Tales of food, sex and friendship




Posts Tagged ‘fresh’

Season 1: Episode 3

December 14, 2010

The rain had already soaked her shirt before Willow had a chance to open the umbrella. It might be the start of summer, she thought, but Melbourne still knows how to keep a girl guessing. Pulling her silk scarf out of her bag she wrapped it around her neck to keep out the unseasonably chill wind and biting rain. Hoisting her string shopping bag onto her shoulder, she began the short walk to the Victoria Market as the rain began an even more violent assault on the city.

She loved the market this early in the morning. By 6am all the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls were set up and she got to have her pick of the best produce. It always surprised people when she told them that, far from being quiet and empty, the market was alive with activity at this time. They buzzed with restaurant and café owners – as well as some serious foodies like herself – who all flocked to their favourite sellers like junkies to a dealer. This morning was a little quieter than normal, though, the rain keeping all but the seriously addicted away.

“Willow! Come stai, bella?”

“Lorenzo!” she sang, clambering over a stack of lush green broccoli to hug the man in the heavy leather apron. Lorenzo beamed back at her and reached behind her ear, magically pulling a plump apricot from the side of her head. Willow threw back her head, her copper-coloured hair darkened from the rain, and laughed with delight.

“Still a bit early in the season, but I give to you and you tell me how you think about it,” he said in his thick Italian accent.

Lorenzo was Willow’s favourite stallholder. Originally from Sicily, he and his wife had the best quality produce in the whole market, their exacting standards meaning that – without fail – their fruit and vegetables always looked and tasted perfect. They also managed to get their hands on things Willow rarely saw anywhere else, like purple cauliflower, white eggplant and rare varieties of heirloom tomatoes and potatoes.

“What’s on the menu tonight?” Lorenzo asked.

“I was thinking coq au vin and buttered green beans,” Willow said, inhaling deeply from a bunch of dried bay leaves, “I’m cooking Christmas dinner for my housemates and I wanted to have a trial run tonight while they’re out.” She took a thoughtful nibble of the apricot Lorenzo had given her. “But I’m not sure about dessert. The apricots aren’t quite ready to go yet, are they?”

Lorenzo shrugged his shoulders apologetically. “For others I say apricots good, but for Willow I say wait one more week. I know she is a perfectionist.”

Willow had to laugh because she knew it was true. For all her calm and happy-go-lucky attitude, she did not compromise on food. Everyone knew that and so, it seemed, did dear Lorenzo. It didn’t matter. She could trial the apricot and brandy pie she’d planned another time. Even though Ana had offered to make dessert Willow knew she would need to have a back-up plan come Christmas Day. Ana was more likely than not to forget, then find any shop that was open on the 25th and buy whatever sweet thing they had left. Without proper planning, it wouldn’t surprise Willow if they ended up eating a frozen cheesecake for Christmas pudding.

She was really looking forward to spending Christmas Day with her friends. Even though she, Ana and Mia all lived together, lately it felt like their lives were out of sync. Ana, especially, seemed constantly preoccupied; her job at the PR firm all-consuming. Long gone were their university days when they would close up together at the bar they had worked in and sit for hours, drinking and laughing, until the sun came up and they would stagger home to bed. Johnny would be there on some of those nights, too; a perpetual barfly and onetime bass player in a bunch of Melbourne rock bands, and as handsome and shambolic back then as he was today.

Willow smiled at Lorenzo and handed over the bay leaves, some fresh Australian garlic, two handfuls of smooth green beans and a kilo of Dutch Cream potatoes for some of her famous, artery-hardening mash. As she reached for her change she spotted a photograph pinned onto the refrigerated truck parked close to the stall.

“Who’s that?” she pointed.

“Him? Oh, that’s my son, Carlo,” Lorenzo said.

Willow looked closer. The man was stunning. He smiled out from the photograph, his dark brown eyes twinkling like he’d just been told a dirty joke. He was topless and his dark walnut skin glistened with water from some far-flung place. How had she never noticed this picture before?

“He just sent me the photo, that’s him on Amalfi Coast in Italy. He a chef there,” Lorenzo said proudly.

“Oh,” Willow said, disappointed. “I wondered why I hadn’t met him!” She thought she knew all of Lorenzo’s family. His wife Lucia and daughters Carla and Allegra were always on hand to help find her the best basil or mandarins or leeks. But none of them had ever mentioned Carlo and, for some reason, she felt flustered at the new discovery.

Lorenzo had been watching her face carefully. She had blushed when she’d seen his son – the girls always did – but this Willow was special. Whenever she came to their stall Lorenzo and his family always scrambled to serve her first, her happiness and good nature infected them all.

“You know,” he said slyly, “Carlo comes to visit in a few months. I think that you should meet then. You can talk food!”

Willow’s heart skipped a beat. Why was she reacting like this? It was just a photo, for God’s sake. But there was something about his smile, his eyes…

“Ok, Lorenzo. I will.” She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and waved as she walked away. There was still chicken to be bought from her favourite organic butcher and maybe some hand-churned butter from that little producer down the coast. There was a Christmas feast to consider before Willow could even think about the next few months.