Friday, October 30, 2009

CSA reflections

I picked up my last Tantre Farm share this past Wednesday (sorry, no photo--I had a sick kid this week and obtaining the share was challenge enough). I thought it would be appropriate to reflect a little on the CSA experience.

Question: Was it worth it economically?
Answer: Yes, for the full 20 week summer share. No, for the 3 week autumn share. I learned a little something about my cooking moods and temperament by signing up for both the summer and fall extension. We saved a LOT of money over the summer by ordering virtually no carry out. It works out that each week's share is $30 and that is at least how much we'd spend on one Chinese or Middle Eastern carry out meal. My grocery bills for the summer were pretty low, more than a $30 reduction. And we ate more healthy and tasty meals with much less meat. The autumn share suffered both from the vegetable selection (hard squash and loads of brassica are ok, but didn't really get my creativity going) and from my own increase in rigidity

Q: Was it stressfull having to deal with all that produce at once?
A: Sometimes. Though I did learn that when the greens threatened to overwhelm me, I could always blanch and freeze them. It did take a significant amount of time planning meals so that the produce would be used in the right order (carrots can wait until the following Monday, spinach must be used pretty quickly), but I did enjoy that part, particularly prowling about for new recipes which were worthy of the vegetables.

Q: Discover any new likes or dislikes?
A: Turnips! Oh my lord do I love fresh turnips now. I had bought grocery store turnips before and liked them well enough but the small, fresh tender ones we got in the farm share were transformative. Brian and I would fork-battle for the last one. I also loved the black-veined peppermint--it made the best tea ever. The only thing I disliked was the kohlrabi bulb (the greens were just like kale so I was fine with those): however I prepared it I would think that another vegetable would be better. Roasted? Prefer potatoes or parsnips. In stir fry? Harmless but just filler. Raw shredded? Prefer cabbage. True, I didn't try it pickled. Maybe next summer that'll convince me of its worth.

Q: What about the control issue?
A: My summer self found getting the box a thrill. I looked forward to seeing what would be in there and letting it challenge me preparation-wise. As I mentioned before, my autumn self found it tiring.

Q: What about variety?
A: Tantre is very good at balancing the week's share so that there is variety from week to week (different varieties of potatoes, onions, greens, herbs each week). I think it would have grown tiresome if every week the same curly kale was there. There isn't a big difference between the three kinds of kale that I received but enough so that it didn't feel monotonous. There weren't very many times that I wandered through the market looking at the offerings from other farmers and wishing that something else had been included in my share box.

Q: Wishes?
A: I wish there had been more garlic in the shares and some green zucchini. I know summer squash is almost identical in flavor, but I missed getting the green torpedoes. I also could have eaten turnips every week, but I know that not everyone feels that way.

Q: Knowing what you know, what will you plant in your garden next year?
A: Absolutely NO potatoes or basil! (Folks warned me of those bounties and they were right). I'll plant tomatoes--definitely green zebras and romas, my own turnips (since I can't get enough), leeks, and peas.

Q: What about the critters?
A: Sigh. The farm share did not magically transform my kids into vegetable lovers, but I'd say they are marginally more tolerant of different produce. In order to get their weekly allowance, they had to try one new thing from the farm share box and even though this was often accompanied by squinched up faces and minor gagging, they did it. And didn't die.

Any questions you have about the CSA experience?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I'm a little amazed, but my latest attempt with my sewing machine did not leave me batty or swearing a blue streak (unlike, dare I remind you, last time). The girl critter wanted to be a bat for Halloween and no, she would not be satisfied with a purchased bat superhero costume--she is into animals, not superheros. So it was time to drag that crafty side of myself out of hibernation.

First we assembled materials:
Some black satin that was on sale at Joann's, a McCall's #3329 pattern to crib the bat hood and smock (the pattern is for a superhero jumpsuit) that was on sale for 99 cents, and a black umbrella from the dollar store.

The hood and the sleeve caps were a little fiddly, but luckily a costume that has to hold together for three events (Halloween concert at Hill, school party on Friday and Saturday trick or treating) can have plenty of wrinkles and fraying edges and still look ok.

I contemplated leaving some of the wire frame on the umbrella to look like wing-bones, but then realized the kid would probably impale herself or one of her friends. So off they came! It looks good enough to me, and, despite her very serious visage in the photo below, the girl critter is happily flapping around the house.

After my encounter with a real bat in the house this summer, I just have to resist the temptation to reach for a tennis racket and take a swing.


Thanks to Sarah's efforts (and willingness to have a crowd of drunken revelers in her home) we did it--we had our Oktoberfest/feast!

Yes, one must wear silly hats or little-lederhosen outfits. Funny how only Brian and I remembered that rule...My photos have some major gaps in them--primarily of the stuff I brought (German soft pretzels, braised cabbage with bacon and apples, green salad and sauerkraut) which I blame on the stuff that my Brian brought: BEER! The Dark Father in particular packed a punch, though there was also his Belgian White and hefeweizen to choose from.  I'll have to make the pretzels again because they were terrific and a recipe worth sharing here. Next time I promise I won't have a beer until after I take a picture of them.

Brian P made and grilled a copious quantity of sausages:

There's smoked, bratwurst and a fennel-heavy Italian sausage (because, as Sarah said, "It doesn't matter if it isn't German: women love fennel!")

Here's a glimpse of a partial plate of plenty (missing the braised cabbage; the pretzels were long gone by this time):

Meg's spaetzel, made moments before serving, Sarah's wild mushroom rice cakes (for the vegetarians among us, though there were plenty for the rest of us to try), a selection of Brian's sausages with sauerkraut, and my big green salad with honey mustard vinaigrette.

We discovered that Dark Father goes really well with dessert:

Meagan's German chocolate cake and Deb's chocolate ginger cake were great accompaniments to the dark-sweet beer.

The gathering fulfilled my revelry quota for the month. Now I can crawl back into my reclusive autumnal hole and wait for the next book-group feast to lure me out.