Yesterday I found myself running in flip-flops with a bum ankle down a thin dirt path between crops of butter lettuce and arugula. The smell of rogue chamomile wafted up from between my steps from small white flowers I was forced to step on.
I was following a young man on a parallel strip riding a four wheeler. I was shouting, my ponytail was whipping in the breeze, dough encrusted the hips of my jeans from hours of cooking that morning, and I am clearly out of shape, so I looked a bit like the hunchback of notre dame. It probably wasn't pretty. I know it wasn't pretty.
"No necesario lavar" I shouted, but he had just reved the engine on the four wheeler to climb a small hill.
"10 minutes, 10 minutes" he kept saying with a wave behind his vehicle.
I had come to pick up produce, hours later than planned from a local farm for that super centric appeal at a small party I was cooking for. On arriving I had found that the fennel I ordered wasn't ready. In fact, it wasn't even harvested yet.
"Un poquito fennel, un poquito," this was the beginning and end of my spanish. I had hoped I got across that I didn't need it washed, and I only had hoped "lavar" meant wash because I have spent so much time working in restaurants and reading signs in english and spanish.
"No lavar, just fennel" I pleaded, desperately out of time.
Give me the dirty fennel. I could see them picking it, but as soon as it left the ground, the guy on the four-wheeler whisked it up.
This was getting ridiculous. My fennel was just a flurry of green tufts zipping away from me towards a farm sink way beyond my running ability. He zoomed over the horizon.
I didn't need that much. In fact, as the minutes ticked away and my tiny catering job of grilled veggies and lasagnas neared, I began to think I didn't need any. It was just one small part. It was just an accent. A local kick of flavor.
"UN POQUITO!" I shouted without luck.
Soon, I'd say about 10 minutes later, a box was traveling back by four-wheeler, packed and perfectly washed.
It felt so odd. This box of miscommunication. This rapidly and somehow perfectly packed box. I knew in that moment that my lack of understanding and skill in speaking spanish was much more a hindrance to me than anyone else. I work in the world of food, and it has been negligible not to learn. From farm to table this was a skill I needed. It was one of those epiphany moments. "By Christmas" I whispered to myself. By Christmas I needed a much more sound platform for speaking from.
"Muchas Gracias" I said as I took the box, though at this point I had begun to resent the fennel. My ankle throbbed and what wasn't covered in dough on my pants was now coated in mud.
I drove back over the winding hills to the kitchen for prepping. I eyed the fennel tufts in my passenger seat and imagined how lovely they would taste marinating and then sizzling along side peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.
I sliced and whirred and made salad dressing. I prepped and preened and grilled all the veggies, and loaded the car. Delivery was set for twenty minutes from now. I checked on the kids by phone, swished away seasonal flies from the shipment and clunked down the road.
There, in my passenger seat next to the invoice I had just tossed in, was a box. A perfectly packed box. Un poquito fennel.
Still packed. Never grilled. But washed.
* Please note: Spanish words in this piece may be misspelled. I'm working on it. Thanks for your patience.