Everthing is here, thankfully

Dan Rodricks

November 21, 1990|By Dan Rodricks

We have it all. We have everything. Anything we want, anything at all, and we can find it. Or someone somewhere -- some man in an apron -- can get it for us. This is America, my friend. This is the week of Thanksgiving, the day we set aside to reflect on blessings and mercies, and to measure our expectations. We have high expectations, too. We are arrogant about them. We go to market and expect to see the food bins full. It's a given. It's there. Without question.

We go to Cross Street Market and stand on the concrete floor and, to the north and to the south, to the east and to the west, there is food. Amazing amounts of food. Piles of kale. Mounds of jumbo shrimp. Pyramids of potatoes. Stacks of celery.

We have everything.

Bill Green, who runs Bill's Poultry, stood on a wet concrete floor in the back of his stall, ripping open a wet cardboard crate packed with iced turkeys. "Had one in here the other day 40 pounds, had another 38," he said. "Had to cut the 40-pounder up. The breast on the 40-pounder weighed 15 pounds."

The turkeys came from a farm in Sabillasville, a town in the middle of the state, just north of the Catoctins, near the Pennsylvania line. "He has big birds," Green said of the farmer who raises them. "Their hens go 22 pounds."

Yesterday, Green's case was full of fresh turkeys wrapped in plastic, and the plastic was marked with the weight of each bird: 31, 30, 23, 21. There was more. There is always more. There was turkey jerkey and buffalo jerkey. There were fresh capons and duck and guinea hen and quail. There was an oak-smoked free-range turkey. "Comes already stuffed," the guy behind the case said. There was a young goose from Minnesota, too.

The food comes from everywhere. The oranges and ruby red grapefruit came from Florida. There were lemons and limes from California. At a new stall called Cornucopia, the proprietors, Mark Silberstein and Phyllis Dettori, had artichokes from South America and chayote squash from Mexico. They had "jet fresh" pineapple, cactus pears, red pears, clementines, leeks, sage, watercress, mint, dill, shiitake mushrooms, arugula, cilantro, savoy cabbage and radicchio. They had escarole and hydroponic lettuce, shallots and plum tomatoes and scallions.

We have everything. Anything we want. Anything we can pay for.

Ben Bongiovani & Sons had stalls piled high with vegetables and, yesterday morning, you heard the crisp, almost shattering sound of men snapping open plastic bags to fill them with produce. Mushrooms and cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and limes. Green peppers. Red Peppers. Yellow peppers. There was a stack of mustard greens, turnip greens, carrots and a crate of spinach. There was a neat pile of white yams, a pile of sweet potatoes, rutabaga and turnips. There were bananas and apples, snow peas and watermelon, cauliflower and broccoli, Georgia pecans, Brazil nuts, butter nuts and almonds.

The bakery cases were full of breads and cakes and pies and turnovers.

Anything you want.

The white cases at Nunally Bros. were full of meats. Starting on the far end: chitterlings and hog maw, pigs feet, smoked hog neck, smoked ham hocks, hot dogs, Polish sausage, chicken wings, chicken drumsticks, chicken breast, young turkeys, salt pork, pig tails, corned pig tails, long corned pig tails, ham, tripe, Longhorn cheddar cheese, imported swiss cheese, provolone, New York sharp cheddar, corned beef, smoked butt, rabbit, roast beef, country bacon, baby beef liver, pork chops, bologna, salami, head cheese, braunschweiger, veal chops, lamb chops, ground turkey and double yolk eggs.

We can get anything we want. Fish from all the waters of the earth.

The speckled salmon sparkled under the lights at Cross Street Seafood. At Nick's, at the far end of the market, there were pink jumbo shrimp, scallops, mussels, crab meat, smelts, steakfish, lobster, rainbow trout, lake trout, pan trout, oyster trout, squid, catfish, porgies, bluefish, butterfish, perch, mako, tuna, orange roughy, flounder and a couple of lobsters.

At the cheese stall, I found pistachios, pine nuts, macadamia nuts, hazel nuts, Morrocan oil-cured olives and vanilla beans. There were several pates and cheese of all varieties -- caviar roll, hazelnut roll, taleggio, camembert, goat-milk cheese with green olive, and frommagde du terroir Normand. You could buy Hungarian paprika, Mr. Williams' Cajun sauce, teriyaki sauce and Dijon mustard.

There was plenty of kohlrabi at Mel's Produce. There was sausage sizzling and chicken frying, and flowers being wrapped. It was all there. All. Everything.

Amazing. America.

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