SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Lovely readers, do you love a farmers market? I do (hello Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket with your homemade doughnuts and hot-spiced apple cider) — and so does today's guest, double Agatha award-winning novelist Leslie Budewitz.
She's the author of The Food Lovers' Village series; however, her newest novel, ASSAULT AND PEPPER, coming March 3 from Berkley Prime Crime is the first in her latest, the Spice Shop Series. And its setting is a farmers market — THE farmers market — Seattle's Pike Place Market. Here's a taste:
Just a pinch of murder... After the year from you-know-what, Pepper Reece finds a new zest for life running a busy spice shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are a hit and everyone loves her refreshing spice tea. Pepper is convinced she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murder ends up in the mix.
And here's Leslie on Seattle's Pike Place Market as well as the legendary markets of France — take it away Leslie!
LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Does anyone not love a farmer’s market? The Pike Place Market in Seattle originated in 1907 when the city council created a market for farmers to sell directly to “housewives.” On the first day, THE farmers ran out of produce before they got their trucks unloaded.
I fell in love with the Market as a college student in the late 1970s, not long after it was saved from the wrecking ball of “urban removal.” Later, as a young lawyer working downtown, I ate my way through the Market several days a week. I’d start at the front entrance with a slice of pizza from DeLaurenti’s walk-up window, browsing the covers of the magazines at the First & Pike Newsstand— eyes only until my hands were clean! I’d sip a sample cup of tea at Market Spice while watching the fishmongers throw salmon and amuse the crowd with their comedy routine, pick my produce and cheese for the week, and end with dessert—a hazelnut sable from Le Panier, the French bakery, or a Nanaimo bar from a now-departed shop in the warren off Post Alley.
A few years ago, Mr. Right and I spent a month in France. We loved everything about it, including the markets, small, medium, and large. Our first was in Arles, a city with Roman roots and medieval history, once home to Van Gogh and Cezanne. At the Arles Wednesday market, you can buy everything from herbs and spices to sausages to sunglasses and goats.
The next Sunday, we found ourselves in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a magical town. Once again, produce, cheese, and sausage were king, but here too were tables of antique monogrammed linens, silver cutlery, and other French treasures. Accordian music. Duck sausage. (We ate a lot of duck in France. We fed a lot of ducks, too, to make up for it.) Ravioli made before our eyes. The produce seller who asked when we intended to eat the cantaloup—and rejected three before finding one he promised would be ripe the next day. And he was right, bien sûr!
Roussillon is not a historic market town, but no matter: the butcher, baker, cheesemonger, and a few produce sellers crammed into the village’s single parking lot on Saturday morning, beside a beekeeper, a soap maker, and handful of artists. Best macarons of the trip.
Back in Paris, the Sunday Market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, directly behind our hotel, left us speechless. Food lovers’ heaven. Vats of olives, baskets of mushrooms we couldn’t identify, bread so beautiful it made our eyes water. We wandered the blocks, eavesdropping on the Parisians as they filled their baskets and rolling carts for the next few days, and bought a picnic for our last evening on the banks of the Seine.
Markets are inherently festive. They fire up our senses and spark our imaginations. They make us hungry—and offer us everything from fresh-roasted peanuts to fresh-baked piroshky. And they bring us back, again and again, to see what’s old and new.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: What about you, Readers? Do you have a favorite farmers’ market or a memory of one? Leslie is giving a copy of ASSAULT AND PEPPER and a bag of Market Spice Tea from Seattle to one lucky reader!
The first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction, Leslie Budewitz lives in NW Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their Burmese cat, a book cover model and avid birdwatcher. For more tales of life in the Great Northwest, visit her website.