Thank you for supporting the farming this season and giving us time to grow your food and think our thoughts. We have enjoyed doing both, and we hope you have enjoyed the food from our farm.
This week’s share: Bok choi, Napa cabbage, Carrots, Garlic, Kale, Kossak kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Onion, Peppers, Hot peppers, Rutabaga, Sage, Green tomatoes, Tatsoi, Winter squash
I got an email yesterday from a yoga studio about their post-election meditation program. We like to think of our democracy as perhaps our defining national trait, but what could be more American than turning months of ugly campaigning into a marketing pitch for a self-improvement program? In some strange way it almost gives me hope.
And, to be fair, meditation might not be a bad idea. No doubt, we could all use a little quiet time when this is over. Not that we will get it. There is no quite time in this country any more.
Apparently, as soon as we have the ability to do some something faster we cannot resist. Speed has its advantages, particularly, say, if you are running away from a bear, going to fight a fire or steaming some fresh peas. It is a big help to have a barrel washer that significantly reduces the time we spend cleaning carrots, and the water wheel transplanter helped us get in six beds of garlic in surprisingly little time. In the past few days that has meant we spent a lot less time being cold and wet, which we appreciate.
But microwaveable scrambled eggs? Sure, only a fully developed, wealthy nation has the time, infrastructure and knowledge to come up with and market microwaveable scrambled eggs. So I guess we can be proud of ourselves. But honestly, why? Even if you shave 30 seconds off the time it takes to make scramble eggs out of eggs, in return you give up flavor, texture and any real say in what goes into your food. Can a little bit of your time be worth that? Some things are better done a little slower.
Such as expressing one’s opinion on current events. Maybe when something happens you have an instant reaction, a sense of disgust or anger or disappointment, or maybe you are just tired and hungry or stubbed your toe a moment before. Whatever. That feeling you have, you can attach blame and send it out to the world right away. Why wait to see if it passes? Why try to understand the context? Or hang on for further details? Or question the source? Or question yourself? Or stop and wonder why anyone else needs to encounter your every emotion?
I admit some events seem to call for swift condemnation. This, one says to oneself, this cannot stand. But will a few minutes of contemplation really diminish the force of that condemnation? Have you failed somehow while you sit there quietly getting your thoughts and facts and grammar straight?
It seems the answer for a lot of people is yes. Because a lot of other people have used those few minutes to get their reaction out ahead of you. You have lost the race. Yes, those instantaneous reactions are illiterate, illogical, ill tempered, but they still beat your thoughts out into the world.
I know we highly value competitiveness, but why don’t we ever compete to see who can thoughtfully enlighten other most effectively, who can best resist rising to an insult, who can quell their anger and calmly get on with something useful? Just getting somewhere first, that usually only matters in meaningless endeavors. Say you are going to fight a fire. Yes, response time matters, but rushing there in your pajamas while the slow poke members of the fire company collect their gear, that does not make you a winner or a hero or particularly useful in any way. It makes you an idiot.
Well, we have people all over this country running unprepared to perceived conflagrations, and it turns out all they can do when they get there is jump up and down and yell about how they feel. That has really been a big help.
One of the pleasures of real cooking is the way it makes you take your time, makes you build up a dish slowly, going patiently through the steps in a sensible order, intentionally melding disparate ingredients, working thoughtfully towards a composed, balanced, satisfying result. Cooking well requires preparation, patience, practice, knowledge, common sense, taste, discretion, generosity, effort. It speaks to our admirable desire to be productive and engaged and to our ability to find satisfaction in doing.
For me, farming simply grew out of cooking. I wanted fresh produce, and while I was at it I figured I might as well share the crops with others because that is what you do with food. Plus it seemed way better than having a job. In essence, growing your ingredients is just an extension of cooking from the finished dish back to the earth. And like cooking, farming’s satisfaction lies mostly in the doing, in the act of working towards making something.
And like cooking, farming takes time. There’s efficiency, but not haste or instant gratification. We don’t give in to passing whims, lash out at every frustration, vent and cry and stomp our feet each time the world reminds us we are not entirely in control. Which is perhaps why so many in the modern world view farmers as slow, possibly stupid creatures. No doubt, we often look that way out there in the field, plodding along in the rain and wind, quiet, absorbed, determined.
But what the world seems to have forgotten in its haste is that it is in just such conditions that actual thought thrives. Sure, we have fatigue and back pain and wet sock. A passing angry cloud can unleash destruction. Deer and bugs make it there business to thwart us. Farming is not designed for comfort and ease. But it is designed for reflection. The pace, the simple physicality, the repetition, the quiet, they all provide ample time and space to think things over. Out in the field, with your hands engaged, your knees on the earth, birds calling to one another from the hedge rows, you can play around with ideas, find intriguing connections, discover the humor in things that merely irk others. You can go at a thought or emotion from every angle, prod it, shake it about a bit, discard it silently.
I expect the modern world would say” so what? Where does that get you? ” But maybe the modern world should stop for a moment and take a look at itself and wonder if just maybe it is missing out on something. Like a little quiet time and a proper home-cooked meal.
Vegetable notes: Kossak kohlrabi was bred as a large storage kohlrabi. So you can put yours away for a while if you want. But it also happens to have particularly good eating quality. It stays crunchy even at a large size, and I think it’s a bit sweeter too.
I really don’t understand what rutabagas want. We have had little success with them in recent years, but for some reason they liked this hot, dry growing season. That is not what you expect from a hardy northern storage root crop. Or maybe it is. When my English relatives visited in the summer they always wanted to go out and sit in the sun on the hottest days. They burned themselves quite pink, of course, but they could not resist. So I guess those northerners just crave warmth. As for what you want to do with a rutabaga, you can chop it up and roast it, or mash it with a little cream and sage and nutmeg, or grate it with other root vegetables and make a sort of latke.
Tatsoi and bok choi (the dark and light banded greens) are closely related. You could certain cook them together. Or you could act like a fancy chef, give them different treatments and plate them up as Asian greens two ways.