daily juggle even more keenly than I do. I had been thinking of Natalie and her encouraging, understanding vibe as I have had to pass again and again on writing assignments of late; my plan to call her to thank her, and to deliver the news that we have child care two days a week (thank you, Angel and company!) was not necessary as I was able to deliver it in person, and hang out with the kids as well. Thank you, Russell family.
Lunch while downtown is a no-brainer — last week I tried Cinema Taco and found it very satisfying. Lincoln and I shared a burrito and met a nice person on the patio — suprise, his middle name is Lincoln.
On the way home I swing by the pickup spot for my raw milk share. That share is through Silky Cow LLC run by Nathan Vergin (e-mail silkycowfarm @gmail.com for information). We get a half gallon a week, which I consume essentially myself (actually, the cat and Lincoln both get some sips). I have made yogurt (and one time an incredibly refreshing yogurt drink, accidentally of course), butter and buttermilk, and a fantastic cream cheese that also yielded whey, which I have used to make lactofermented pickled grape leaves. More importantly, I drink a small glass of milk when I am hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or if I can’t sleep — it just seems like a perfect food, nutritious and wholesome and without any downside to drinking it. Prior to the raw milk, I wasn’t drinking any milk at all, not even in coffee. Now I enjoy noticing the seasonal change in flavor as the herd’s feed changes from wintertime hay to sharp spring grass and, now, to mellower, more mature grasses that are on their way to drying out for the summertime. The milk also ages in my refrigerator over the course of a week, but it doesn’t sour like commercially pasteurized milk (that is, all at once, totally and repulsively); rather, it is a gradual loosening of its flavor and an ascention of tanginess that edges the milk closer to savory dairy products, like creme fraiche and sour cream.
While we’re strolling downhill, thinking about milk, Nathan and Amy and Amy’s brothers rumble by in a Suburban and stop to say hello. They pull my milk out of one of four or five coolers in the back of the truck, pass it to me as we exchange greetings, and then they roll on up the street to drop the rest of the milk at the drop spot. Thank you, Vergin family and Silky Cows.
I continue home along Meade Avenue, carrying the cold, cold gallon of yellowish milk and looking forward to my liquid snack. A couple people honk, but that’s no surprise – the milk is really good looking. When I get home I’ll shake the milk to distribute the cream and butterfat, then pour my portion into a large earthenware bowl with a spout on one side. Gradually the butterfat will rise to the top so that I can skim it off to make butter and buttermilk in the food processor – this week I think I’ll add some garden chives, green onions and lemon zest to the butter, as well as some salt. The cream will rise to the top of the milk, and I’ll skim that as best I can and label the jar in the refrigerator. Wish I had an ice cream maker! Maybe this week I’ll try straining the milk to get the butterfat — I’ve been rereading the ‘Little House on the Prarie’ series (seriously) and Ma always skims the new milk, then sets the pans aside.
As I pass Meade Park I notice that the vendors for Farmers in the Park are setting up already (it’s nearly 1:30, edging into naptime and Lincoln is nodding off), which reminds me that I should get out and stroll again this afternoon to check out the market. Geoff and I have talked about making Wednesday night Taco Night – getting some seasoned taco meat, tortillas and salsa from the good taco people at the market, and adding perhaps a green salad from our garden, or some soured cream, to round out the meal. Thank you, market vendors (and especially the taco people!).
So that’s why I walk downtown on Wednesdays. I break a sweat on the way there, find some lunch and a donut, check out books and network with other foodies. On the way home I admire gardens, pick mulberries and pick up milk, and get a sneak preview of the market. Lincoln enjoys the vibrance of flowers, people, food and drink, streaming by him at a palatable pace. All this, before afternoon nap. Thank you, Charlottesville.