I’ve lived in many places, but I’ve always come back here to southern Connecticut. It’s a beautiful place, and a maddening place, filled with interesting people, and overlapping circles. One group of circles is people who care about food.
Sunday, I drove from my house in Fairfield to Sport Hill Farm in Easton. As soon as I stepped out of my car, I saw my neighbors. Their four-year-old daughter was talking to the chickens, and their baby boy gave me a shy, lopsided smile from his perch in his father’s arms.
“We just bought a loaf of Michael’s bread,” Kate said, referring to my husband’s Fairfield Bread Co. “We came back for more apricots because they were so good.”
It’s a great year for apricots, and Sport Hill has “imported” lovely ones from Red Jacket Farm in New York State. Plump, golden and rosy, their flesh is sweet, skin tart, and consistency perfect, like a childhood memory of the way fruit used to be.
Inside the barn, Michelle was behind the counter, and I hope that meant that farmer Patti Popp, the hardest working woman I know, was able to slip away from the farm for a few hours. I told Michelle, “Those nice people who were just in here are my neighbors.” She didn’t seem surprised. It probably happens all the time.
Shopping at Patti’s is exciting; the bins are filled with so many delicious, freshly picked vegetables that I find myself hopping about trying to figure out what to get. First things I put on the counter, a dozen eggs and two pints of apricots. Then I filled my bag with brilliant yellow zucchini, deep purple-black eggplant, a basket of multi-colored cherry tomatoes, and a pint of blueberries.
While standing in line, Laura Downey and I recognized each other at the same moment. She’s co-owner of Fairfield Cheese Company (and Greenwich Cheese Company.) Hard to believe it’s nine years since Fairfield Cheese opened and elevated the local food scene with artisan American and classic European cheeses. She talked about the American Cheese Society conference in Pittsburg, and consolidations in the artisan cheese business. I thought of the wonderful smell in her shop, and the amazing cheeses that I’ve had there.
Laura headed out the door (a loaf of Fairfield Bread’s multi-grain country loaf among her provisions) and I, buoyed by the everyone-knows-your-name friendliness of Sport Hill Farm, turned to the person standing in line behind me. “You look familiar too,” I said. “I’m Rob the electrician,” he said. It didn’t ring a bell. I felt a little embarrassed, but Rob was good natured.
Back home, I told my husband about running into our neighbors and Laura. Then I mentioned the electrician.
“Rob the electrician,” Michael said, “He’s the guy that hooked us back up after Hurricane Sandy.” We’d been out of electricity for 13 days, the last section of Fairfield to be restored, and Rob came to our rescue. He’s a friend of our friends Tara and Pat, who also live in Easton.
This is why I live where I live. Because of places like Sport Hill Farm. Patti and Al Popp do more than grow vegetables. They bring people together in an old-fashioned, small town sort of way, over fruit, vegetables, bread and cheese. As Rob the electrician said as I was leaving, “This is what we do on Sundays.”