My Box

Ibis,

You put me to shame with your prolific posting.

I recently signed up for a CSA box. The premise is this: you pay up-front to receive produce from a local farm at weekly intervals for a certain period of time. Typically, you sign on for a season, or a year. I am doing the 8-week tester program – i.e. I receive four boxes, one every two weeks.

I picked up my first box on Wednesday. (From the porch of a neighbour, how communal.) In my box, I found 2 lemons, 1 pomelo, 5 oranges, rosemary, a paperbag-ful of red potatoes, a butternut squash, a head of red cabbage, spinach, tat soi, kale, other greens that I could not identify, and 2 huge leeks. The produce comes in a brown cardboard box. It is not clean and shiny and displayed with the panache of cornucopia as at an upscale grocery; dirt flecks the greens, the pomelo is irregularly shaped, the lemons are small and dull, the rinds unwaxed. But this is what food is. Just like chicken doesn’t originate as boneless, skinless, bloodless breasts; fruits and especially vegetables don’t originate as washed, sorted, dirtless, ready-to-use items.

And let me say a few more things about my boxed produce. They are grown organically. They are grown by a small-scale, local, family farm. They are fresh, exchanging hands from dirt to farmer to consumer within a day or two. (They needn’t be sprayed with chemicals to preserve freshness.) They taste better – especially the greens, which have unique, strong flavours. They are not cheap.

On this last point, let me expound. The (American) ideal of making food available for the lowest bottomline price robs food of value. To borrow a statistic from Michael Pollan, Americans spend the lowest percentage of their income on food. Suspending the equity arguments here, I think this is shameful from two perspectives. Firstly, food is a human constant and deserves consideration. The ‘eat to live’ ethos, if it means indiscriminate ingestion of (more than) adequate calories at the cheapest price, is tragic and irresponsible. Secondly, farmers, as producers of a basic human necessity, deserve a living wage. Good food, grown well, should not be a zero-margin product. Farming is an entrepreneurial endeavour that deserves respect as a profession and liveable recompense. Obviously, this soapbox rant could continue to criticize agri-business, mono-cropping, over-farming and so on as obvious products of this system. I’ll spare you the diatribe, though, and just say that I am putting my dollars where my mouth is, and I feel good about this decision because I am supporting sustainable, organic agriculture and a family-run local business, and I am gaining the highest quality, freshest produce I can get without growing it myself.

All of this to say that I am rediscovering my love of cooking, and losing weight. I have a finite list of ingredients that I need to combine into edible meals. I find this type of problem-solving (if you can generously call it that) incredibly satisfying. Par example, yesterday, I realized that I should eat the remaining spinach, since it is the most perishable, but I did not want to eat another salad. So, I made a spinach pesto. I ground up some oats to make an oat flour pizza crust. Topped it with spinach pesto, added some goat cheese (left over from our housewarming party), and sprinkled some red cabbage (I also need to use that up from my box…) It turned out beautiful and delicious, and I am duly smug.

As well, being bound by the constraint of eating what is in my box has led me to eat more vegetables – since that’s what I’ve got. I have lost another 2 pounds. This is not totally the fault of the CSA box, since I am actively trying to eat less and lose weight, but I’m calling it a supporting actress. Very anti-diet, a la Londoner.

So, anyways, it’s been a good week one of CSA.

Miss you,

Spoonbill

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