It’s Saturday morning, and the sun is busting through the clouds, a sign from the heavens that it’s a good time to head to the Hope Street Farmers’ Market at Lippitt Park. I yank my kids out of bed, with promises that they can fill their empty bellies with a chunk of bread or a cinnamon bun from welcoming vendors. I’ve gone to the market many times before, but rarely with my kids, and that’s a sin I aim to rectify.
Here are the things you need for the famers’ market: a bit of cash since transactions happen the old-fashioned way; a tote for your purchases; sneakers for the grass; a willingness to try new things; a sense of curiosity; and a dog, if you have one. Leave your cell phone at home. This is not the mall.
We park on a side street and cross Hope to a crowd of people, gabbing, browsing and eating, so much eating, everything from granola bars and apple slices to Indian fare and burritos. “Let’s roll and see what we find,’’ says my oldest, Peder.
Our first stop is Rocket Fine Street Food, a food truck that had visited the boys’ school earlier in the year for a fundraiser. Peder chats it up with the owners and orders two bowls of mac and cheese – one for him, the other for his brother, Henry. If there were awards for the best mac and cheese in Little Rhody, the boys say Rocket would win. “Come again,’’ says the owner, peeking from her window.
The East Side is a cozy neighborhood. If you go to, say, the grocery store, chances are you’ll bump into someone you know. The scene at the famers’ market is no different. So many familiar faces. There’s Linda Kushner behind the Arcadian Fields booth. Myrth York is by the fountain. I see a fellow member of the Seekonk Swim Club buying fresh mushrooms. And who is that gent campaigning for mayor?
By far, our best find is Jason, friend to Henry and Peder and artist extraordinaire who is selling T-shirts emblazoned with his stunning artwork. He’s a spirited 13-year-old: 50% of his profits go to the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Pleasantries are exchanged, then he agrees to a quick interview, with his dog, Cody, standing by:
Me: “How’s business?’’
Me: “Why do you like being an entrepreneur?’
Jason: “It’s fun! And I get to be in the middle of things.’’
Yes, indeed, the farmers’ market is a business kid’s dream. Off we go, stopping at as many booths as we can jam into this blue-sky day. Peder buys a pot of basil. Henry plunks down a few bucks for a bottle of homemade black cherry soda. “Taste this mom,’’ he says. I do. “Pretty good,’’ he says. “Perfect,’’ I say.
We stop at the Beautiful Day booth to sample the best granola in the state, maybe the world. My friend, Maitham Wadia, is at the helm with his father-in-law. They are Iraqi refugees, and the nonprofit has helped them make a start in America. Peder buys a box of granola bars. Maitham makes sure he gets an assortment, even one flavored with mango. “Nice to see you,’’ says Maitham. “You too,’’ I say.
Next stop is the Seven Stars stand, swamped with customers. Peder is a man who knows what he wants, and today he wants epi bread, a baguette strung together in pieces. “Do you have epi?’’ he asks a clerk. “We do,’’ she says. Peder bites off a chunk. “It’s such cool bread,’’ he says. “No need for a knife.’’
Lunch is a creamy lemon drop cupcake from the Cupcakerie and a Del’s. Then we stroll among the artists, selling things like vases fashioned out of old Coke bottles and bracelets made from silver spoons. I’m lured to a stand offering free slices of Empire apples from Hill Orchards. Crisp yet juicy. “I’ll take a dozen,’’ I say.
We all make a pact that we’ll go back the next weekend. “This is what I love about the East Side,’’ says Peder. “This shows that the East Side can get together.’’ His apple is as sweet as mine.
Elizabeth Rau can be reached at erau1@ verizon.net.