This is a moment in time. A moment stopped for all intensive purposes, preserved for me, for you, & all those readers that are interested into the six-month mark of Madeleine blog, or perhaps planning a vacation on Vashon Island in the future.
For today, July 17th, I turned 36, bringing me closer to forty years old than thirty & there is a certain feeling of retrospect involved with such milestones. If this was any indicator, life shan't be dull!
I'd love to tell you that my birthday weekend was all daisies & roses, but at least there was plenty of lavender to bring on an imagined trip to Provence. Our idealic seaside cottage turned out to be a bust with crusty topsoil lawn (the owner had just roto-tilled her whole front lawn--oops, sorry folks!) competing with the spectacular sunrise we awoke to outside our curtainless windows, along with an equally crusty neighbor watering her seedlings as we stood in our underwear, astonished, after brushing our teeth. But life is what you make it, naked or not!
So we kissed our goodbyes to our initial getaway plan, & turned our focus towards a much more rewarding path--Vashon's rich farmer population. Vashon has a tight agricultural association called VIGA (Vashon Island Grower's Association) & in addition to their weekly Saturday farmer's market there are plentiful self-serve farmstands sprinkled about the island.
This seems unique to Vashon as in all our travels about the sound, I've never witnessed such an abundance of independent farm outposts on any other island. If you relish U-pick berries or cartons of mis-matched speckled eggs, you can create quite an adventure here hopping farm to farm.
I have the good fortune of being born on the weekend of Vashon's annual lavender festival, as well as a few others out on the Olyympic Peninsula. We fully partook of every edible lavender concoction offered--lavender lemonade & lavender Snickerdoodles (!) inspired me to try these summer delights at home.
We were able to recreate a loose version of the 100-Mile-Diet, the one-year journey of a couple who ate nothing outside their circumference--everything absolutely fresh & waiting for our mouths to pop open at the view of Mt. Rainier on our second night at the rickety Swallow's Nest Cottages, our second & final rental surprise. Yes, cute from the outside, but smack dab next to the owner's cottage & two feet from the asphalt highway. What can you tell from the internet anyway! It was, well, interesting to be sipping on a glass of wine while people waved from their cars...
The best part was the meal created from all our farm finds, reminiscent of a dish I'd had at the Pink Door years ago--a giant ravioli or raviolini I believe as its called, layered with Dungeness crab & fresh English peas & carrots sweet as the Normandy butter they were sauteed in. Mon dieu! For a stove that has seen nothing but frozen pizza for years (according to the ZZ Top look-alike owner), Ken made magic (although he managed to erase his prettier pictures of our plates, perhaps due to some earlier celebrating...)
So, after checking out of our 50's time capsule the next morning, I was ready to give up on Vashon as my b-day destination & head on home given numerous glitches & the cloudiest sky in a week. When all you want for your birthday is a day at the beach & a book, it's hard to wake up to grey... Our most fortunate decision was to head to the ferry terminal, enjoy a bad Mexican meal & some margaritas at La Playa & turn back towards home.
I now think everyone should try this on their vacations, because the food was surprisingly pleasing & the medium-sized margarita equalled three Prozacs. As we hit the parking lot after our waterfront meal, I was indeed a much happier camper, with the sun streaming above us. We decided to head back into town one last time to visit the Vashon Wine Shop & our patience was rewarded with an invitation from the proprietor, Stephen, to enjoy an impromptu dinner party at a local farm culminating our summer harvest weekend.
Strangely enough, it happened to be one of the few farms on our Sunday scouting that lead us to a Bermuda Triangle of greenhouses, a mysterious building that said "Free Books" & we turned around in the driveway scratching our heads... Now I'm not at liberty to divulge the identity of this farm, but the owner throws an underground dinner on Sundays which is well-attended by Seattle foodies that focuses on everything less than 10-miles away. That's cool.
Mondays, it's leftover night & these are the kind of leftovers you *want* to have in your fridge. Fresh pasta was being rolled out when we arrived with bottles in hand (our entrance fee), bowls of braised pork sat by the stove, & greens were being gathered by the handful by the goat-load for our salad bowl. Our traveling gourmet pantry came in handy as we had olive oil with us to contribute for seasoning the sorrel & lettuce, as our host uses lard from his hogs as the main fat in all of his cooking. "I can't seem to get rid of it!" he mused. "Maybe I need to raise skinnier pigs! By the way, do you guys always travel like this?"
With a smile we continued to bring more items to the table throughout the evening to share with our new friends, like my first harvest of pimientos de padron grown with seeds smuggled back from Galicia & a bevvy of cheeses & bread from Panzanella. At 36, I guess my backpacking days are over, for we do not travel light--the bed can be squeaky, I'll shovel cedar chips into a compost toilet--but gosh darnit, the food better be good!
The true highlight of our meal was a sorbet which everyone scooped their spoons into, trying to guess the secret ingredient. Was it lychee? Pine? Well, my east coast upbringing should have clued me in but if you guessed larch, you're right. So this collective of friends & strangers swooned & reminisced over flavors & hair-brained travels of days past, Stephen suddenly looked at his watch & announced that we had ten minutes to make the ferry.
Peeling out from the parking lot while goats looked up indifferently, my mind already full of quick snapshots, I felt that I had been tested somehow & that we passed... Perhaps this wasn't the year where you're blown away with fireworks & birthday candles, but a sense of you are what you make of it all. And that going home to check on your tomato plants & flopping down on your own bed with your husband & a little black cat named Eekworth Tasmanio Marsipilani is the best present of all. Am I getting old afterall?
Island Farm Meadow, 10301 Cemetery Rd
Plum Forest Farm, 20020 107th Ave SW
GreenMan Farm, 8800 SW Dilworth Rd
Hogsback Farm, 16530 91st Ave SW