Fair Trade

This morning I paid two dollars a head for locally grown butter lettuce. Not two dollars on the credit card which I wouldn't notice, but two dollars green cold cash. I've paid twice that for a latte innumerable times but I expect my lettuce to be less expensive. I'll admit it. My chest got tight handing over the money and I thought this organic local stuff straight from the grower is for people with deeper pockets than mine. I considered a cheaper Fresno grower. I considered asking if I could return it. And, the butter lettuce I bought is gorgeous. Probably the prettiest damn lettuce I've ever seen and it's grown in West Marin. Each leaf is perfect and it tastes, without going overboard, it tastes like the sun breaking through the fog, like all is right in the world. I bought three heads and long fat red onions and ciliantro because it looked so happy being cilantro and it was less than two dollars. And then I gave the grower most of my money. You are supporting local agriculture, I kept repeating to myself. This is good. I felt a little sick.

At the Petaluma growers stall I bought a bit of spinach to make a seasonal salad with feta, strawberries and almonds. I could have bought a double latte instead. With soy. I added a couple of baskets of strawberries. How much, I asked. He looked at me, looked at the remaining baskets, said hello to a customer nearby, straighted up some dino kale. I felt like he was spinning an internal roulette wheel and wherever it stopped would be my price. They are good, he added taking the last of my market money. I smiled. I hope so, I thought. The truth is they aren't as pretty as the Santa Barbara strawberries at a fraction of the price but after tasting them they are twice as delicious.

I went back to the car for more cash to buy almonds, arguing the entire time if I would buy the organic at ten dollars a pound or the others at six and wishing I could use my credit card so I wouldn't have to be so aware of the costs. Wishing I could believe that whatever choice I made didn't make a difference then believing that my choice didn't make a difference and back and forth. By the time I bought a bag I was rung out and got in the long line for a latte. It's been over a year since I've had one and I told myself I deserved it. I looked around, studied a table of cherries, a woman picking them out one by one. The smell of sausages grilling across the way, a double stroller causing a back up on the main thoroughfare and then I noticed two warm eyed women next door. They were selling coffee with no line. No steam, no foam, no soy. Just coffee. Organic, fair trade fresh brewed coffee. I paid for a medium, added whole milk to the paper cup and with my bag of nonorganic almonds I decided to ditch my other errands and found a seat with friends to settle in for a visit. The easiest decision of the morning by far.

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