Thursday, July 30, 2015

An unexpected benefit of joining a CSA

Over the course of one hour and five G-chat lines a couple of months ago, my friend Kristen and I decided to "go halfsies" on a summer CSA. Then we did the math and realized that we'd save ourselves $100 if we added a third person to the mix, so we convinced our other friend Claire that her life would be sorely incomplete if she did not also receive a bag of organic vegetables once a week. And with the click of one "purchase" button and a few other "send money now" buttons, we had ourselves one full share of the Astoria CSA via Golden Earthworm Farm.

Having been the recipient of a few friends' CSA hauls while they were out of town in summers past, I knew that I was in for a treat - giant heads of lettuce, beautiful zucchini, handfuls of ripe tomatoes, and probably even some previously-unknown-to-me veggies that I couldn't wait to learn to love (I'm looking at you, kohlrabi). I immediately envisioned healthy salads, colorful saut├ęs, infused oils, and probably a flavored drink or three. But there was something I didn't anticipate - the heightened burst of friendship that accompanies each CSA delivery.

See, Kristen, Claire, and I all have insanely complicated schedules. We are all freelancers with irregular schedules and Kristen and Claire have had frequent upstate gigs all summer. In sharp contrast, the organizers of the CSA have a very strict pick-up time - between 4:30 and 7:30 every Thursday - no exceptions. Latecomers' food will be donated. That time slot is about 10 minutes away from being in direct conflict with my show schedule, and either one or both of my share partners have managed to be otherwise occupied almost every Thursday evening since the CSA began.

But we are not ones to shy away from a silly obstacle like time. Being the Type-A overachievers that the three of us are, we not only have a shared Google calendar reminding us of the veggie pick-ups, but also stay in near-constant contact regarding a.) who will do that week's pickup and b.) when and where the other two of us will pick up our remaining thirds of the share. It is too much work and schlepping for a few cucumbers? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

In a normal, non-CSA month, I would probably see my friends once if I was lucky. We'd make a grand plan to grab a drink or a bagel, but that plan would change at the last minute because someone would cancel and we'd reschedule and then it would be another three weeks before we all got our lives together well enough to function outside of our personal bubbles. And this is without any of us having kids! Who knows how little I'll engage in meaningful adult conversations once children start showing up?

But with the presence of the CSA looming over our heads like old Ms. Harrington in 1st grade telling us that we'd better eat our veggies or else, we have to do the pickups and drop-offs each and every week - and that means we get to see each other each and every week. It's not always for a long time - sometimes Kirsten drops by for 5 minutes on a Saturday morning on her way to teaching a yoga class and really only has time to see how much Swiss chard she yet again has to incorporate into her meals. But for those five minutes, she and I connect and check in and she asks me how my show is going and I ask her how her new business is shaping up - a necessary personal, human interaction that has become one of my new favorite ways to start a Saturday.

And other times I run over to Claire's to grab my veggies and she says "shall we grab a bagel?" And because the answer is alway yes, we go to the bagel place and flirt with the bagel guy and catch up on each other's week and remind ourselves that community and friendship are the pillars of surviving in this big, scary world.

And still there are other times when the three of us work to find that elusive evening when we are all free and otherwise unoccupied, so we gather in someone's kitchen and proceed to make the tastiest CSA potluck seen on this side of Ditmars Blvd. Kristen picks up some goat cheese on the way over, I bring the walnuts that I've been meaning to use up anyway, and Claire roasts the beets and chops the fennel and onion and stirs up a vinaigrette and next thing we know we've got the most wonderful summer salad set before us; we pop open a bottle of something cold (because it's like 100 degrees in that kitchen) and enjoy a healthy, delicious, communal meal.

This post is way too long and with too few pictures (somehow it never felt right grabbing my phone for even a quick pic; one or all of us are usually sweaty and shiny from this damn heat anyway), and it doesn't have a real point other than for me to, in pleasant surprise, acknowledge how wonderful this CSA has been. Yes these are some expensive veggies, and yes it's a hassle to coordinate the logistics of getting these veggies, but it's ultimately a small price to pay for the strengthening of friendship over a handful of kale.

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