The Bartering System

IMG_5990Here is a favorite trick of the Farmin’ Cityfolk trade: Bartering.

Evan and I were cooking a big dinner recently when we abruptly realized we had baked two desserts (both guest of honor’s favorites), baked bread, prepared sauces, made some stately appetizers, used leftover rice to make vegan rice pudding, and made a lovely breakfast for ourselves, but had forgotten entirely about the main course (minus grilled goodies).

Meet Nick:

Nick the Gardener

Nicks are not as easy to find in the Greater NYC area, because Nicks need huge quantities of space for plush fantastical gardens full of yummies:

Nick's Garden

Peppers from the Garden

Zucchini Flowers from the Garden

Big Hand, LIttle FlowerBut when we’re out of Manhattan and in need of some greenery, he always comes through in a clinch.

It is a mark of friendship to know people’s foods (take say, to remember to leave the crystalized ginger out of salads for one friend, or to always avoid eggplant – horrors – for another, there are gluten-free, veggie, or vegan, or some might claim they just don’t like cheese). We know Nick likes cakey breads made with garden goodies, and he knows we like anything that comes up in his backyard. Show up at Nick’s with a pumpkin, banana, or zucchini bread, and you can leave with dinner makings.

Bartered Banana Bread

Banana Bread and Vegan Rice PuddingIt’s really the tit-for-tat socialist lifestyle we’re aiming for.

Nick’s bountiful pile of swiss chard, broccoli greens, basil, and summer squash made for a very promising meal – and it’s safe to say it delivered. Sautéed broccoli greens and swiss chard and some grilled squash goes a long way in this household.

It’s not always easy to find bartering pals, but ask around. My mother, for example, has been known to take Thanksgiving turkeys in exchange for legal advice. We’ve always got one thing we’d love to do and another thing we’d rather not. So feed a friend in exchange for some physics tutoring, or paint an apartment for pizza and beer, or change a lightbulb for a cookie. But keep in mind that when it comes to bartering, food will always be the gold standard.


A Nap in a Hammock


IMG_4926While in France, we took a jaunt to the beautiful Giverny for a day. Giverny is a tiny little hamlet about an hour north of Paris, population 502. It is best known for being the home of the acclaimed painter, Claude Monet.

Linnea in Monet's GardensAs an eight-year-old I had a freakish love affair with Monet’s work. I read Linnea in Monet’s Garden about ten times… like, a week. Piles of birthday gifts were dedicated to Monet posters, Monet books, Monet postcards, you know, Monet. While other kids were getting rollerblades, I was getting Monet’s Bridge magnets – and was happy about it. Next time I complain about how no one liked me as a kid, remind me about my Monet collection. It will promptly shut me up.

So given the chance to finally visit his home and see his extolled gardens, obviously the eight-year-old in me spoke up and Evan and I took the train (way to go, Europe!) upwards. There’s this lovely option of being able to rent bikes from the train station and bike the four miles to Monet’s home, but it was very chilly and rainy and we forewent the bike ride for the bus, which takes the same route.

Evan and I were oh, about 40 years junior the youngest of tourists on the bus, but we fit in well enough and were delighted to schmooze with our fellow travelers. A lovely group of cluckety women with short silver haircuts and fanny-packs cooed over us when they figured out we were from their home-country. They fawned over our youth and confessed apologetically with lovable Southern accents, “Well honey, we’re from Texas. But we don’t have Texas politics!” (We hadn’t asked.)

Monet’s home and gardens were, I admit, oppressively touristy. The bridge was clearly rebuilt (and.. plastic?) and his home has been redecorated and painted, if I may say so, hideously. But the acres of gardens were absolutely glorious. It smelled unearthly (and, you know, earthly) and was really satisfactorily organized by color feeding the OCD in me. It was quite enchanting indeed.IMG_4893


Here’s Evan enjoying a light Frenchy snack in the middle of our stroll.

IMG_4941Oh, and for lunch – pure joy. We had crêpes, one with goat cheese and honey, and the other with apple and camembert, a salad with tomatoes and a mustardy dressing, and kirs, one black currant and one peach. All in the cozy backyard of Monet’s classic landscapes.