On the day this past April when I hit refresh approximately two hundred and thirty seven times on Instacart unable to get a time slot for delivery from my grocery store, I signed up to become a member of my local CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. I didn’t know that until two weeks ago.
A few of my friends have been members of this CSA, or as they call it, the farm, for many years. The regaled me with stories of beautifully ripened tomatoes that fall off the vine, bags and bags of multi-colored potatoes and cucumbers the likes of which you would never see in the grocery store. In summers past, they held farm parties — a potluck where only farm members friends could attend bringing dishes made from farm ingredients. I saw farm party pictures and learned about recipes for beet cake, gazpacho and mojitos made with fresh from the farm mint.
I teased my farmer friends about their farm food porn pics, telling myself that I was just fine purchasing my produce at the grocery store. I wouldn’t know what to do with all that swiss chard, green onion and cilantro, I told myself and them.
Full disclosure: I am not a cook. I regularly cook for my family so we can have sustenance, but I am not creative or inventive, and I don’t love to cook. I don’t have confidence in my cooking skills the way I do in my baking skills. I’m a baker, which is quite different from being a cook. If I could serve cookies, brownies and cakes three meals a day to my family, I would. In the midst of the quarantine, I hosted weekly baking classes on Zoom. I procastibake. I stress bake. I bake to show love for family and friends and so I can eat the cookie dough when no one else is watching.
Also in the midst of the quarantine and the lack of response from my Instacart app, I became worried about getting fresh produce in my house, the global food chain supply, and the very real possibility that I could be serving my family cookies for dinner. And so at long last, I joined the farm.
I was pleasantly surprised with my first farm share batch in late May. I was excited to see a lovely variety of lettuces, onions, herbs and spices.
“It gets better,” one farmer friend told me. “Wait till July comes. You won’t know what to do with all of the zucchini, tomato and squash,” she said.
That is what I was afraid of. My idea of a homecooked gourmet dinner is the frozen mandarin orange chicken in the bag from Trader Joe’s or as it is known in my house, “Chicken Rach.” I’m also pretty good with penne and vodka sauce (from the jar.)
The first night home from the farm, I dumped my bags of fresh items on my kitchen counter and got to work. I sautéed the bok choy with the green garlic and the threw in my Trader Joe’s frozen bag of shrimp. My husband said it was the best dinner he ever had. And he kept saying that every subsequent night. It became a joke — but perhaps one weeded in (no pun intended) some truth.
I sautéed eggplant, tomatoes and carrots all from the farm and served them along with grilled chicken and salad created from a plethora of farm lettuce. I made a homemade tomato sauce – all from farm ingredients. My daughter and I made breaded zucchini sticks. I made a beet salad and dressed it in a homemade dressing from my farm herbs.
Yes, I did take a picture of the kale, texting it to my farm friends asking if it was rosemary right before I almost flavored my farm potatoes with chopped up kale. In subsequent weeks, I texted more pictures of farm pickings to my farm friends wanting to know exactly what I was looking at. I learned about kohlrabi, tomatillos and yellow string beans. And then I cooked with them. I made up recipes. I developed a new found confidence in my cooking stills.
I still held on to my baking roots (again no pun intended – I swear) as I made strawberry shortcake (and strawberry soup) after I picked A LOT of berries on the farm one Saturday afternoon.
My husband has joined me on the farm a few evenings and so too has my daughter and my son. We are now a farming family of sorts. I might be posting farm food porn pics soon.
It only took a global pandemic to get me to try something new, something that my friends had been doing for a long time. Silver lining? Perhaps.
Whatever the case may be, I look forward to my trips to the farm. I enjoy the clever farm emails with headlines like “Commence the Cukes, Cool As A Watermelon and Peak Peas.” Could I write farm copy? Is that a thing? I think it is.
I have never felt this way about Instacart, about going to the grocery store and never, ever about cooking.
Thank you dear farm friends and thank you, dear farm.