Over the summer, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life based on a recommendation from my sister, Katy, and Jenna, who is one of my college friends. When it comes to reading, I usually stick to novels, but this is totally worth the read if you’re interested in thinking differently (and more intentionally) about what you eat. The gist of the book is that Barbara and her family invest a full year of their life eating only what they have grown themselves, or what they can eat locally that others have grown or produced. It’s quite insightful and thought-provoking in various ways.
First, just to be clear, I didn’t walk away from the book wanting to embark on the same sort of quest. I did, however, start to think differently about where the foods are coming from that I eat. I realized that I can’t assume much of anything when it comes to food, and that I’d really like to know as much as I can about where my food is from and how it was produced.
As a result, I’m doing a couple of things differently. For instance, I’m buying cage-free eggs now. I used to just buy the cheapest store brand eggs. Also, when I’m buying a canned or boxed product, instead of buying what’s cheapest, I’m looking at the label and usually buying the product that traveled the shorter distance to get to Seattle.
Probably the biggest change Kyle and I have made is to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Group. CSAs can look different from place to place so I did some research before joining ours. The things that ultimately sold me on joining Full Circle, were that they would deliver to our house, we could get a box of produce every other week, we can substitute items if we want, we get fruit as well as vegetables, there’s a green grocer option, and when they are filling the box, if the product wasn’t grown at the Full Circle farm, they’re connecting with other local farms. That is, in the off-season, they’d provide produce from neighboring states as opposed to supplying their customers with products from Mexico. (I actually read about another CSA that occasionally supplies citrus from Mexico. I can buy citrus from Mexico in the grocery store. Why would I need it delivered on my doorstep amongst local, organic produce?)
So, since August, Kyle and I have been learning to cook with a variety of new produce. I realize I may have eaten some of these items before at a restaurant, of if someone else cooked it for me, but I’m pretty proud of the fact that I can now say I have officially cooked and eaten dishes that contain kale, chard, beets, beet greens, various cabbages, turnips, turnip greens, and collard greens. On top of that, I used to just buy romaine lettuce. Now I use whatever comes in my box. I used to buy the fruits that I thought were in season. Well, now I’ve eaten truly seasonal apples, plums, pluots, apricots, pears, and grapes. I admit, I spend a considerable amount of time now just researching new recipes so I know what to do with our box, but the nice thing is that it’s not all unfamiliar. We also just get the normal stuff – the peppers, carrots, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, and squash.
This week we got a head of romanesco and I have no idea what to do with it, but we’ll figure it out. 🙂
So, to give you an idea of the timeline:
1) I get an e-mail on Wednesday telling me the contents of my upcoming order. At that time, I can make any substitutions that I’d like, and add anything from the Green Grocery that I’d like. (There’s all sorts of meats, dairy products, additional produce, and even baked goods and coffee that I could buy.)
2) The next Monday, our order appears on our doorstep by 5am. I get pretty excited about this; it kind of feels like a bi-weekly Christmas morning. On Sunday night I make sure the porch light is on and I put out the previous week’s box to be picked up for re-use. (Although, I just got notice that now we can/should just recycle the boxes….) Anyway, I usually check the front door before I get in the shower, which is a few minutes after 5. Once of these days, I’m sure I’ll open the door on the delivery person. 🙂 Here’s what I opened the door to today:
3) After I’m showered and dressed, I start unpacking the box. Usually this happens while I’m brewing my morning coffee. When I open the box, it usually looks something like this:
Everything is unwashed and loose. I don’t have time to wash it in the mornings, but I do find bags to put everything in, and then proceed to cram it all into whatever space I can find in the fridge. I’m definitely ready for a better fridge, with more space in the produce drawers. 😉 Here, you’re looking at the romaine lettuce, lucinato kale, spinach, and escarole we got this morning. As I continued to unpack, I uncovered the rest:
Romanesco, acorn squash, yams, green onions, gala apples, D’anjou pears, grapes, and pluots.
It does end up taking the full two weeks to use everything. I’ve occasionally had to supplement with a bit more fruit from the grocery store, but I’ve only bought produce if I needed something to go along with a recipe I was making using my other CSA produce. I also had to buy more from the grocery store when my parents and aunt & uncle were visiting recently. (The standard size box we get is really meant for 2 adults.)
I really like that I’m doing my shopping based on the items that are coming in my box, and I love knowing that what’s coming in my box is in season, local, and certified organic. I also love that Kyle and I are stretching ourselves to be more adventurous in our eating. I think the only thing we haven’t liked so far was the Southern Style Collard Greens that I made, but both of us are totally willing to try them again.
It takes a little bit more planning time to cook with all of these new foods, but overall, it’s totally worth it knowing that we’re eating wholesome, seasonal, local, organic produce.