The Newbie Chronicles: a Moment of Science

I watched the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony on YouTube recently.  The “Ig” is an award given to scientists whose research “makes you laugh, then makes you think.”  It is given by the journal Annuals of Improbable Research.  The research is so whacky-sounding, you shake your head and laugh.  Interspersed among the awards are strange science demonstrations (e.g., colored smoke pouring from bottles, audible sounds made by various gases, scary sparks of electricity between two objects) The demos begin with the intro, “and now, a Moment of Science.”

I had my own “Moment of Science” recently when I cleaned out our refrigerator.  After 16 weeks with the CSA, I was clearly way behind in using all the veggies.  The fridge was stuffed and I needed to find space for more.  It was time to look in the corners for containers I had methodically tucked away over the weeks.  I figured, “sure, I’ll use this for dinner…eventually.”  Unintentionally, I had a few “science experiments” underway.  I took pictures.  Veggies I had packed away during the last 3 weeks, generally looked ok.  Older than that looked very colorful and nasty.  They were discarded.  Dating the packaging was a good idea.

A Moment of Science: Baby whales or cucumbers gone bad?

A Moment of Science:
Baby whales or cucumbers gone bad?

I estimate I’ve lost about 20% of our harvest so far.  I feel a little embarrassed making this admission.  I have never used the squash (all varieties).  Many of the cucumbers succumbed.  Some of the beans have gone bad.  (I really could have frozen them.)  Even with a half-share, I had more veggies than I could comfortably use in one week.

At first, I felt bad about the waste, my Catholic guilt getting the best of me.  Then I realized (or rationalized) this was part of my education about eating local.  Yes, I read about the pros of eating local, noted recipes, and enjoyed the weekly trips to the farm.  But nothing I came across told me, “oh by the way, you’re gonna need to budget this much extra time each week”  Time to process, package, and store the food.  Time to keep on top of the condition and inventory of the food.  Procrastinators need not apply.

I did learn a trick from a friend of mine (with the alias, “BF#”)  about freezing tomatoes, then skinning them later under warm tap water to use in stews and sauces.  That helped keep the many tomatoes from becoming compost material…although there’s a shelf in my freezer brimming with frozen tomatoes.

Even the wasted veggies aren’t a total loss.  They ended up in my wife’s compost bin.  As Garrison Keillor (of “A Prairie Home Companion”) says, “everything is material”.  I don’t think he meant it to be applied to veggies.

And today (as I write this), I came across a story on NPR’s web site, titled “Don’t Toss That Sour Milk! And Other Tips To Cut Kitchen Food Waste”.  The story shares tips for cutting down on food waste in your kitchen (and using the stuff on the verge of becoming science experiments).  The tips come from Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council and her new book, Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook.  Perhaps they had me in mind.

I don’t plan to stop being a member of a CSA.  I now have a better sense of the planning and work involved.  I also know the timing and quantities of each week’s harvest – I take copious notes.  To quote Mark Abrahams, creator of the Ig Nobel Prize, “If you didn’t win an Ig Nobel this year, and even more so, if you did, better luck next year.”

About the author:  Dave Gillen didn’t want to eat hotdogs for the rest of his life, so he learned to cook.  His mother taught him to boil water, fry an egg, and make oatmeal cookies.  Dave forgot how to make the cookies, barely remembered how to fry eggs, but is spot on at boiling water.  Currently, he divides his days between being wife Lois’ in-house techno geek and personal chef…and walking his greyhounds.


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