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Finding Inspiration in Food

"Farm to Market: Peppers" watercolor by Jennifer Gillen

I'm a notably bad cook, baker, and dinner-maker. And my sense of taste when it comes to food is not particularly fine. On most days, I can be pretty happy with simple things like tortillas and avocados. When it comes to shopping for food, it's usually the visual elements that attract my attention.

Lately, I've been savoring the sights of farmers' market fruits and vegetables. We have a few near my home. There is so much color and texture in a farmers' market. I especially love the outdoor kinds where the lights and shadows emphasize the way things feel. Peppers appear shiny and smooth, melons are bumpy and rough. Onion skins hold the morning light in their soft, papery folds.

It's something very ordinary, but big piles of farm-grown food is an indulgent sight. Think of a pile of picked grapes. The edges and curves are endless and unpredictable. One of my favorite sights is a mass of roots piled in layers. I'm thinking of the way a stack of carrots appear with their stringy, long root threads. Another beautiful sight is a pile of cabbages with their tightly wrapped leaves in complementary colors of purple and green.

Farmers' markets highlight the work of hard working people. They are like gallery exhibitions for food. The golden jars of honey, baskets of home baked breads, and artisan soaps enthrall our senses. In the most basic ways, people come together in a market to share a harvest. Of course, we do this in a normal grocery store, too. But a farmers' market is a way to buy food directly from the soul who grew it.

I may not be a farmer or a cook, but I'm planning to celebrate these markets with a few paintings. The painting above is from a farmers' market in Missouri. The colors and textures of the peppers in the morning light caught my attention. They seemed to be so abundant that they were tumbling all over the farmer's table. These paintings are slow to create, but really rewarding. I hope they will someday find homes in happy kitchens where the people know how to cook delicious meals.

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