This week’s share: Basil, Cabbage, Cucumbers, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Onion, Parsley, Sugar Snap peas, Squash
People worry about mission creep–about the unplanned (or secretly planned) expansion of an initially minor undertaking. The idea seems to apply mostly to our foreign military operations, to the way we have of starting our involvement on a limited scale and ending up fully, hopelessly engaged, bogged down, trapped as much by the vastness of our presence as by the impossibility of completing our task. And given our recent history, there’s ample reason to worry about this.
Fittingly, there’s been a little bit of mission creep with mission creep. It may not have penetrated the culture quite like OMG, but I feel like I increasingly hear it applied to situations that have nothing to do with our military adventures. The phrase has given us a neat new way to speak about the dangers of all sorts of endeavors growing beyond their initial parameters. A quick internet search will lead you to warnings about mission creep in higher education and non profits and internal review boards and fire departments and the TSA and any number of other institutions that have never, as far as I know, invaded a foreign country. Apparently, mission creep is quite a serious problem.
It seems to me, however, that most of the time we face a somewhat different problem that I guess I will call mission uncreep. Mission uncreep is that way our actual actions have of gradually falling short of our good intentions. We set out to improve some behavior: to eat better, exercise more, put away the tools in the proper spot when we finish using them, clean up after ourselves promptly, stay in better touch with friends, get to events on time. And at first we do make changes. It is a pain in the ass having to walk all the way back to the workshop just to hang up the pliers, but we know it is the right thing to do and the next time we need the pliers we feel a little surge of righteousness when we realize we know exactly where to find them. That righteousness–plus actually having the pliers when we need them–makes us stick with our mission to put the tools back in their proper spot. Until one day it doesn’t. Maybe we have taken them all the way out to the greenhouse and tell ourselves we will need them out there again soon or maybe something else comes up or it is just a hot day. Whatever the reason, just this once the pliers don’t get hung up in the workshop. And soon enough we are back to leaving tools on the tractors, in the barn, in the greenhouse, and all sorts of other random places that seemed to make good enough sense at the time. It is not a conscious, rational decision to give up on putting the tools away, and every time we have to spend twenty minutes hunting, often fruitlessly, for a tool we need we remember why we meant to put them away properly. But the impetus, much like the pliers themselves, has creeped away.
Admittedly, mission uncreep rarely has dire geopolitical consequences. Most of the time in most of our lives it remains a source of annoyance and disorganization and disappointment rather than combat deaths and regime change. But mission uncreep does not just affect the individual users of pliers. Institutions and even countries suffer from it too. On a larger scale it often manifests itself as a lack of vigilance, a slow erosion of the crucial oversight function, a loss of commitment to basic principles. There are certainly on this scale other forces at work. Enormous pressure is being relentlessly applied to relax, relent, ignore. But it is not all some huge conspiracy at work. Sometimes we fail to live up to our commitments simply because it seems easier and maybe even more sensible (so we tell ourselves) at the time, and then we get used to the easier way and it just becomes the way.
Unfortunately, guarding against mission uncreep requires deliberate effort. You have to commit yourself to the task and stick with it. Which sounds like a great idea and works for a while. But then….
By the way, if anyone has seen a pair of pliers lying around, please let me know.
Vegetable notes: As is often the case, the squash and cucumbers have rapidly ramped up production. More rapidly even that your share suggests. We have spared you the full force of the cucurbit onslaught (we will be sending some of the excess to Comfort Food Community for their food pantry). If by some chance you want more, come out the farm and we will load up your trunk. In the meantime, you could slice the squash, brush it without oil, grill it, and let it marinate for at least an hour in a mixture of oil, vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper, a little hot pepper (I would recommend spicy smoked paprika), diced onion, crushed garlic and chopped parsley and basil. It is good as is and perhaps even better on a slice of good bread with some mozzarella. As for the cucumbers, a simple salad might suffice: thinly sliced cucumbers tossed with vinegar, salt, pepper, a little minced parsley, perhaps a dash of sugar or some onion, perhaps a few hot pepper flakes. Or a cold soup: cucumbers, onion, parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper and thick yogurt pureed and chilled.
With a cabbage and kohlrabi in the box, now is the time to make some kohlslaw. Just add shredded or julienned kohlrabi to your favorite cabbage slaw. I like mine with lots of vinegar and a mixture or mayo and sour cream. though it is also good with rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and some chili oil.