Yesterday I was having a day. When I left work, I was in a crappy mood and needed to buy ingredients for dinner. One of my friends from high school was in town and coming over to catch up, and there was barely any food in the house. I hit up Eastern Market on the way home without a plan but with a crashing headache, hoping to pull it all together.
Here's the thing about Eastern Market: when we were house-shopping, we literally drew a circle around it on a map to guide us on our hunt. We saw the market then as the heart of where we wanted to be in DC, and now that we're here, it really is the center of our neighborhood lives. We pop in after work regularly for dinner items and we visit at least once a weekend to stroll the flea market and buy food for the week. It's where we see neighbors and buy things we both need and don't need - from vegetables to handmade baby toys.
My first stop was the flower lady. Her flowers are overpriced, but they're also gorgeous and serve as an instant mood-check for me, always. Plus, the peonies on my table from our garden really needed to be replaced. I chatted with her about what she was selling - she had some fun fuzzy yellow ones I'd never seen before and already forgot the name of - and picked up some hydrangeas and irises. Next stop: the pasta counter. We adore buying fresh pasta there (perhaps a little too much, actually), and I was thinking of doing a couple of their delicious ravioli on a plate alongside a spring vegetable and grilled meat. I went with large, savory mushroom ravioli that could be dressed simply with a little brown butter. Yum. The cheese counter is across from the fresh pasta - brilliant placement, really. I needed more parm and wanted a snacking cheese to have out with olives while we cooked, so I sampled two manchegos and had them slice a hunk for me to take home. Now for meat. We ate so much fish on vacation that I've been in withdrawal ever since, but I couldn't remember if my friend Jen was a seafood fan. I skipped the seafood counter (which I always love visiting if only to ooh and aah at the pretty fish!), and went over to pork instead. Pork tenderloin is delicious and simple to throw on the grill - done.
On Tuesdays the outdoor hall at Eastern Market is lined with Amish farmers who come down from Pennsylvania, and walking by them, arms full of flowers and bag bursting with food, my furrowed brow was definitely gone. The accents, the clothes, the politeness... hard not to smile. After chatting with the cutest little guy in his big black hat, I bought his family's asparagus, strawberries, and his grandmother's pound cake. Done.
Here's the magic of a shopping experience like that: I took my time, but it didn't take long. I had pleasant conversations with five different vendors. I smiled at local dogs and babies. I felt lighter with each new item I put in my bag. I got home and hugged an adorable baby of my own, welcomed an old friend to our home, cooked a simple dinner, and enjoyed it over great company, with the worries of the day behind me.
I'm not saying Eastern Market is magic, but it sure is a magical way of ending a harried workday. Living here, living out the romantic idea we had so many years ago of the urban family life we wanted... some days I can't believe my luck.