Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You are what you eat

196 pounds
There is only one official month of summer left, and as a result, I'm noticing that there is less and less food in my CSA basket each week.

If you don't know, CSA stands for "community shared agriculture," and members of a CSA "invest" in a local organic farm every spring and then get "shares" of the farm's produce every week during the season—for us, that means from May to November. The cost for our CSA is $400 for six months if you pay all of it up front, which works out to be a little more than $15 a week. Not a bad deal for a good-sized basket of organic produce.

In May the basket which holds our share is pretty light—filled about halfway—but by June its overflowing with the best vegetables and fruit I've ever eaten in my life. At that point, there is usually too much to fit in one basket, and we have to carry watermelons under our arms like footballs from the pick-up spot. We get everything from beets to blueberries, and we love it all.

But now we're in a slow period. Most of the summer produce has been harvested, and as we wait for the fall harvest to come in, our baskets are again only half-full. And when our share arrived tonight, I thought about the fact that even half-full, the CSA is still an amazing deal.

And this makes me wonder—if it's such a good deal, why is it so hard to get other people to join? We've told all of our friends about it, but we only know five people who are doing the CSA with us this year.

Some people complain about the fact that we don't know what we'll get every week, but for us, that's half the fun. The first time we got beets last year, we had no idea what to do with them. By now we know that there is nothing better than tangy beet risotto or warm roasted beets on top of a bed of mixed greens and goat cheese.

Still, most people we know don't seem interested, which makes me marvel at our inability to adapt.

We all know that organic food is the best thing we can eat—the only problem is that it's expensive, a problem easily solved by joining a CSA. As I said in my last post, scientists have now proven that chemicals and pesticides make us gain weight, so I'm not sure why anyone would pass up the opportunity to get pesticide-free produce for such a cut rate.

And I've witnessed a similar problem with locally grown, grass-fed beef.

A friend of ours—who is also in the CSA—decided to raise his own steer a few years back. We would go over to his house for dinner parties and cookouts and see the handsome animal in his backyard, feasting on acres of gorgeous Kentucky grass and flirting with the neighbor's cattle. After a few years, it was time for the steer to deliver on his promise of providing our friend—and many others (since it was too much for one person to eat)—with a winter's worth of beef. Our friend invited a group of us over for one of the first meals, and I was surprised to see that another friend of ours—a meat-eater, in fact—turned his nose up at the offering.

"I don't eat anything I've met," he said, but I didn't get it.

This was a person I knew had eaten frozen dinners for lunch—meals with mystery meat and dehydrated vegetables—but he was unwilling to eat locally raised, grass-fed beef?

Was I missing something?

The problem is that we don't like to think about where our food comes from. We just like it to appear on our plates—in edible form—like magic. (That might be why eating out is so appealing.) But the truth is that juicy hamburger you cooked on the grill last 4th of July came from a cow. And, unfortunately, it probably didn't come from a local cow or a cow who eats grass and it almost certainly didn't have as long and happy a life as our friend's cow.

The same could be said about our CSA produce. Yes, sometimes the corn shows up with a few worms, and more often than not, the carrots are always dirty. That's because corn grows in a field, and carrots come out of the ground. And once we realize that, maybe we won't be so obsessed with our food looking so neat and clean. Because, in the end, that neat, clean package of ground beef and that beautiful winter tomato probably come with chemicals and fillers that will make you feel pretty dirty in the long run.


  1. Wow, if that is a light box, I would have loved to have seen a heavy one! Great stuff!

    Two recipes for you:


    My old roommate Rebby used to work at a health food store and people would sometimes complain about bugs. She would tell them, that you can either have bugs or chemicals. I choose bugs and dirt any day!

    Do you have a freezer? We bought a small one and fill it up in the summer (though this year, we're a little behind). I love grabbing some local organic veggies from in the middle of winter.

  2. I totally agree that people don’t like to think about where the food they eat comes from or eat anything they have met. I have a huge problem with this, however I love eating a good piece of red meat. I work for La Cense Beef but the ranch is a great place to get your Grass fed Beef because they will deliver it to your home. This definitely solves the problem for me because I don’t have to think about anything except cooking the meat.

  3. Kara—that's not a real photo of our CSA! It's a photo I found on the internet. But in the middle of summer, that's about how much we get. The lighter weeks--in May, late August and late October--are about half that. But still more than enough for the two of us!

    I do freeze plenty of food, and I try to keep my freezer otherwise empty to have room for all of the produce I freeze.

    Tori--thanks for the tip! We get our beef here in Bowling Green from a local organic farm called O'Daniel Farms . . .


    or the local butcher shop, The Fatted Calf. They both provide local, hormone-and-antibiotic-free beef. (And O'Daniel Farms is grass-fed too.)