Food With a Face

CSA Week of October 31, 2011

What’s In Your Box?

Fresh Box:

  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Salad Turnips
  • Kohlrabi
  • Parsley
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Napa Cabbage
  • Kale

Storage Box

  • Potatoes–many kinds this week!  Store in your refrigerator in plastic or in a cool, dry place.  Check regularly while they last
  • Winter Squash–no need to refrigerate.  Just store in a cool, dry place until use.
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Recipes Below

Dear Friends:

It’s strange how impersonal the news we receive daily can be.  Yesterday, while having my morning cup of coffee in town after setting up at the Farmers’ Market, I read in the newspaper about a young American soldier who was killed while defusing a bomb in Afghanistan.  I read this news item in much the same way that I’ve come to read news items about wars all around the world, whether Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, or about the kinds of deaths that occur in more natural ways.  The effect on us of all these deaths is blunted by their frequency and by the difficulty of understanding, and we live on.  Measuring the loss to humanity of the consequences of all the senseless wars and violence is beyond grasp.

The news became more personal this morning.  As it so happens, this young man was a dear and cherished friend to our intern, Toni, and she had recently seen him before he left for Afghanistan.  It saddens me to think that this young man, with all the hopes and aspirations that are innate to we humans, a son to a woman and man, a brother perhaps, a friend to many, could have his life ended in a moment of horrible violence driven by hatred to kill blindly.  In this case, I can recall the enthusiasm that Toni expressed for her friend, heard stories about times in the past when their lives crossed, meaningful moments of friendship that they shared with one another.  Measuring the loss to humanity of the loss of one individual is a difficult measure to take but, in this instance, the loss can be measured in more immediate terms as Toni grieves for the loss of her friend.  We can hold and care for Toni as she finds her way through her own grief.

That’s not the message that I intended to write on this last week of this season’s CSA, but it does relate in a way to the message I will write.  There’s a kind of abstractness in the global food system that causes it to be faceless.  We do not know the conditions under which our food is produced, who works the fields, who grows our food.  We do not know the truckdrivers that transport it, or the produce brokers who look for the best prices or take pride in supplying the best quality.  We may recognize the produce manager where we buy our produce, or know the name of the cashier who rings up our purchase but, in all likelihood, we don’t know much about them and the life they live.

Much of our economy, for all its strengths, depends on this separation between producer and consumer.  We buy the things that we need, but it’s nearly impossible to contemplate the lives of all those who are responsible for getting it to the shelf we take it from.   In the case of the food system, a network of buyers sources food from many farms, taking from one farm one week and another farm another week, ensuring a steady supply on the grocery store shelf.  It’s rare, if ever, that you go to the grocery store and find that there’s no lettuce, or potatoes, or carrots.  The predictability of supply tends to help make it seem machine-like and impersonal, as though these produce items are produced in a factory rather than a field.  And, ever moreso, these days those items may not even come from California.  They may come from Chile, New Zealand or China, having been flown half way around the world to get to the store where you shop.  If it’s difficult to imagine your food starting as a seed in California, planted by tractor, weeded by machine or human labor, harvested, washed, sorted, packed by individuals living in Central Valley or Salinas Valley towns, try picturing a Chinese farm worker growing garlic or apples for export.

Before joining our CSA, many of you had never set foot on a farm before and seen the work and effort involved in bringing food to your table.  That’s understandable and entirely forgivable.  We’re pleased to have been able this past season to put food on your table.  We’re also pleased that we’ve been able to provide you food with a face, so to speak.  We’ve worked hard to accomplish what we have, and you’ve watched the process from beginning to end.  You may have loved the carrots and tomatoes, hated the Jerusalem Artichokes, cherished the sweet peppers and been wary of the spicy ones, but in every instance, you’ve been handed your produce by the hands that have grown it, and you’ve washed the soil from potatoes just as you may have wiped your shoes after a visit to the farm where the potatoes came from.  In this day and age, that’s a unique and intimate experience, and we all hope that you’ve found it to be a meaningful one.

And, what’s more, you’ve heard the birds singing in the fields that grow your food and, if you’ve been lucky, you may also have heard the songs or the laughter of the interns as they’ve struggled against heat, tiredness, boredom, disappointment and a host of other emotions to bring you your food.  They’ve worked hard to grow the food that has packed over 3,000 boxes of produce for the CSA this season, and I hope you’ll take a moment to offer them your thanks for their efforts.  You’ve seen me in passing as I move from one task to another, looking content or looking stressed at the thought of how much remains to be done.  And, you’ve had the pleasure of finding Jo, day after countless day, ready to greet you as you arrive to pick out this week’s produce from the table where we’ve placed it.  When the carrots were small, you welcomed them with acceptance and enjoyed their crunchy sweetness.  When they were large, you pondered the carrot slaw or stew you’d make.  Many of you have probably eaten more eggplant in one season than you have eaten in the rest of your life.  You’ve all become adept at flexibility and creativity.

Mostly, when we think back on the season, we’ll think of the many kindnesses that you’ve shown us.  We appreciate that.   As hard as farm work is, it wouldn’t make any sense without the satisfaction of knowing that you gain some measure of pleasure in your visits to the farm and in the tastes—unusual and familiar—of the produce we grow.

It’s also important to us that you know what your participation means to us.  No matter what you’ve come to understand about the current popularity of local agriculture, be assured that it’s a challenge to make it work economically at this scale.   As much as we value farming and feeding you, we wouldn’t be able to do it again next season if we weren’t able to make a living this season.   By participating in our CSA, you’ve brought this farm one season closer to becoming a lasting part of this community.  For that, we thank you deeply.   We’ve managed to feed a good number of people these past five months with the best we had to offer of the food we’ve grown.   And we hope that it’s not just that we’ve filled your stomachs.  We hope that the food we’ve grown has become the basis for your continuing good health, your pleasure and satisfaction, and more.

We’ll miss you over these winter months to come.  Just as you’ve grown accustomed to the weekly routine of coming to the farm, we’ve grown accustomed to your particular habits while here at the farm (don’t think we haven’t noticed!), and we’ve looked forward to your weekly visits.  But, in the natural order of things, we need the time to rest, regroup, plan, dream, and prepare ourselves for next season.

From all of us here at Riverhill Farm, we extend our warmest wishes and thanks to each and every one of you, young and old, for your enthusiastic participation in our CSA this year.  We wish you all a lovely holiday season and the best for next year.  Most of all, we wish you peace.

Alan and Jo

This Week’s Recipes:

Harissa Beet Soup with Quick Pickled Cucumbers
This recipe comes from CSA subscriber Jessica Flanigan.  Thank you, Jessica!  You can find her blog, which has many good recipes and is a pleasure to read, at  http://seaweedsnacks.blogspot.com/ Click on the link or copy and paste this web address in your browser line for a new world of extraordinary recipes.

makes 4 small bowls

2 cups roasted beets
1 cup roasted carrots
glug of olive oil
salt for taste
1 cup lemon cucumber seeded and diced (sorry that this recipe comes to you after cucumber season, but you can probably buy one at the store and be forgiven.  A skinned green cucumber is fine too)
2 tsp. champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried Harissa powder (mix 1 T. cayenne with 2 T. cumin to make Harissa powder)
zest of lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

Wash carrots and beets. No need to remove skins. Roughly trim off tops and bottoms. Cut beets into fourths. Add carrots and beets to an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil (about a tablespoon) to coat and a sprinkle of salt. Mix with your hands. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the beets are knife tender. Remove from stove, keep tinfoil on pan and let sit out for 15 minutes.
In a blender, add 2 cups stock, lemon zest, pinch salt, lemon juice and harissa. Add the beets and carrots to blender. Make sure you get the olive oil in the pan too. Don’t bother with removing the beet skins. Blend for a good 5-8 minutes in your blender. Stop and taste for salt.
In a separate bowl, add chopped cucumber, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar and pinch salt. Let sit for 5 minutes, or up to overnight to pickle.
Dish about a cup of soup into a bowl right from the blender. Add a heaping tablespoon of cucumbers making sure to get a good amount of the olive oil and vinegar along with the cucumbers. Soup should be about room temperature or a little over room temperature. Keeps in fridge for a couple of days too.

Curried Winter Squash Soup

  • 1 medium winter squash, chopped in 1 inch cubes, outer skin discarded.  You can also cut the squash in half, discard seeds and roast cut side down until tender (about 45 min.) then scoop the flesh from the skin and add to broth.
  • 2 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or butter)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 -2 tsp garam masala (alternatively, you could use Curry Powder or Ground Cumin and Ground Coriander)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • red pepper flakes (for desired level of heat)
  • 1½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and  roughly chopped (optional)
  • 4 -5 cups (enough to cover all the squash cubes) your favorite chicken/vegetable stock or water
  • ½ cup light cream or half ‘n’half + some for garnish.  We also substitute coconut milk
  • salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • parsley leaves for garnish

Sauté onions in olive oil/ butter in a  heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until transclucent, about 3 to 5 mins. Add apples, garlic, garam masala, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt.  Continue to cook for another minute.  Stir in the cubed squash along with the stock/water and finally mix in the ginger. Bring it to boil  and continue to simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 30 mins. Purée soup in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return soup to pot.  Adjust the seasonings to your taste and stir in the cream or coconut milk. Keep soup simmering over low heat until ready to serve. Garnish with some cream and chopped parsley and serve hot.  For a delicious alternative, substitute 2 tablespoons or more Thai Green Curry Paste for the garam masala, and use coconut milk instead of cream.

Food With A Face

One thought on “Food With a Face

  1. I wish to go on record thanking your wonderful interns for all their labors to deliver us the beautiful foods we get each week. I wish I could thank them by name but I don’t know their names – something I will hope to change next season when I will be freer to meet and talk to them over the growing season. Meanwhile, condolences to Toni. And may all your interns’ next adventures be suffused with our gratitude.

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