Monday, November 16, 2015

NaBloPoMo #16: Eat your vegetables. They're good for you.

I write a lot of notes that I never do anything with. Here's something I jotted down October 12:

I felt sad tonight as I chopped garlic and leeks, and then slid the edge of my dangerously sharp chef's knife under the small pieces to scoop them up and drop them to sizzle in the olive oil already heated in my skillet. I sighed as I sliced a small bunch of Russian kale, a couple of adorable baby bok choys, a few leaves of rainbow chard, a small red bell pepper, and a juicy ripe tomato. Even the act of going to the backyard to clip some parsley and basil to add to the vegetables in the new hot-pink ceramic skillet I'd bought earlier this afternoon didn't cheer me up. Nor did the rich, earthy smell that met me as I stepped back into the bright kitchen out of the twilight. It's too fucking early to be this dark, I thought. Only a little after 7:00. Bleh.

Not the dinner. Compost.
Once the vegetables had cooked to that almost soft but still bright and a little crunchy state, I crumbled in some goat cheese and added a handful chopped pecans. In spite of my low mood, my mouth started to water as I gave the skillet a final stir, salted and peppered it, and then dumped a healthy helping on my plate.

(Note: I know I had a photo of that pink skillet of yumminess, but all I could find was this photo of my compost. I thought it was kind of pretty though.)

I sighed again. Week 20. This is the last week I'll cook dinner from food that had been growing in a garden just hours earlier. The last day everything on my plate except the olive oil, goat cheese and pecans will come from either my garden or my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

Already I miss the weekly trip down Silver Lane -- an alley really -- that leads to the Mission of Mary community garden barn and greenhouse where I would fill a milk crate with fresh vegetables and herbs that would more than feed me for the next week. After an almost perfect growing season, my basement freezer looks well stocked with the overflow.

Coraline loves going with me every week to pick up our CSA. We visit with the manager Stephen and his infant daughter, Rosemary, who is 5 months old now. Often he's saved back something small just for Coraline. A cabbage the size of a softball that we'll take home and caramelize with a sweet onion and sliced apples. Or 2 tiny red peppers that we'll stuff with lemon and thyme farmer's cheese I made the week before. Letting someone else choose our vegetables for the week is an adventure. We never know if we'll get mustard greens, kohlrabi, eggplant, squash, sweet corn, butter lettuce .... but we eat it all unless it's spicy. No hot peppers for us. We have, however, learned to love radishes, which we roast with rosemary, lemon juice and salt until they lose their spicy bite and become soft and earthy.

Week 20 is just one more reminder that winter is coming. Not my favorite season. I guess I should count my blessings and be glad I can pull out bags of homemade soup or greens from the freezer to enjoy during those dark months.

My CSA costs me about $425 for 20 weekly shares of vegetables -- a little over $20/week. I don't know if I'd spend that much on vegetables at Kroger or not, but it's worth it for a number of reasons. 1. I bring home vegetables I would never pick up at the store (when's the last time you ate a kohlrabi?), and then I have to eat them. I cook at home more often, and as a bonus, I can eat home-cooked meals from my freezer this winter. In other words, it's healthier. 2. I know this is trite, but Coraline needs to know where food comes from and how to grow it. We grow some in our little gardens, and we can see it growing in the CSA gardens too. She gets excited about trying new foods, and that's certainly better for her. 3. I don't have to do any of the work. The vegetables come to me grown, picked, and even washed. Have you ever broken your back gardening? This is a luxury. 4. Finally, I feel good knowing I'm supporting a worthy cause. It's so obvious to me that we're not going to be able to sustain the way we eat in this country, and we'll have to get back to eating local foods if we're going to survive. Programs like my CSA are moving us in the right direction.

So this is my suggestion that you all consider joining a CSA next summer too, unless you've got a big garden of your own. (My little gardens supplement what I get from my CSA.) If you think you can't afford it, why not put aside $5-10/week, which is the cost of a couple of Starbucks coffees. By the time spring rolls around and the CSA's are selling shares, yours will already be paid for. Just do it. There are CSA's all over the country now. Surely you can find one near you. Do it.


And now back to November 15, I got lucky this year. About 3 weeks after I wrote those paragraphs above, Stephen sent out an email and said the season had gone longer than usual, and they had enough for a dozen shares at $12 apiece. First come, first served. I emailed back immediately and scored one of those shares. They sold out fast. Here's what was in it: carrots, chard, cabbage, radishes, beets, tomatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, and some kale. More than $12 worth of food.

I know I'm being preachy tonight. Don't hate. Food is important -- not only what we eat, but how we grow it and move it around the planet. This is one way you can feel good about what you eat. Let me know if you decide to dump the McD's and join a CSA next summer.

(Note: CSA's aren't only for vegetables. Some offer meat or fruit too.)

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