Monday, July 20, 2015

Under the Tuscan Kale

Life is a bowl of metaphor
I joined a CSA this summer, which may have been a foolhardy step for someone who a) doesn't like to cook, b) has no one to feed but himself, and c) spends most mealtimes outside of the house. There is the added complication that my pickup date is Wednesdays no later than 7:30, which will be a problem when orchestra rehearsals start up again in September, but we'll burn that viola when we come to it.

The main challenge is using all the food before it goes bad. People keep telling me to freeze stuff, which is a very practical suggestion, but I just know once it goes into the freezer it'll never come out. There's also the suggestion of drying things, like herbs (which I am in fact doing with the chamomile, because what the hell else am I supposed to do with it), but that seems to defeat the purpose of having fresh herbs. Still, I may take some of these recommendations, because storing it all in the fridge and blasting through it before nature reclaims it is not exactly working at 100%.

My main strategies are these:

  • Invite friends over for dinner. My friends are starting to realize that when I invite them over for dinner, I'm really inviting them over to cook for me (well us). It's not your traditional dinner party, but it works well for my friends who like to cook, who have small kitchens, and who like free food, and it works especially well for me.
  • is a website that will tell you not only how long you can expect your food to last, but also how to store it. From it I have learned not to put basil in the fridge.
  • Bring the fruit to work. Nothing makes a bunch of coworkers happier than a bunch of free fresh fruit. My first week I left two pints of strawberries in my fridge to die, but the second week I brought the cherries in to share (plus made this at home) and used almost all of them. Current challenge: plums. I just ate two of them while typing this bullet (and now my keyboard is a little sticky, but fortunately it's my work computer).
  • Just give it away. Farm-fresh produce makes a great thank you gift. My neighbor who watched my cats availed herself of some broccoli, and my friend who picked up my CSA haul one week relieved me of the minzuna and epazote, and thank goodness.
My very limited cooking repertoire needed to be expanded, but it served me well the first few weeks when it was raining kale in here. I made my mainstay African pineapple peanut stew twice, which took care of some of the kale, onions, garlic, and cilantro. With the remaining kale I made this extremely basic massaged kale salad, which required only buying a lemon. Lately, the kale tide has been stemmed, and I've rediscovered a forgotten food processor and made pesto twice (once with garlic scapes, and then just with garlic). 

Signing up for the CSA was a little bit like immersion therapy. With each week I get more and more comfortable with the mountain of agriculture I bring home. I even start to look forward to Wednesdays and finding out what Iron Chef-like ingredient they'll saddle me with this time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The people I interacted with on my #selfdate

After much hemming and hawing, I took myself on a #selfdate* on Sunday. It was a day that could easily have been spent entirely at home, immediately following an exciting but busy Fourth of July, and with a Netflix disc (yes I still do that) in waiting and an infinity of internet to watch. What got me out of the house was the fact that is was closing day for Wolf Hall on Broadway.

Seeing Wolf Hall meant giving up my entire Sunday because it's a two-parter: Part One was offered as a 1pm matinee and Part Two as a 6:30pm evening show. Plus, a desire to pay as little as possible meant getting to the box office at 10am to wait in line for $39 rush tickets (which turned out to be unnecessary as there were plenty of empty rush seats at both performances).

There were two large holes in my day (11am-1pm and 4pm-6:30pm) which I passed looking for food and eating food. With one exception (a friend who happened to be at the show), everyone I spoke to on my self-date was a stranger, which made Sunday a very different day than most. Here are the people I interacted with, in order:

  1. Arriving at the line for rush tickets, I took my spot behind a young woman I would later learn is named Jane. In fact, she introduced herself to me with her full name, which I've now forgotten but wouldn't have posted here anyway. We didn't start chatting until after her friend Sara(h?) arrived and then left to get tea. I think the impetus for our conversation was my obvious struggle to make myself comfortable without letting my ass touch the sidewalk. After that we had a pleasant conversation about Broadway, books, and life in NYC.
  2. Sara(h?) and I didn't interact much. After announcing to Jane that she was going across the street to Mcdonald's to fetch some tea, I almost asked her to get me a sausage biscuit or fries, but we hadn't broken the ice yet so I stopped myself.
  3. There was an older woman behind me who was a true New Yorker: happy to help her fellow citizen but not extremely interested in talking to a stranger. We started talking when she offered me a page of her newspaper to sit on (my struggle was apparently obvious to all). I asked her name and she gave it, but I've forgotten it. After a brief discussion about rush tickets and lotteries, she went back to her newspaper, not even speaking much with the man behind her, whom I'd assumed was her companion.
  4. The rest of the day passed largely without human interaction, with the exception of quick transactions with restaurant employees, Starbucks baristas, and theater ushers. The next person I spoke to for more than a few seconds was June, a theatergoer who joined me in my box for the evening show (you get BOX seats for $39 when you rush, which is ludicrous and wonderful, as long as you don't want to see one half of the stage). We talked all about Wolf Hall the book and the TV series, and then branched out to A Man For All Seasons the movie and the play, which is the only other Tudor period play I've seen.
If I realized I was going to be writing a blog post about this, I'd have tried to talk to more strangers, but I guess this post is long enough.

*Hashtags appear to be useless on Blogger, so allow me to link you to the blog post where I first saw the term "selfdate."