Maybe it’s just that summer’s not my favorite season, produce-wise. Maybe my lifestyle has changed more than I can perceive, now that two cooking styles are comingling in one kitchen. Whatever the reason, Duck and I are talking about not renewing our box.
CSA montage created using Montage-a-google and the keywords “CSA box”
The past few months have been monotonous, and not in a good way. (Good monotony, of course, goes: kale. kale. kale.) I don’t like tomatoes all that much, unless they are truly stunning. The tomatoes from Eatwell have not been. I find the heirlooms watery and tasteless, and they rot within two days. (I know they are picked at the peak of ripeness, and if I liked them in general, I would be glad to do what I had to to not let them spoil – either eat them straight away or preserve them. But since they don’t taste like much, I generally don’t muster the energy until it’s too late.) The Shady Ladies have been tasty, and a few have been very good. The Romas we had in this week’s box are just awful, but then, Romas generally are. (Last night, on The Splendid Table, Lynne Rosetto Kasper called Romas “the eunuchs of the tomato world.”) The cherry tomatoes have been pretty good, and this week we got a huge batch, which is nice for snacking.
The other two things we’ve seen a lot of have been potatoes and zucchini. The potatoes have been wonderful – small, tender, and gorgeously pink, in the case of the Huckleberries, or creamy yellow, in this week’s Yellow Finns. The zucchini has been fine. It lasts a long time in the fridge, isn’t too watery when cooked. But you know, it’s zucchini. It doesn’t have a lot going on.
And now to the fruit. Earlier this summer we were getting apricots and cherries and then plums and pluots. The apricots were okay, the cherries were quite good. The plums and pluots were inedible. Tasteless, mealy – after one bite the whole batch would go in the compost. Now we’re getting peaches and nectarines. These have been good, but the peaches invariably arrive bruised, and the quantity is so small (maybe two nectarines and a peach, say) that we have to go to the farmer’s market right away anyways.
I love the concept that is community supported agriculture, the idea of giving reliable financial support to the necessary and extremely valued people who grow our food. I think Eatwell is a very good farm – their growing practices seem responsible, their manager-worker relationships seem respectful and fair. (Although I don’t think I want to eat eggs anymore that come from chickens who are killed after two years. I have found other, albeit less convenient, places to source eggs from chickens who live more natural lifespans.) And the whole point of CSA-style relationships between farmers and consumers is that farmers can experiment and learn and go through disasters and medfly quarantines, and still know they’ll have an income, even if the plums are mealy or the tomatoes are quarantined.
Because this is the bottom-line reality of our food system: If no one took the risks to grow the food, there would be nothing to eat. Organic and sustainable and ethical and biodynamic and all that may seem like a luxury (which they aren’t really, in the long run), but food itself is not. The burden of producing a necessary commodity under variable and uncertain circumstances (no widget factories to make our fruits and veggies) should not have to be entirely assumed by the producer. I really believe this. I am, in fact, quite passionate about it.
But I’m just not enjoying my box very much these days. For many months it was a special treat every time it arrived. I couldn’t wait to unpack it, photograph it, lovingly store away my food and start planning recipes and menus. Now I feel cranky at having to go pick it up, and tired at the idea of stuffing everything into a fridge already overflowing with radishes and turnips. When I go to cook, I reach for my farmer’s market vegetables, and I have to make an active effort to use box items.
Also, honestly, I’m sure part of this has to do with personality, which I wish were irrelevant, but is in fact highly influential. If I had had some super awesome interactions with the people of Eatwell farm, instead of a kind of awkward and off-putting one, I would probably feel much more personally invested and that would weigh in heavily on the side of continuing this relationship. On the Eatwell side of things, their CSA is completely full with a waiting list, and they just won “Best of the Bay” for CSAs, so my dropping out won’t change things for them. It’s just a question of whether or not I want to still have this in my life.
Enough musing for now. Let’s get to the purported point of this post. Here’s what came in our box this week:
Yellow Finn potatoes
(We were supposed to get plums according to the newsletter – I didn’t see any, but perhaps Duck tasted one and deposited them in the compost?)