Tomorrow I will wake up at 5:30am in order to go to work. On a Sunday. Zero traffic and a more relaxed atmosphere in mind, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to working on Sundays, but as it stands, I’ll have to do it one Sunday a month until, roughly, the end of time. Or at least until I start working for another company, but I’ve been applying steadily for months and nothing has come up.
After work, Courtney and I will walk down to the market for our 20th and final CSA pickup of the year. It will be sort of a sad moment; I mean, I like hanging out with my best Seattle friend every Sunday (we hang out more than that, I just meant it as this one consistent thing that we do), and I like the long walk to the market where I can see what’s good at whatever time of year and also see my favorite vendors* and pick up a veggie tortilla for breakfast. Of course we can still go to the market on Sundays if we want, we’ll just be more selective about what we’re getting since part of our visit won’t include dumping the contents of a huge box of produce into our backpacks first. At least, not until next July.
Unprecedented falling out aside, we’re totally signing up for next July. I recommend the CSA program to everyone who asks, and a few of our friends have said they’re interested in signing up. I really hope they do, because I very much enjoyed my first ever CSA experience and am excited to apply what I learned this year to our second time around.
What did I learn, you ask? I’LL TELL YOU.
I learned to like new things.
Going into the CSA, I was pretty sure that I didn’t like some things. Cabbage (it wasn’t a strong dislike, I just wasn’t stoked for it), kale (shut up, hippies), beets (more like stank-eets, heh), and bok choy (which I’d never really eaten because who gives a shit about bok choy when there’s all that lo mein around it), to name a few. But when you help to fund the growing of that stuff and are aware that people are pulling it out of the ground just for you, you realize that you should at least try to turn it into something of value, rather than just a slimy mess in your fridge.
So I learned. I re-read my cookbooks and back issues of Food and Wine with intense interest. I scanned my favorite recipe site archives for ideas. I figured out ways to cook what I’d previously hated in order to make them what I wanted to eat. And now? Cabbage is so versatile and damn near magic with enough butter and sugar. Kale isn’t the miracle hippies say it is, but damn if I don’t love it wilted with lemon juice and tossed into salads, pasta, or crammed into meatloaf. Beets are still kind of eh for me, although I have found ways to hide them in other things (chili, stuffed peppers, Bolognese, etc.). And bok choy? Bok choy is great! What the hell have I been avoiding all this time? Everybody, eat some bok choy!
I learned to be a better cook.
A big part of learning to like new things was learning how to prepare them in ways that would make them appetizing to me. While I guess I could have half-assed it at times, I remembered my Swanson and whole-assed this project. I didn’t want to fuck up. I didn’t want to waste. I paid more attention, took more chances, and have at least one new favorite thing to eat (and many more favorite cooking methods) because of it.
I learned to plan.
The first week of the CSA, I lost food. Like, a lot of it. I wasted food is the more accurate term, and I was so embarrassed and pissed off at myself that I vowed to find a better way to spend the next several months. So I started writing menus. Each week, I’d read the farm’s “here’s what you’re getting!” e-mail a few times, scribble down some ideas, and finally put pen to paper and, in my most Catholic school-conditioned cursive, write down my plans for that week’s pickup.
I may not have always followed the plan word-for-word, but I found that the blueprint was helpful, and that once I started paying attention to what I’d said I was going to do, I wasted a lot less and was happier with a lot more in terms of actual meals.
I learned to plan well.
It’s really easy to say you’re going to make a beautiful, involved meal on Monday night, but the reality is that you’ll come home from a shit day at work and want nothing more than beer for dinner. Maybe some chips. Anything that doesn’t involve actual cooking, because we know that cooking means effort and eventually cleaning and nobody has time when you’ve spent the previous 8-10 hours putting up with other people’s bullshit.
Eventually, my beautiful, involved meal days became Sundays (when I had hours to prep) and Thursdays (when Graham and I could eat a meal together). A lot of Fridays were pizza made with that week’s straggler ingredients, and Mondays could just go fuck themselves.
I learned to buy and eat sustainably.
Probably my favorite part about the CSA is that everything I ate from it was grown in an environmentally responsible way less than 100 miles from my house. I ate based on the seasons; literally, you can see the seasons changing in the menus I wrote. Courtney and I made the decision to eat better, with less chemicals and fossil fuels spent, and we succeeded. Read your Pollan and tell me that’s not the least destructive way to eat. I dare you.
I learned how to be a Seattleite.
I made a connection with the place where I live by eating the food that’s available here, meeting the people who grow and sell it, and being a part of a community every single week instead of, I don’t know, just hanging around the mall and going to California Pizza Kitchen, or whatever it is other transplants do. Having this CSA made me feel so much more involved with this area than I would have otherwise, and I’m still so thankful to Courtney for saying yes to this project, as she is at least partially responsible for me being here in the first place.
*If you’re in Seattle, I recommend tracking down the Soda Jerk. Corey handmakes fresh sodas and syrups from mostly organic ingredients (the Lemon Lavender is my all-time favorite but I am always interested in trying his rotating flavors) and sells them in single glass, growler, or growlette forms. He also just bought a soda truck that he hopes to refurbish and have on the road in Seattle soon – sooner if more people contribute to his Kickstarter, which you should totally do. Seriously, there’s less than two days left and he’s so, so close to meeting his goal, and even if he doesn’t make it, I will tell him that he can absolutely keep my $50 contribution because he has a great product and is a very nice person and heeee! Itty bitty soda truck! Heeeee!