Tuesday, November 24, 2015

one final thought about the CSA

It was the penultimate week for our CSA, and frankly, the offerings were paltry. Some combination of weather/rainfall/lack of rainfall/point in the growing season caused that week's haul to be noticeably less than usual - and after splitting amongst my two co-share-partners, my take was little more than a half a head of cabbage, three potatoes, some rutabagas, two carrots, and two handfuls of what I think was something in the kale family. You'd think by this point I'd be able to identify a vegetable from 30 feet away, but despite over six months of googling strange vegetables, my foraging skills sadly remain at a whopping level of zero.

I was also a little bit over the whole vegetable thing. I was tired of trying to figure out new and interesting ways to incorporate these vegetables into my meals, and I was also slightly frustrated with the fact that splitting a whole share into equal thirds meant that we never got a full serving of any one vegetable. More often than not, I'd receive two carrots in the CSA and then have to go buy three more at the grocery because the recipe I'd found called for a whole bunch. And really, there are only so many things you can do with a half of head of cabbage, and I was not interested in revisiting any of them.

But it was lunchtime, and I was hungry. Feeling my usual level of mid-day lazy, I decided to just reheat some of last night's dinner. I'd baked salmon and sautéd broccoli and made a surprisingly delicious cranberry sauce to top the whole thing off, and I was really looking forward to reliving the experience through the magic of the microwave. But then I saw the pile of vegetables sitting on the counter, just begging to be used. Or at the very least, considered. Was it so much to ask to incorporate just one of the fresh veggies?

Le sigh. Without really putting too much thought into it, I diced some garlic and grabbed a pan, heated some olive oil, and threw in the garlic, kale-like greens, and two cranks of the salt grinder. 90 seconds later, I scooped the greens onto my plate next to the salmon and the cranberries.

They were fantastic. Sweet and garlicky and packed with nutrients and not at all slimy. I could feel myself getting healthier with every bite. And then I realized - this was the point of the CSA - to give me the freedom and opportunity to experiment with a million different new (to me) vegetables so that eventually, some of those recipes would go right into my wheelhouse and become second nature. A year ago, I never would have known to sauté unidentifiable greens to the point of deliciousness. But after being confronted with bags and bags of leafy greens each week, I learned a very simple way to make them edible. Was every CSA-driven meal I made this year a winner? Not at all. Did I grow to love swiss chard? Absolutely not. But do I now cast a wider scope when I'm at the grocery store and consider (and purchase) so many more different vegetables than I used to? One hundred percent yes.

The following week's yield was massive - and conveniently, just in time for the Friendsgiving potluck I was attending. I'd had a hunch that there would be at least a few potatoes or parsnips in the mix and offered to make a "root vegetable gratin" for the dinner. My clairvoyance paid off. Not only did we get every root vegetable found in North America, I was the only recipient of that final CSA. Kristen was out of town for the holidays already, and Claire told me to fold her share into whatever I was making for Friendsgiving. As I got to work comfortably peeling and slicing eleven pounds of vegetables that I had had literally never seen in person prior to the start of this year's growing season, I decided that I probably wouldn't be joining a CSA next year. But when I later added the largest casserole in the history of holiday parties to the overflowing dinner table, I sure was glad I joined one this year.

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