When she looked out her window this evening, the city lights blurred in front of her eyes, forming and re-forming shapes until Vienna disappeared altogether and her thoughts transported her back to another time, another place, another life …
Though South Africa was caught in the middle of winter when the little family had landed in Cape Town, a bright sun had smiled at them from high up in the sky. It had been a nice greeting, especially as it had taken them five years – Louis and Oliver Eggleton had decided to decline the ever-present invitation until their little daughter had celebrated her tenth birthday – and about eighteen hours of traveling until they had touched down in Barley Willem’s home town. Charlotte could still remember the way the air had smelled when they had stepped out of the taxi and into his garden; could still feel the sun’s warm embrace on her skin and the scent of Barley’s beautiful flowers in her nose. More than anything else she had been confused as to why this winter was so warm and why there was no snow to be seen, but her father’s old school friend had soon chased her thoughts in a different direction, as he had wrapped Oliver Eggleton up in a hug that lifted him straight of the ground and made everybody laugh. That had been a nice greeting too.
“I can’t believe you are finally here!”, Barley had bark-laughed – his sounded like an over-excited puppy – , gesturing for them to follow him inside the house: “Took you long enough, too”, he had added, winking, as he had shown the little family through the rooms, promising them the time of their lives in Cape Town. And he hadn’t lied, either. Already within the very next day, Charlotte had felt her heart change, as a friendly Czech man had introduced her to a new dish at Oranjezicht city farm market that had tuned her life inside out it the simplest and yet most significant way; rendering Charlotte incapable of looking at breakfast food the same way every again.
The weather had changed, when Barley drove them to his favourite farmer’s market the next morning. He hadn’t allowed his guests much time to sleep in – claiming it was a waste of time to sleep in a city as exciting as Cape Town and a waste he could not stand for – but the fresh air and the slow drizzle of rain made quick process of any and all residual sleepiness the three Eggletons might have felt. Charlotte, in particular, was positively radiant with excitement, as they walked through the rain and ducked into the long tent-structure before them: “Oranjezicht City Farm Market*”, Barley exclaimed, once again spreading his arms wide. Though Egg had no idea what he actually did in his life, she had a feeling her father’s old friend could earn good money by guiding people through his town, infecting them with his excitement and his good-natured personality: “In this first part you can buy anything from fresh bread, to pasta and nut spreads, different teas and wines, even some clothes and jewellery over there”, he was pointing towards yet another part of the market, disguised behind what seemed like an impenetrable group of people: “and in the back part of the market you will find food from all over the world, anything you could ever dream of and a nice seating area outside under a plane to keep us from getting wet!”, he continued, readying himself for the many questions her father would most surely ask him. Oliver Eggleton lived and breathed markets such as this one and had worked on many similar ones. In fact, nobody would have been surprised to find him already toying with the idea of moving his family and the little store he currently held in a similar market in Budapest to this place, as he had done so many times before – always on the look out for something bigger and better. For now, however, he made do with finding out any and all details about the place: “Where are the products coming from? I remember you said something about organic micro-farmers?”
“Yes and no”, Barley answered. Louis took his young daughter by the hand and started showing her the different booths of the market, while his husband still stood rooted on the spot, trying to gain as much information as possible: “Most farms here are simply to small to be able to afford the organic certificate, but they either belong to an organic quality insurance system or just don’t use any chemicals…”, she heard the ghost of Barley’s voice saying, before the crowd had swallowed Charlotte whole. As the daughter of a market fanatic and a professional chef, her own fascination about all things food had no borders either, and so she was eager to absorb everything around her. The crowed had looked much denser from the entrance, but Egg found that she had no problem whatsoever navigating the little alleys on her papa’s hand. Music was playing in the background, just loud enough to be heard above the happy chatter of people, but not too loud so that venders could converse with their regulars or make new acquaintances with people stopping at their stalls. There really were all different kinds of products and Charlotte soon found herself in a conflict of whether she should beg her papa for a cinnamon roll or slice of bread spread thickly with glistening jam; if she should ask for a bag of granola to take home or a glass of glossy almond butter. There were jars with different flavours of mayonnaise, which she didn’t mind passing by and displays of oils that caught her papa’s eye. Soon they each held steaming cups of hot chocolate and Louis Eggleton had bought a bottle of olive oil, two different varieties of honey, one jar of cashew butter and jam each and an assortment of fruits that had sparked his interest. All of it was casually carried in a bag over his shoulder, in the nonchalant, yet elegant way only a French man could muster, as the pair was re-joined by Barley and Oliver: “… and new traders are always welcome to inquire about free spots, too – ah, there you guys are. Who want’s some breakfast?”, their personal tour guide asked, pointing towards the last tent of the structure: “There is so much to find, you will have a hard time choosing”, he winked and once again laughed his puppy-laugh: “but if you ask me, the Eggs Benedict are unbeatable!”
“What is Eggs Benedict?”, Charlotte asked quietly, the market’s buzzing atmosphere having all but erased her naturally shy personality.