Photos: Jennifer Prediger
Weeks 13 and 14 have come and nearly gone in this Urbivore’s Dilemma series, where I’m charting a city-dweller’s transformation from eating out to eating in, Community Supported Agriculture style. We’re halfway through my CSA’s season this week and I feel inspired to reflect.
I had time to take pause and think about the profound greatness of eating fresh, local, seasonal food last week while I was away on a trip. Week 13’s CSA share had mini tomatoes, cucumber, summer squash, okra, watermelon, sweet peppers, blackberries, and raspberries in it. I was able to cram in a lot of the fruit before I left for West Virginia for a week of training for the TogetherGreen Fellowship, where I stayed at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Training Center in Shepherdstown.
There I was faced with the hard truth of eating cafeteria food for three meals a day for six days straight. The cafeteria food was — well, cafeteria food. My three squares tasted conventional. It wasn’t bad, exactly. But something was missing. There was no local-food vitality in those leaves of lettuce.
I did very much enjoy eating three-bean casserole, the suburban holiday classic, for lunch on a Tuesday. And it was fun repeatedly pulling the lever on the soft-serve machine to fill endless cones of chocolate and vanilla swirl. Needless to say, I shifted from feeling hungry to bloated from meal to meal.
Oh, what a very long distance between me and my CSA box! I was homesick for it. I wanted to send it a postcard. I realized that CSA food has spoiled me. In the hill country with soft serve flowing through my veins, I had a small freak-out. Here’s my internal monologue:
“There are only 15 more weeks of the CSA left! Oh no! What will I eat past December? Oh, right. It’s getting cold. What on earth will the CSA have when it’s cold? How can I make a smoothie with potatoes? More importantly, why would I?”
Before I did anything too outlandish and then had to blame it on the Twinkie Defense, a nice woman named Brenda saw the wild look in my eye and intervened.
“You know, there’s a food cooperative in Brooklyn I belong to. It’s really amazing. You should come check it out sometime,” she said.
I’ve been hearing about that co-op for awhile. I have never set foot in it because I’ve been told it’s run by co-op Nazis. Apparently they have tiny mustaches and are very strict about many things, but especially about getting your monthly volunteer time in.
Terrifying as that sounds, being without fresh, local, organic food is even more frightening. And I need to plan ahead. Only 14 more weeks before I could be subjected to takeout food again! Or going to an overpriced grocery store, or a gross, cheap grocery store. Readers, what do you advise? What do you do when your CSA season ends in an climate with an actual winter? Do you belong to co-ops? How do you like them?
Thankfully, my week away from the CSA finally came to an end. I kept it together but gained a few pounds. I returned home to moldy okra and sweet peppers shriveled like old-lady hands. While I was gone, Week 14’s shipment also arrived full of string beans, more sweet peppers, large tomatoes, gold beets, and carrots. The beets and carrots also reminded me of geriatric flesh. They went straight into my overstuffed freezer, where I continue to cryogenically store old veg or detritus that I intend to compost some day.
And I had to wonder … Could the CSA food that has spoiled me, possibly spoil especially CSA fast? As in, faster than grocery store produce? Are there preservatives in stuff from grocery stores that keep it un-wilted longer? Like waxed apples, are there waxed carrots? I’m not saying I would trade the CSA share for anything, but it does seem like it’s not long for the world sometimes.
I look forward to being at home for Week 15’s arrival. Next week, fall is knocking warmly on the door with acorn squash, lettuce, shelling beans, summer squash, sweet pepper, mini tomatoes, pears, and nectarines.
It’s been a good time to take stock of things. And make stock of things. With a recent fall snap in New York, visions of soups are dancing in my head.