Another week, another Popeye-approved amount of vegetable matter ingested. Not to pat myself on the back prematurely, but I think I’ve already gotten the hang of this CSA thing! Last week, Friday night rolled around, and I settled in to cook an arugula- and basil-infused pasta dinner instead of trolling the Web for takeout menus, as is my usual end-of-the-week routine. That means a) I’m saving money for my upcoming Mediterranean vacation; b) my antioxidant consumption has skyrocketed; and c) I’m learning so much about cooking. And having fun while doing all of the above!
I’ve been a lifelong baker, but experimentation in cooking was never my strong suit. My dinners suffered, therefore, on account of this inexperience (and combined with my crippling post-work laziness and an unhealthy dependence on peanut butter). So please excuse my self-congratulatory words, because this newfound ability to cook real weeknight meals really does deserve a gold star!
Without further ado, here’s how I used this week’s CSA box contents, with only a bit of the cabbage and red scallions leftover to use in tonight’s vegetable stir-fry.
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I’m not usually one to miss important milestones. But it seems that I graduated from college one year ago last May, and the entire month swept by without my recognizing the anniversary.
In the grand scheme of things, how meaningful is this milestone, really? It’s not a day that we’re socially conditioned to remember, like we recognize a close friend’s birthday with a restaurant dinner, or our wedding anniversaries with gifts that riff on paper, silver, or lace. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned since my college graduation ceremony, it’s that life no longer hands you obvious deadlines, and the rest of your life’s “universal” rites of passage can be counted on two measly fingers (marriage, and babies—if you even choose to dabble in either). For twenty-two years, my classmates and I were shuttled in lockstep through various life stages with astounding predictability, mostly thanks to our highly-structured educational system. And then? We reached the last page of our guidebook the day we donned one-size-fits-all gowns and threw our tasseled caps in the air. In the wide-open plains of post-graduate life, we’ve had to find our own meaning and order. You know, construct our own roads and fences, if you’ll beat that metaphor to death with me.
So I chose to celebrate this belated anniversary, arbitrary though it may be, and I celebrated with cake. That’s how all milestones should be marked, right? It was banana chocolate walnut cake, extraordinarily light but equally flavorful, and yet simple enough for the made-up occasion. There was ice cream too, of course.
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In the, er, glory days of high school, my friends and I eschewed the cafeteria in favor of a stretch of linoleum outside the math department, where we’d sit with our backs against the lockers and eat lunch. It was a quiet place to talk and people-watch, a pursuit that was especially rewarding on the days that my junior-year math teacher made an appearance. He’d saunter out of the math department toward the water fountain, where he’d wash produce for his lunch. And by “produce,” we’re not talking about a baggie of baby carrots; more like entire heads of lettuce. Or whole cucumbers. Or a bunch of radishes, if he was feeling especially whimsical. (To put this all into context, I should add that he was a regular wearer of Hawaiian shirts, and a ukulele player who used a Kermit the Frog puppet as the singing dummy to his ventriloquist.)
Last Thursday, I felt a flashback to those math-teacher moments of old, as I myself stood at the sink washing a entire bagful of vegetables. But I had a good excuse! I’d just picked up the bounty that was my first CSA share.
Signing up for a CSA program (community-supported agriculture) means you receive weekly deliveries of produce from a local farm based on whatever’s blooming, and this marks my first year as a subscriber. (What can I say? Local produce tastes good, and now there’s no way to avoid eating my greens. Plus, I like a good kitchen challenge.) Graceland Farm’s summer program began last Thursday, and it’s been a vegetable-infused whirlwind! I thought I’d let you in, dear readers, on some of the fun—and, okay, the utter craziness—of it all.
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Show of hands: Who here is excited about the three-day weekend?
Are you ready to stand over the grill flipping burgers, hungry friends gathered alongside? To don your shades and take a bike ride under the blazing sunshine?
To watch baseball, the ultimate warm-weather sport? To spend the first of many weekends poolside? To see the Sex and the City sequel, no matter how terrible the trailer looked?
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For my sixteenth birthday, when most other newly-licensed kids would be begging their parents for their first (beat-up) car, I was begging mine to go to New York. The Met was about to put on an exhibit of Richard Avedon’s portraiture, you see, and I was just precocious enough to understand how cool that was. Probably relieved that I wasn’t bugging him for my own set of wheels, my dad relented, and that’s how I got my first taste of New York City.
Since then, I haven’t stopped returning. Not a year goes by that I don’t hop up to the city—for an Eric Clapton concert in Madison Square Garden, maybe, or to stand in Grand Central Station on Halloween and gawk at the costumes, or just to visit the Strand and look at their awe-inspiring selection of used books. (Once I snagged an Avedon coffee-table book filled with his photos for Versace; it’s still my favorite find!) But every year, I’d always wander Manhattan and ignore the boroughs. This past weekend, I broke that streak when I watched some wonderful old friends run the Brooklyn Half-Marathon.
I arrived far too late on Friday night, and groggily clambered into a subway car far too early on Saturday morning, passing Russian billboard advertisements on the way to Coney Island. There, I was greeted by the rickety wooden Cyclone roller coaster, a Ferris wheel decked out in primary colors, vendors hawking funnel cake and hot dogs—and the finish line of the half-marathon! Not a minute after sauntering up to the sidelines, my friend Anna sprinted by, hardly more than a flash of color in her track club jersey—and two of my college classmates followed soon after. It was completely thrilling. This was my first time as a race spectator rather than a participant, and to cheer people on as they pushed through the 13.1 miles, pain and determination plastered on their faces? I can’t think of anything more inspiring.
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