My Favorite Wooden Market- by Ernie Padron
On Sunday’s I go to Foster’s. It’s located off Highway 15-501 in what appears to be a lower middle class neighborhood. On one side sits Fred Astaire’s Dance Studio. I’m not sure what is on the other side since I never drive past it. Foster’s is a wooden building, a former lawn mower repair shop, that feels very much like a home. When you drive into the parking lot, you’ll notice a very bumpy ride on your way to finding a spot. That’s because the lot is not paved; it’s made of gravel and gives off a lot of dust. I wonder why they haven’t paved the parking lot, they make enough money off the higher than average prices they charge. maybe it goes along with the whole rustic motif, giving the yuppies that go to the market a sense of going to the country and roughing it. As you walk in you go through a porch that has picnic tables and rocking chairs; on one side there is a garden which supplies the flowers they sell inside as well as the ones on the tables. The word ” market” that hangs on the sign from the post outside is misleading, I think. You would never think that this was a place to sit down and have a glass of chardonnay, some tarragon chicken salad, potato leek soup, stuffed Portobello mushrooms or beef tenderloin. They do have some market items; pasta, a little produce, and some oils and vinegars to cook with. But if you are looking for toothpaste or toilet paper you better keep driving down to Harris Teeter.
Once you push hard on the door to go in ( I always push hard because the sign on the door says “Door Sticks- Push Hard”, but it’s never really been stuck when I’ve pushed it) you see the new coffee bar. It’s a little less than a year old, and it was Foster’s attempt to keep up with the yuppies’ new fashionable thirst for 32 types of coffee. They also make smoothies at the “bar” which are actually pretty good. My favorite is the apple, caramel, yogurt one. The next thing you see is the island; the heart, brains and lungs of Foster’s in the eyes of the guests- though, what really keeps it alive is the kitchen. Here you find everything from prepared salads to the featured items of the day, they are out on the counter in large dishes. As well as the desserts, custom made sandwiches, and soups (each day two different types are offered, one vegetarian and one with meat). In the back there are tables and three booths, and outside there is a patio with more tables.
I go to Foster’s on Sunday’s, sometimes hung over, sometimes after Mass, and other times just because I’m hungry. I usually go around 1:30 , which is a good time. It’s not too early, so I avoid the churchgoing people looking for breakfast, but it’s also after the large brunch crowd that wakes up fashionably late. Sometimes I go by myself, and other times I go with other people. When I am alone, I have time to think and reflect. other times I read the New York Times, which they sell there, and when I am lucky enough to get my favorite table in the back I have a perfect view of the front door so I can see everyone coming in, watch them order at the counter and pay at the cashier.
On different days at different times I see different things. On weekdays in the early evening, I see the mother with the baby stroller trying desperately to find something soft enough for her infant’s tongue. On weekdays, in the afternoon, I see the business man with his stack of files and paper; he brought his work so that he could eat his lunch slowly instead of having to eat quickly and hurry back to the office. On weekends, in the morning, I see families who just got out of Mass and are hungry after sitting through that long sermon. On weekends, in the afternoons, I see the couple who just rolled out of bed. They still look shaken by the passionate night they shared, and came to enjoy each other some more over fruit salad while sitting outside to enjoy a glorious day filled with sunshine and happiness. There are always two friends sitting in the corner catching up on old times or giving each other advice on some new crisis. There is always a man sitting on stools reading the newspaper, drinking his coffee, barely noticing the world going on around him.
I like Sunday’s at Foster’s. Sometimes I go there on a day other than Sunday, but I sometimes feel like I don’t belong there. It might be that I feel pressured to be doing something else. Sunday’s have no pressure, they’re designed for relaxing, many top notch psychologists suggest that you do nothing strenuous on Sundays. The first time I went on a Wednesday , it was also a night. I felt so uncomfortable being there that I had them to wrap up my food to-go midway through my meal. Foster;s doesn’t feel the same at night during the week. Maybe it’s that there are not as many people, or that the sun is not out, or that they call the food they have out “dinner items”. At night Foster’s feels lifeless. There is something missing and I’m not quite sure what it is, but it is not there. I’ve tried going a couple of times at night after that awful experience. I’m getting more adjusted and I’m able to go through an entire meal without feeing so anxious that I have to leave abruptly. It’s still not the same, though. During the week, Foster’s is my market. On Sunday’s Foster’s is my home.
I remember the first time I went to Foster’s with Jamie’s dad. He gave me a taste of his herb biscuit. Since then, every time I go to Foster’s I have an herb biscuit( the trick is to get them heated up) and every time I remember the one Mr. Gordon and I shared. I also remember the Saturday during my freshman year that I went there with two friends and a brother from the fraternity where I was rushing. It was a brilliant, sunny spring day and we sat outside to enjoy our lunch. It was the day before bids were suppose to go out and he told me I was getting one. It wasn’t a huge surprise but I was extremely relieved to not have that shred of doubt lingering in my mind. I also go to Foster’s to think, dream and decide. One day this semester I made the decision not to go abroad during the fall semester of my junior year; instead choosing to go abroad this summer. It was a cold, windy spring day- one of those that mother nature teases the world with since it is supposed to be spring and spring is supposed to be hot, so you put away all your sweaters, only to be faced with 60 degree weather. I went by myself and sat down until I reached a decision. I was there for nearly two hours.
I remember the first time I went and the lady behind the counter said ” Hi Ernie”. I still don’t know her name, but it’s always good to see her whenever I make a trip to the market. The staff is a diverse bunch. It’s as if the owner was trying to get an equal representation from every single major race in America. One day I walked in and sat down to have my lunch and was very excited to see new additions on the walls; newspaper and magazine articles written about Foster’s, both reviews and features. I learned about the origin of Foster’s, about, Sara Foster the owner and her husband moving down from Connecticut to open Foster’s, and how she use to be on Martha Stewart’s catering team. I now know who she is and have seen her around once in a while. I think that Mrs. Foster and I would get along because I’ve see her helping out at the island once in a while. She does everything from serving people to cleaning the dessert case. I really admire people who never feel too important to do certain things, even when they are paying others to do it. I also learned that there were other people, people who apparently knew what they were talking about, that liked Foster’s as much as I do. I love taking people to Foster’s who have never been there before. I feel like I’m bringing them over to my house for a meal. I show them around, tell them where everything is, and tell them about a couple of my favorite dishes. each person has a different reaction, and most like it. Only one person I have taken there has not liked it, he said it was too “funky or new age” for his palate.
Foster’s has become an integral part of my ” Duke experience”. Whenever I need to go somewhere, I will always be able to go to Foster’s. Whenever I need to talk I can always call Jamie or Belinda, and go with them to Foster’s. It is a stable place in my world, one of a very few. Every time I go to Foster’s I have more than a meal- sometimes I have a conversation, sometimes I just have quiet time, sometimes I find peace of mind. I always leave that gravel lot with more than I arrived with, at the very least a happy stomach.