Dueling Spice Savants

This morning I found myself skipping from one space heater to the next following P around the Farmer’s Market in downtown Kansas City. It’s in the City Market to be exact, located in the River Market. It has a bit of an identity crisis. 

My Under Armour leggings and Nike zip up jacket and vest weren’t as insulating as I had hoped, so I stayed close to the heaters as opposed to my husband. He didn’t mind, or really even notice. He was in the zone. We typically try to come to the Farmer’s Market every weekend we are in town to purchase our fruits and veggies, and the occasional piece of fudge or bouquet of fresh flowers.

PeppersP always commits to a full loop around the market upon arrival to check out the inventory and the price points. However, except for the occasional deal on peppers, P has specific merchants he visits for the items on his list. The sisters (I think they are sisters) on the South end typically have the best deals on mushrooms, garlic and potatoes. The gentleman at the North end seems to have the best fruit. Today the Fruit Guy was touting fresh cantaloupe – yum!

And in the middle of the market’s main strip can be found those I have dubbed the Dueling Spice Savants. They are old world and new world – one a veteran, one a rookie. As far as I can tell. Their long tables of spices sit a mere 100 yards apart.

The Veteran sits quietly in his chair behind rows and rows of bags filled to the brim with spice. He calmly approaches potential customers and offers his assistance, both physically and intellectually. His gray stocking cap snug on his head, his apron loosely tied around his back. There is wisdom about him, a tradition, and a culture.

The Veteran

The Rookie never sits. He wears the same flat-billed baseball hat every week. It’s black and  gold with an embroidered  P on the front. His sleeves are rolled up. He never stops moving. There is energy about him, a passion, and a sense of innovation.

The Rookie

Their spice selections are mind blowing. The Veteran has spices I’ve never heard of before. Not necessarily hard to accomplish, I guess. The Rookie has unique blends specific to the task at hand – grilling, smoking, barbequing, etc. You experience the most amazing sensory overload walking past their stands.

Both are rarely without customers clamoring for little baggies of their favorite flavor. P is always among those waiting for their turn to talk to the Spice Men.

This is, without a doubt, Patrick’s favorite reason to make the Saturday morning trip. He tends to visit the Rookie most often.  They exchange pleasantries; I think they are about the same age. P explains his next cooking adventure to the Rookie and they collaborate on what spices he will need. The Rookie suggests he try each spice before final selection. P dabs his pinky in the scoop presented by the Rookie. I think it’s gross, but apparently it’s “what you do.”  Sometimes the Rookie has P test out various concoctions even if they aren’t what he needs.

Today the Rookie wore a Mizzou sweatshirt.  He and P must be soul mates. I always wait patiently for P to make his picks. I’m never one to taste the spices, although offered. I’d rather not look like a complete spice wimp in front of these strangers. On this specific trip, P purchased from the Rookie two scoops parsley, two scoops mixed black peppercorns, one scoop hickory rub and one scoop “Soul” rub. According to P, “Soul” = Cajun-like. All are spices needed for the meat in our Super Bowl Sunday Smoke.

With our weekly spice supply purchased, we checked off the last item on our list. Now came time for “Libby’s Choice”. I usually like to end the outing by swinging by Bloom Baking Co. and sampling their bread pudding, or other fresh baked deliciousness. However, today we headed to the center of the City Market, to the area where they sell the crafty items. And the fudge.

Before we passed by the fudge, P made a comment about impulse purchases.

So…a few weeks ago, I impulsively purchased a bag of clementine oranges as we were leaving the Farmer’s Market. As I’ve mentioned before, I love clementine oranges. Well, I didn’t do a good job of inspecting the oranges before I paid for them and upon opening one at home realized they were a little past their expiration date. At least the date I would have given them. The inside of the orange had started to separate from the outer skin. It wasn’t pretty. Or tasty.

Clearly, I haven’t lived that down yet. I gave P a look and told him not to worry, I wouldn’t make any impulse purchases today, but, to be clear, fudge doesn’t count as an impulse purchase since it’s fairly predictable for me to want.

Well, we made it past the fudge, the pretty flowers and the loaves of yummy bread without making an “impulse purchase.” We arrived at the end of the enclosed shopping area and happened upon a lady selling jam. All kinds of jam. She offered us samples of a dip she had made with her jam. Note: Always make sure you have a full understanding of what you are eating at the Farmer’s Market before consuming. I vaguely remember hearing her say “mango jalapeno jam” and “not that spicy” before popping a dip covered chip into my mouth. Cue the fire-breathing dragon. As I stood there with my mouth wide open sucking in freezing cold air in an attempt to cool down my taste buds, P began perusing the dozens of jams she had on display. Fast-forward to the end of their incredibly interesting conversation about jam, P purchased a large jar of Raspberry Habanero jam.  Something I am 98% likely to not enjoy.


My response: So, about those oranges… I think we are even now.

Spices, veggies, and impulse purchase in hand, we walked back to the car; P ignoring my numerous jabs about the jam along the way. The Farmer’s Market was just the first stop of the morning. A visit to the grocery store for the non-organic items awaited us before returning home to prep for our Super Sunday Smoke tomorrow.  More to come on that later.

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