Long-time readers of this blog may remember when I joined a CSA three years ago (here’s where I wrote about it). A CSA is a food co-op where you pay a membership fee that entitles you to weekly shares of local farm produce. It’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, eat healthier, and support local farmers so they can continue growing healthy food for your community. It’s a win-win. Except when it isn’t. The CSA I joined in 2011 fell apart in the middle of the summer due to the husband and wife farmer team getting divorced. My money wasn’t refunded and it left me disappointed and very wary of signing up for another one.
But time has a way of dulling that wariness, and after I talked to the owner of another CSA at this year’s Earth Day Festival I decided to give it a second try. I’m so glad I did. I picked up our first half-share from Harvest Michigan yesterday. Look what we got:
It makes me feel healthier just looking at it! There are onions, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, chard, garlic scapes, beets, green beans, kohlrabi, basil, and mint. But here’s where I have to admit something embarrassing. I have no idea what to do with some of these things. And I don’t think I’m all that different from many Americans who have poor eating habits; I don’t eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Potatoes, tomatoes, and green beans? Sure. But kohlrabi, chard, and garlic scapes? Not so much. I’m lazy when it comes to preparing meals, and far too often I’ll eat a packaged protein bar and call it a meal.
And what’s worse is that I’ve read enough about our corporate-controlled food industry to know better. And I’ve read enough about climate change to know how important our food choices are to the future of our species on this planet. And because of that, I get overwhelmed at the pressure of grocery shopping. To someone who doesn’t have to do the grocery shopping, it might seem ridiculous: You just go in the store, buy stuff, take it home, and eat it. Bing, bang, boom. Done.
But that’s not at all how it works, at least for me. Buying food is a hugely important responsibility. Our choices at the supermarket (and in restaurants) matter a great deal. If we continue to order veal in restaurants, calves will continue to be mistreated to produce that dish for us. (I do not eat veal.) If we continue to buy bananas from Latin America, they’ll continue to destroy forests to grow them for us. (Guilty on this one..I eat lots of bananas.) Unless we start buying more shade-grown coffee, big corporations will continue to destroy bird habitats to grow coffee in the sun (using lots of pesticides, by the way).
And there’s so much emotion wrapped up in food, isn’t there? We have lifelong habits to overcome, family traditions to change, and cravings to fight. I feel so guilty when I know certain foods have been shipped halfway around the world but buy them anyway because I want them and I’m in a rut. And what happens when I feel overburdened by guilt? I eat junk food. And the downward spiral begins. Eat. Feel guilty. Eat. Feel guilty…you know what I’m talking about. Imagine the difference if we can feel good about what we eat instead?
So I’m making yet another attempt to nudge my eating habits in the right direction, both for my own health and that of the planet. Two steps forward, one step back. But I guess the important thing is that I keep trying. I’m using my favorite recipe website to search by ingredients and will figure out ways to use all of these nutritious foods. (Except the beet…don’t think I can do that yet.) I noticed in my 2011 post that I’d written about eating kohlrabi and loving it. I can’t remember how I prepared it back then, but last night I cut it in thin slices and roasted it in olive oil with some salt and pepper and the tiniest bit of parmesan cheese. It was absolutely heavenly.
I think our eating habits in America have become far too detached from the actual sources of our food. If the CSA hadn’t told me I had a kohlrabi in my share, I would have had to do an online search to figure out what food it was. That’s embarrassing. Nobody should grow up in this country not knowing what a kohlrabi is. I could understand not knowing what a kumquat is, or a lychee. But kohlrabi is grown right here in the midwest, where I’ve lived for half a century! It’s possible these are my unique shortcomings, but I don’t think I’m alone in my disconnection from my food.
In recent years I’ve developed a bit of garden envy when I see people writing about their home gardens full of healthy produce. I would love to grow some of my own food too, but our heavily shaded yard with a big and voracious deer population is just not conducive to it. The only place I could possibly grow something is to put pots on the deck, but the deer even come onto the deck sometimes, so I haven’t tried. I have high hopes that one day I’ll be able to do it, but in the meantime I’m so thankful for our local farmers. They’re not only nourishing my body, but they’re teaching me something I should have learned a long time ago. Food for thought, indeed.