Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wilbo Contemplates the Elusive Nature of True Michigan Cherry Pie, and Shows Gratitude for All the Free in His Life.

I arrived after the tolling of Noon at the Farmer's Market. With hope, I made a beeline to the woman who sells fresh apple pie by the slice. Her husband and she call their business "The Cake Flour Bakery". Alas, she had sold all of her slices at two dollars the slice. I had given her two dollars to hold back a slice for me for most of July. Alas again, I failed to pay in advance on Saturday, when I missed the market entirely. She smiled. She asked, "Do you like cherries"? "Well, yes, and cherries are in season". She smiled again, "I bought a flat of cherries from Dave England the Pumpkin Man Saturday, and I made cherry pie to sell by the slice". I looked hopefully at her plug in fridge, wondering if she were about to produce a slice. I imagined her in the kitchen, slicing and pitting cherries and making her own cherry filling. "I'll have more cherry pie next time I am at market". "I can't wait", I smiled. I walked away and soon I had three regrets. First, she has brought baked goods Wednesday to the flea market. So tomorrow she's bringing cherry pie to the market? I only have to wait until tomorrow? I didn't clarify that point. Second, I didn't force two dollars on her to hold back a slice. She puts the slice away in a brown paper bag with a napkin rolled around a knife and fork. Tucks the package away in the fridge. Third, I failed to verify what variety of cherries she had purchased from Dave. Dave the Pumpkin Man brings the cherries in all their varieties south from Mears.

At most, I just have to wait until Thursday, the next market day just for farmers. I'm making a mental note to go to the market earlier.

I saw Dave putting away empty boxes in his van. I said to his partner, "I have a question for Dave". "Well, holler at him"! "Dave, what kind of cherries did you sell the Cake Flour lady for her pies"? He nodded at the pints in front of me, red cherries as red as a Chevrolet Corvette. "I sold her a flat of Montmorency Cherries. Those a good pie cherries, a little on the sour side". "Thanks Dave! Keep pushing the stone fruit". The two farmers laughed, yet I think they were laughing with me, not at me.

I lunched with a good friend last Saturday, and he had just returned from a sailing trip from Muskegon to Charlevoix. We ate burgers at Lefty's and Romo's and went over the voyage, port by port. I know all port town on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan, but only a few of them from the water.

The ship had fled a storm arriving at South Manitou Island and made safe harbor at Northport. He said, "We docked, walked into town, and looked in the window at the cherry pies and turnovers at Barb's Bakery". I felt for him. "Oh, Mike, You can knock on the door of Barb's at Five in the morning and expect to be let in. But she shuts up right after lunch". "Yeah, I know. Men were sitting out front on benches, eating cherry turnovers and drinking coffee, and we knocked on the door without hope. We went over to the Farmer's Market, and all the vendors were sold out of Leelanau cherry pie".

"Man, cherry pie interruptus already", I sympathized. "You said it". He took a long pull on his pint of Perrin Black Ale. "So we went to the supermarket. We bought a bread with cherries baked inside. Hardly a substitute". "Dang, Mike, you sailed all the way to the tip of Leelanau County and you didn't get any cherry pie? What a blow". I stood him another pint of Perrin Black Ale and changed the subject to his new greenhouse. His strawberries don't know it's the middle of July.

After my walk around the Farmers Market, I popped into Burger King for a pair of flame broiled cheeseburgers and a free coffee. I get a free coffee almost everywhere I go. Except at the Coffee Factory, Drip Drop Drink and Aldea, where I pay for the showmanship. And the chance to talk garrulously as the hot water drizzles through the freshly ground coffee. I poured myself a coffee from the urn and set about checking my email. The counterman yelled out, "Two cheeseburgers, hold the ketchup"! I missed the call. One more time he bellowed, "Two cheeseburgers, hold the ketchup"! "I'm right there in a moment", I yelled back. When I made the counter, two men looked at me. The two had an Icee in cherry each, a dollar and sales tax. They looked a little haggard. Probably recent releases from the county jail". One said to me, "You didn't show up, I was taking your burgers". The second said to me, "Yeah, those burgers looked good". I squinted my eyes and saw the icees and no food. "Are you the hungry"? "Yes, we are". "So enjoy". The first guy said as he shook my hand, "You're going to win the lottery today". I said, "I'm going to play". The second guy shook my hand. "Thanks, man". And the two men went out into the hot day with their dollar Icees and a cheeseburger each. I ordered another round.

I'm not going to miss two dollars on my poorest day. I get a lot of free in my life. I rolled into Van's Oil Change today for a free fluid and tire pressure check. Just rolled into the shop on Whitehall Road and asked. He topped off my oil. My Vortec engine burns a little although I was surprised this time how much. He topped off my washer fluid, inflated a low rear tire. He refused a tip. Kathy's Produce always has a free apple for me three days a week, just for the asking. I visited an open house on the waterfront and poured myself three glasses of Malbec from the bottle. Grand Valley threw a shindig two weeks ago and my friends and I drank from an open bar and ate fresh blackberries in small cups of chocolate. I can spare a pair of dollar cheeseburgers.

Maybe I can get those guys to shave and dress in a button down from Goodwill. Teach them to talk the talk and hit the party circuit. Teach a guy to gate crash and they'll eat for a lifetime.

Wikipedia image by Martha Dol. - Montmorency Cherries

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