Friday, November 11, 2011

feast and famine

When you eat seasonally, you have to get used to feast and famine, often at the same time.  Feast of whatever is in season, famine of just about everything else.  Right now, it is the season of greens: mustard, kale, chard, collards, arugula, bok choy (if you’re lucky!) and cabbage.  Love this stuff, but I’m a little starved for a cucumber, a spear of asparagus, maybe a snap pea or two! 

As much as I love greens, and celebrate when the first bag of fall lettuce shows up in my weekly share from the CSA (community supported agriculture), my love grows a bit stale about this time of year.  It’s like an infatuation for a boy who suddenly wants to see you every day, except with greens, it’s every meal. 

You see, twenty-some-odd people pick up their bag of CSA vegetables at my house every week.  Some of them have grown weary of the incessant flow of leafy stuff and the nightly challenge of how to get it stored, cooked and eaten before the degrading tendrils of time can consume it instead. 

These weary soldiers, in the battle against wasted vegetables, sometimes “forget” to pick up their bags.  What to do with the left-over piles of orphaned produce?  I give away what I can, but my go-to foster families have limits too. 

Then, there’s the hoarding impulse that shamelessly and selfishly tells me to keep it, cook it, freeze it for myself—if I only had more time!  And the guilt: the guilt of wasting something I won’t have at all in just a matter of weeks. 

As I write this, I can almost hear the green stuff in my fridge.  It’s clamoring out of my vegetable drawers, crowding out the condiments on the top shelf, and seriously smothering the Sam Adams tucked in the back.  It’s like The Little Shop of Horrors in there! 

I battle onward:  salad for lunch, stuffed cabbage for dinner, greens in my morning shake, left over cabbage for lunch, mustard greens and fish for dinner…Oh the curse of the feast! 

I actually groaned at the generous bag of mustard I pulled out of my CSA bag yesterday.  And the cabbage—you should have seen the size of that cabbage!  I could have slipped it into one of my kids’ soccer bags and no one would have known the difference.  

Perhaps nature inflicts this surplus on us by design.  Like parents who make their teenagers smoke a whole pack of cigarettes, or drink an entire six pack of Guinness beer in a risky lesson about indulgence.  Nature sneeringly gives us leaf after leaf, saying, "go ahead, have another, just one more"—until you’re literally turning green yourself. 

So I’m made to despise fresh greens to prepare for the long winter without them? 

Maybe so.  It’s true that hankering for a deep red tomato I am not.  My overindulgence during the bounty of August will carry me much further into the cold of winter before I begin to crave the fresh tomato and basil salads that will make me faint with pleasure come July. 

So I have feasted—with gratitude, for months.  And I’m feeling ready.

In one week, when the CSA and the farmers’ markets close until June, I’ll lose my connections to local produce.  No more fresh and light stuff on the table.  Instead, on cold nights we’ll feast on soup, stored potatoes, canned green beans, and meals like spaghetti and pizza, made from our canned sauces.  Eventually, we’ll tire of these warm and hearty concoctions, but right now, I can’t even imagine that day. 

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