Urbivore’s Dilemma, Week 6: How I turned vegetables into a time machine
(Jennifer Prediger photos)
Welcome to week 6 of my adventures as a veggie box subscriber, which I’m chronicling in this Urbivore’s Dilemma series.
This week I had an epiphany about my Community Supported Agriculture membership. I think I may have found a way to slow down time with vegetables! The vegetables in this new CSA box time machine included onion, lettuce, summer savory herb, peas, Swiss chard, and raspberries and plums, too.
Now how did these ingredients expand time itself?
Time is a scarce commodity in New York. Somehow to me, it seems like there’s less of it here. Maybe because there are more people here, we collectively use time up faster? People walk faster and talk faster to save time. We sleep less. We work long hours and then dart off to improv classes, boxing gyms, book parties, meditation sessions, and to see our therapists. (It helps if you have two of those.) Then we drink spirits, which helps expand our sense of time. Fall asleep, wake up hung over, and start all over again.
And this is why takeout is so popular. Who has time to cook? Or the space? A lot of Manhattan kitchens are so small they bump into toilets. Good thing I live in Brooklyn, where there’s no toilet in my tiny kitchen. But my eating habits used to be in the toilet. Before this CSA adventure, every night was a slice of pizza, Chinese food in a carton, Thai papaya salad in a never biodegrading, gross-me-out plastic tub. I upgraded to a reusable container for takeout to assuage some guilt. But I stayed in the take-out cycle out of convenience.
Now I am on a pretty steady learning curve in cooking that occasionally dips into disaster. This week, I enjoyed what I cooked from my CSA. And I savored every minute cooking. Before I knew it, two hours had passed turning farm-fresh eggs purchased at the CSA pickup site into a wonderful egg-salad-and-kohl slaw.
This may be pretty basic stuff, but I was making it for the first time, enjoying every chop and ingredient added. As I did, I thought of my grandmother who made German-style coleslaw (at least I think that’s what it was). I felt connected to her, like I was continuing her work in the kitchen, just with a vegetable I can only assume she never made a coleslaw with — or possibly even saw. Perhaps if she’d had a hipster farmers market to go to in her day … Alas.
Some of the ingredients in my vegetable time machine did come from the neighborhood farmers market, where I was greeted by cool young upstate farmers who encouraged me to take home the kohlrabi, garlic scapes, and white turnips to make an out-of-this-world kohl-slaw. Kohlrabi truly is a vegetable from another planet, or so it seems to me. It’s part of the cabbage family and is crisp and lively and wonderful with white turnips and mayo and those garlic scapes. If you have a chance, do get your hands on the scapes. They look like a bouquet and are so odiferous in a heavenly way. They’re subtle and sharp with their garlicky flowers and jewels inside each bulb.
Making egg salad and kohl-slaw made me feel happy. So happy that when my computer’s hard drive crashed after I had leftovers for lunch the next day, I took it in stride. I even had a moment where I thought, Good, now I’ll have time to cook more and do things that really matter.
My computer is up and running again, as evidenced by this column. But I remain astounded by what it feels like for time to slow down with the simple act of cooking.
Maybe I’m romanticizing it all? I mean, two hours to cook? Who has that kind of time?! Especially if you’re raising a kid in the city — and they too are going to the boxing gym, improv classes, and therapy.
But perhaps it’s the kind of thing we should make time for? Especially given that it can make time seem like it’s lasting longer.
How do you find time to cook, readers? Does time expand for you when you do? What are you cooking up this week? Now, go — get off your computer and enjoy the summertime!