Simple Pleasures

As winter closes in, I find myself really craving comfort food. This afternoon, as I walked home through the chilly fog, I got a yen I haven’t had in years. I wanted tuna casserole, that ultimate comfort food, the kind with the crusty broiled top and the simple-but-brilliant filling of macaroni, tuna, and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup all mushed together and seasoned with nothing but parsley, salt and pepper. I don’t eat tuna anymore, and I don’t eat wheat pasta, and I sure as hell don’t eat whatever craziness they put in a can of Campbell’s, so my casserole tonight was a bit of an adventure, but in the end it came out perfectly and filled my tummy with warm, gooey, winter coziness.

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[APHID UPDATE: See this post for an update on how the farm is dealing with the aphid situation detailed below.]

There was an unexpected and decidedly unwelcome addition to my box this week.

One of the things I love best about my box is the great newsletter that comes with it, introducing each food and giving some advice on how to store and use it. In discussing the broccoli, the newsletter cheerfully recommended that if there were any aphids I was to try soaking the broccoli in salt water for 15 minutes and they would come off much more easily.

It wasn’t the broccoli I was excited about the night after my box arrived. It was the cauliflower. I have the most delicious, show-stopping yet incredibly simple family recipe for cauliflower, and I was already looking forward to sharing the recipe and a photo of the completed dish here on the blog. I was also quite pleased because I was exhausted and here was a fast, simple preparation I could make for dinner that I already knew I loved.

I went to prep the cauliflower and found many, many tiny insects. “These must be aphids,” I thought to myself (slightly grossed out) as I dutifully cut up the cauliflower and set it in a bowl of salt water to soak while I did other things in the kitchen.

Well, I sprayed, and I scrubbed, and I picked until the cauliflower began to fall apart. Think about the shape of a cauliflower up close. The head is a tightly packed fractal of whorls, and, despite my efforts, each of those whorls was tightly packed with aphids. After putting about five times more effort into cleaning this vegetable than I had intended to spend on preparing and cooking it, I slipped it sadly into the compost.

The next night I tried with the broccoli, thinking its looser structure might allow me more access to the aphids without destroying the integrity of the vegetable. I even went so far as cooking it, but there were multiple bugs in every bite, and I just couldn’t do it.

(revolting aphid photo found on Google Images captures the spirit of my aphid woes, but in no way represents the actual density of aphids on my produce! (there is just about one in each crevice, not a thick coating of them anywhere))

I know and accept that produce grown organically is going to bring me into much closer contact with the insect world. Holes in my leafy greens, worms in my corn – these are the sweet signs of sustainable eating. But I’ve been buying only organic broccoli and cauliflower for years, and I have never before been asked to eat a mouthful of insects.

And I know that if I lived in olden days I could expect to put a lot more effort into preparing my food – my standards of how long is reasonable to spend on washing my cauliflower may be incredibly privileged. But let’s face it – I have chronic fatigue and repetitive stress injuries in both hands. In the olden days I would be the crippled tribe member watching the kids and keeping the fire going while everyone else was out hunting and gathering. I need a certain amount of convenience to get by.

So that’s a bummer, basically. Out of a ho-hum box I’ve already had to compost two of the offerings. I will end with this photo, which I find incredibly gratifying. I’m sure you can imagine why.

Ladybug devouring aphid