Well, this is it, my friends. One full year has gone by since I began my CSA experiment. Today I picked up my last box, and a beautiful box it was. I still believe very much in the CSA model, and I hope that this isn’t the end of community supported agriculture in my life. But for now, this box, this farm, this system, isn’t working with my life. It was a hard summer from the box – fruit that was underripe or mushy and tasteless, watery tomatoes that rotted in a day, and Duck and I found ourselves groaning every week when it was time to go pick up our box, instead of being eager to see what new treats were in store. I know more of the vegetables and fruits that I love will be coming now that it’s fall, so the decision to stop getting a box wasn’t based on summer’s disappointments, but the disaffection I was feeling towards the box after this summer certainly made it easier to just not renew my subscription when it ran out this week.
A lot has changed in my life since last October. I don’t live alone anymore, for one thing, and a lot of the time and energy I once spent cooking new and wonderful things to use up unfamiliar or unloved ingredients goes instead towards building a home together and just being with the person I love. I’ve also gotten much, much more tired. I’ve mentioned on here in the past that I have chronic fatigue syndrome, and my energy level in the last few months has declined so greatly that I’ve had weeks where I barely get out of bed. This means more take-out, more cans of soup, and more Duck cooking. He’s a wonderful cook but the challenges and constraints of a CSA aren’t a pleasure for him the way they were for me, so it makes more sense to have him pick his own choice of ingredients from the farmer’s market.
I feel sad, and I feel guilty. Getting a CSA box and fully committing myself to this project gave me a taste of some things I value deeply: community, sustainability, drastically reduced waste and fuel consumption, a chance to honor more directly the great service of the folks who grow my food. It seems crazy to cut myself off from these benefits, just because it’s inconvenient or not as shiny and exciting as it used to be. On the other hand, I also deeply value taking care of myself, which means being realistic about my time and energy, and also preparing food that feels nourishing and energizing. Right now that seems to be leaning more towards the Japanese spectrum of cuisine (I feel a new project coming on!) so I want to respect that and see where it takes me.
Last week I took Duck to the Oakland Airport and on my way home I stopped at Berkeley Bowl. I spent a couple of hours in there, roaming the aisles and luxuriating in the produce section, buying daikon and lotus root and tender Japanese cucumbers. None of this was organic, and I have no idea where it was from or who grew it or how it got from farm to my cart. But I felt excited about cooking again for the first time in a while. I guess what I’m trying to articulate is that there’s a balance between all these factors and values and pleasures, and I am feeling my way along it, bit by bit. And I may swerve to one side or another as I go, but if I don’t let myself play on all sides of the line I won’t really find a grounded place to stand. I’ll just be rigidly holding myself in the spot I’ve intellectually decided is the “right” one.
I listen to these radio cooking programs and I’m aghast when people casually discuss eating imported Italian tomatoes or meat, cheese and eggs that must have been factory farmed, or talk about coffee without holding a bottom line of fair trade. I don’t understand how their passion for food can just totally trump their concerns for the environment and the welfare of people and animals. But on the other hand if I have to deal with another five bunches of turnips I swear I will throw up or shove them straight into the compost, because food without passion is just a grinding slouch towards bare sustenance. So I will keep walking the line, experimenting to find the balance, paying attention to this relationship I have with food, one of the most tender and passionate relationships I know, and seeing where it wants to take me.
Below are the contents of my final box. Because I’ve been so tired the past couple months I have many recipes I still want to try to post about, so I may be catching up on the backlog from previous boxes in the days to come. There’s another project brewing as well, though whether that will live here or in its own blog I have yet to decide. For all of you who joined me on my CSA adventure – I have loved getting to know you and sharing ideas with you, and I hope we can continue to share recipes, techniques, and philosophical musings for a long time to come!
Red bell peppers (I left these at the site for someone else)
Pumpkin (a small lovely one)
Crimson seedless grapes