TAFN – 11 August, 2022

This week’s share: Beans, Beets, Cilantro, Cucumber, Dill, Eggplant, Garlic, Jalapenos, Lettuce, Onions, Tomatoes, Cherry tomatoes, Zucchini


I got an email last week (sent out at 1:49 AM, always a good sign) asking me to boycott a local nonprofit’s fundraising event to which I donate produce. According to the email, the director and board of this organization have been flagrantly abusing and mistreating staff during the employees’ unionization efforts. Never mind that the board voluntarily recognized the unionization drive, enabling it to proceed without a vote or hearings, let alone the other obstructions most employers erect to thwart unionization. Apparently that rare gesture of acceptance was just a ploy, followed up now by various forms of nefarious behavior, including cancelling meetings. I am always grateful when someone cancels a meeting. I cannot think of a better sort of meeting than a cancelled one. So much more productive that the other kinds. In this case, however, cancelling meetings is right up there with unwanted surveillance, threats and retaliation, and its an unimpeachable reason to boycott the event and cause economic harm to a group that provides an array of vital services to local communities.

I have no idea if there’s any truth to these vague late night accusations. Well, that’s not quite true. I do have an idea. I would be deeply surprised if none of the employees of an organization had a gripe, and it’s quite likely that some of those gripes would be legitimate—and that some would look to outsiders very much like quibbles about the people in charge doing their job rather than fostering a paradiasical commune. I also have an idea that an effective local nonprofit is an odd target of a pro-union activist’s nocturnal vitriol. This isn’t a story about CEOs and other stockholders enriching themselves by abusing employees or doing everything in their considerable power to stymie the efforts of workers to organize in order to seek fair compensation and decent working conditions. That’s not to say that nonprofit managers get a free pass on bad behavior. Doing good is not an excuse for doing bad. If what the email alleges is true, the people responsible should be held accountable.

But the tenor of the email suggests that the performative aspects of the outrage may matter to the writer as much as the cause.  Under the circumstances, you might expect a slightly mournful tone, a note of disappoint that people with whom one makes common cause on so many issues would fall short in this matter, a hint of regret at turning on ones allies. Instead, there’s a tone of operatic righteous anger that sounds almost like excitement at thought of sticking it to somebody. Let’s all go to the barricades and party.

Every summer for the past few years a male mocking bird has spent the daylight hours perched near our house singing. I awake to his relentless medley and sit on the deck watching the sun set accompanied by it. I am sure he has a purpose in mind. Defending his territory. Attracting a mate. Sending constant updates to his followers about his activities and emotional state. Or at least was moved to start singing by what seemed like a pressing cause. But there’s something about his performance, about the energy of it, about the way he run through his repertoire, about the little flourish as he lands on a new perch that suggests at some point (in the day, in his life) he forgot about the cause and just kept singing for the thrill of it. Or maybe keeps singing because he cannot stop himself. He has become a habit.

It struck me at first as a bird brained activity, an instinct run amok, preening, desperate, foolish, possibly self-destructive (I am surprised the hawks don’t go after him just to make him shut up). But as the human desire to be heard for the sake of being heard becomes more apparent—and in our world it’s the songs of outrage that most surely get an audience—I begin to think that maybe its just part of life. The mocking bird, the crickets, the tree frogs, the people, they have maya voice for a reason, but once they have discovered the oddly addictive thrill of using it, sometimes they just sing for its own sake.


Vegetable notes: I have not tried every Jalapeno (I thought you might not be happy about the nibble taken out of each one). But I used several the other day while showing Sunni how to cook vegetables, and they were all spicy, but not painfully so. We used a couple in a tomatillo salsa, one in an eggplant dish, one in a corn and cherry tomato salad, and two in gazpacho. The effect was subtle in the dishes with one, noticeable in the dishes with two. The only downside was the lingering capsaicin oil on our fingers from pulling out the seeds.

Sunni and I also made some zucchini noodles and a simple cucumber salad, which allowed her to try out a mandoline—no injuries, happily—and salting vegetables. After slicing the vegetables, we salted them and left them for an hour, then wrung out the water in a cloth. The noodles got a Szechuan-ish beef sauce, though they would also have been good with lemon juice, oil and dill, or pesto.  We just put a little rice vinegar on the cucumbers, which is all they need.