I made it through my first season as a Blandford CSA member. At the beginning of the season, I posed a handful of questions for myself. Sort of a way to frame the CSA. Let’s have a look at those questions again and how things played out:
- What do I do with all this stuff?
- What’s the weekly ritual like?
- What am I trying now that I never did before?
- How is the CSA changing my eating habits?
- How much (or little) am I being a part of that “C” in CSA?
- What have I learned from the CSA to make me a better food consumer?
All this stuff. Even with a CSA half-share, I felt overwhelmed. The feeling abated as the season progressed. I now have a sense of how much produce to expect and when. I have a big Excel spreadsheet with data (I live by spreadsheets). I also know I’m weak when it comes to using my veggies in new ways.
The weekly ritual. That was the easy part. My calendar would “ding” in multiple places. I’d grab my bags and smartphone. Then hoof it over to the farm. I’d snap pictures of the chalkboards (they served as a good record of the share schedule). Load up my bags. Hang around and be slightly obnoxious. Then hoof home. The process would last about 20 minutes.
At home I would lay out my booty. Take more pictures. Why pictures? I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea. Then I would panic. I’d realize I haven’t finished the cucumbers from two weeks ago (let alone last week) and I have more cucumbers. The panic would abate and I’d store everything.
Trying new things. I have never before (knowingly) eaten Bok Choi, Celeriac, Chard, Komatsuna, Kohlrabi, Romanesco, Rutabaga, Tatsoi, or Turnips. Squash and I were barely on speaking terms. Rhubarb was a fightin’ word (that my wife uses regularly). And Potatoes only made it into a handful of my dishes through papal dispensation. All that changed through the course of the year…except for Rhubarb. I swear Rhubarb and Okra are cousins in slime…we won’t go there.
I was generally surprised at all those vegies (except Rhubarb). The flavors were exciting. My regret was that I couldn’t use them fast enough. Ok, I did let my wife eat all the Rhubarb.
My eating habits. Deep down I changed. I’m more aware of food itself: the taste, variety, shelf life, storage considerations (and limitations), seasonality, and the messiness. It was my education about “local”. Before the CSA, I took for granted the convenience of year-round produce at the store. In exchange, I gave up variety and flavor.
Did I become a vegetarian? No, hardly. But since I spend a great deal of time and energy on CSA veggies, guess what, we eat more veggies! My wife thinks this is great. My greyhounds haven’t expressed an opinion.
On being a part of that “C” in CSA. I suppose simply buying a half share (and writing about my experiences) was a start. I feel like there should be more to the sense of Community. Perhaps I’m expecting too much. Or maybe it’s there but I have blinders on. This may be something I need to explore as my foodie apprenticeship progresses.
About being a better food consumer. I don’t take the availability of veggies for granted. My mind is shifting to look in the fridge or basement and ask, “what do I have that must be eaten this week?” “What can I make from these three veggies?” I still have the issue of waste. I guess that will be another area to explore next season.
And I’m grateful to Aaron, his team, and the Blandford Farm for giving me a choice. Now I can say, “thank you” for the food. I also have someone to pepper with questions…to make me a better food consumer.
I can’t return to my old ways of buying produce at a store. Although I will have to cheat during the Winter months and buy a few things. I can see next season being the next step in my apprenticeship as a foodie. How do I properly store my CSA half-share so I can stretch it out past the season? How do I waste not and want not? I’m already doing my homework to prepare for the next season.
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.