The time of the year that stretches from May to October has a specific name in Walla’s lexicon – it’s called ‘The Market Season’: starting on the first Saturday in May we go into high gear and stay there until Thanksgiving weekend. Mixers and ovens go into overtime, bread dough is mixed, pastry is rolled, new products are created such as last summer’s ‘snail,’ a croissant pastry filled with frangipane and rum-soaked raisins, and the ‘accidental’ Boureka made with rye (!) puff pastry, filled with smoked meat and named ‘Pastrami on Rye’.
A love/hate relationship has evolved between me and the Downtown Community market, of which I was one of the original founders seven years ago. On the one hand, I welcome the abundance of customers and the frantic energy around our tent, seeing the expression on people’s faces who for the first time are tasting a salted caramel Kouign Amann pastry or an almond croissant. By the end of the day this provides me with the immense satisfaction of a job well done and a well-deserved rest. On the other hand, there is the terribly inefficient act of 24 weeks of schlepping back and forth: tables, tents, generator, hot-holding table, breads, pastries, Bourekas, preserves, condiments, signs, baskets, refrigerator, freezer, etc. – all for just four and a half hours of the Saturday market.
Walla’s presence at the Saturday market and the logistics that are constantly evolving to accommodate new products, can be perfectly executed only thanks to our top-class ‘elves’ who are deeply committed to excellent food. Their work ethic is hard to come by these days and thanks to them, I finally learned to let go of my ‘control freak’ attitude and to trust their endless resourcefulness and competence. Last fall, on Oct. 3, Sharon and I passed the baton to the ‘kids’ and enjoyed the season’s opening opera live from the MET at the local Landmark cinema – ahh, la Dolce Vita…
Joey, a former Montréal native of Italian descent who recently made the Okanagan his new home, knows good food; his family owns a well-known Italian restaurant in Montréal, and like most of Walla’s employees, he started as a customer. Now he’s in charge of transportation and sales. He used to disappear on the occasional Saturday – “Going fishing” he said, and left us all behind, to face the hoards of customers who would descend upon our tent, appearing like swarms of hungry locusts. And what was in it for us?…Nothing, not even a shriveled sardine tail. . .nada.
And then there’s Dave, the retired geologist and passionate photographer (some of you have seen his outstanding work on our walls) who spends his nights manning the front desk at the Lakeside Resort, and then Saturday mornings congenially handling the logistics and sales at Walla’s tent, while also helping out at Phyllis Jmaeff’s produce stand at the nearby Farmer’s Market. Like Joey, he also hails from Quebec.
There’s also Elena who just graduated high-school and is spending her Rotary year abroad in The Netherlands, and her sisters Madeleine, in grad school for nursing, and Adra completing her studies at U of T. These young ladies have exceeded my overly-high and often uncompromising expectations for everything that encompasses the ultimate employee: punctuality, responsibility, professional conduct, and higher than average intelligence. I am not easily impressed by human traits, but I commend their parents for raising such fine children (six in total).
As every summer gracefully fades, it gives way to the warm red, yellow and gold autumn colors that bathe the shorter days and the gentle rolling hills of Naramata in thousands of fire-like lights. Our seasonal ‘tenants,’ the crickets with their endless song, the hooting owl perched up in the big pine tree, the constant buzzing bees in the intoxicating lavender bushes, the wasps that build their round hives almost everywhere, the little bats that pass above at dusk like a silent shadow, and the birds nesting and raising their chicks in the ‘townhouses’ attached to the shed wall – they leave in search for warmer lands as their ancestors have for thousands of years.
Now is the time to pick the partly shriveled wild grapes that grow unattended behind our home – ripe, sweet and loaded with wild yeast which happily frolics on. This will serve as the base for the sourdough for the rest of the year. Nature regenerates and is reborn in the form of a plain, nutritious and crusty loaf of bread.
As we reflect upon the summer that was, we embrace the slower pace of life, grey streaked skies, falling leaves and naked trees, and welcome winter’s cold shrouds of snow.