This week’s share: Beet greens, Carrots, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Parsley, Peppers, Hot peppers, Radishes, Green tomatoes, Delicata and Jester winter squash
We have a farm worker in the house. I am not sure if that sounds like some sort of modern lifestyle boast or a call for an exterminator, but Alex has come for the last two months of the season and we had to put him somewhere. The only other immediately available option was our tiny trailer, and Alex is 6’5″. Putting him in there seemed cruel and maybe even physically impossible. So we took on a large just 21-year-old Texan roommate. Given that when Sam is home we have a large 20-year-old roommate, it has not felt too odd.
Well, probably odder for poor Alex, who has taken on two middle aged roommates rather set in there ways, one of whom also happens to be his boss. Of course, being 21, Alex is probably more adaptable. Not that it always feels that way when you are 21. While you have had less time to develop habits, you often feel more passionate about things. You will look back thirty years later and wonder how you could possibly have gotten that worked up over over matters that turn out not to matter, how you could have been so sure about your answers to unanswerable questions, how you could have believed so firmly in your understanding when everything around you reminds you how little you know. But at 21 you don’t know that.
Actually, Alex seems pretty flexible about life. He is willing to take chances, such as moving from Austin to live with old people and work as a peon. But he did arrive with certain habits. Well, some habits, a few books, a guitar, cooking pots, the clothes on his back and a lot of mason jars. He makes his kefir and kambucha and green tea in his jars, all part of his effort to eat properly. He avoids soy beans because they contain estrogen-like substances, cooks most things in duck fat, won’t eat commercial mayonnaise, and most notably, prefers to cook everything very slowly at a low temperature. His crock pot gets a lot of use. About once a week he will stick a chicken in the crock pot and cook it for a day or so (this past weekend he actually cooked one for three days).
Alex’s cooking led me to suggest to him the other day that he open a true slow food restaurant, an establishment at which you would place your order and then have to come back the next day to get your meal. It is a ridiculous idea, of course, but one that might work in certain cities. It has, at least, the merit of making diners give more serious contemplation to the work involved in producing their food.
Even elaborately composed plates in top restaurants, plates covered with splashes and slashes and dots of different reductions, with foams and delicate geometric constructions, with micro greens and petals arranged just so, plates that proudly speak of the care and effort the kitchen has taken on your behalf, even these plates don’t really tell you just how much work went into the food. While they trumpet the particular artistry of the chef, they tend to say little if anything about the guys up at dawn to prep everything, to peel and clean and simmer and skim and skin and scale, not to mention the people scrubbing and scraping and degreasing–deliberately not to mention because who wants to think about dirty dishes while eating an expensive meal.
So that suggestion (or even proclamation sometimes) that your meal was made from scratch to order just for you, it’s not entirely true. If it were, if nobody even touched an ingredient until you placed your order, you would be waiting a lot longer for your food to come to the table.
Or, more precisely, you probably would not be waiting. You would go to a restaurant that had done lots of the work in advance so you could get fed quicker. It is all well and good as an ethical and political principle to make people aware of all the work that goes into the food, but it is maybe not the greatest business plan. You would have to be strangely committed to your beliefs to run your enterprise that way.
Of course, as it occurred to me after joking with Alex about his alleged slow food restaurant, that’s how I run this farm. You pay me for fresh produce, and then you wait while I choose the seeds, wait while I start the seedlings, wait while a plow the fields, wait while I plant, wait while I weed and trellis and mulch and prune, wait until finally months later the crops have grown and ripened and finally we hand them out to you.
I sure hope you were not sitting there at the dining table the whole time wondering when you will be fed.
Vegetable notes: As promised, here is some kale. And some other stuff.
I know I said it would all be fall crops now, but we have managed to keep the peppers going under a row cover and there were still some tomatoes in the field house.
Not a lot of ripe tomatoes, obviously, but by this time in the season the ripe ones have started to lose their flavor anyway. Eating them just becomes a sad reminder of how they ought to taste. We actually pulled two of the tomato rows the other day even though they had survived the frost because there’s not much point in keeping them going longer. But they still had a lot of green fruits on them, so we picked those. Think of them as a different vegetable, something related to tomatoes, but not actually tomatoes.
I would recommend cutting them into thick slices, coating them in cornmeal, and frying them. You could serve them with a mayonnaise into which you have blended a roasted, peeled NewMex, a clove of garlic, lemon juice and parsley. You could also make a pureed salsa with them, which would be rather like a tomatillo salsa. Or you could slice them up, cover them with hot, spiced vinegar, and let them sit in that for a few days, and you will have some pickled green tomato that would go well with cheese or grilled meat.