It's my first summer in many years without a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). For the past five to six years, I've developed a rhythm around my weekly pickup of vegetables, excited to see what my bin holds. I'd receive enough vegetables to last over a week, challenging me to discover uses for strangers to my regular cuisine (kohlrabi, kale, and assortment of squashes). When I got home, I'd spread all the vegetables on the kitchen counter, admiring their variety and quantity. Because of the amount I picked up each week for 26 weeks, beginning in mid June, I would usually refrain from purchasing vegetables in the grocery store (only supplementing for a little salad variety), for half the year. This helped save money since I stayed away from Whole Foods and other stores that consumed my paycheck.

The CSA, however, also contributed to some neurotic food habits--a compulsion to not waste a morsel of the veggie pickup. Pressure would mount when I peered into the refrigerator and spied the mounds of kale, chard, spinach, and lettuce threatening to wilt into an unusable state. I'd invent techniques to use and reuse, labeling myself the food conservator. I felt virtuous not wasting, but more importantly, my creative cookery side felt like it was on a weekly food challenge to create new dishes where vegetables starred.

At the end of the last season, my CSA filed for bankruptcy. Yes, I could have chosen another one, but due to a busy summer schedule of travel and less time at home, I opted to go CSA-less for a season. I needed a replacement for eating more seasonably, so have committed to regular visits to the local Farmer's Market, supporting different farms each week when I visit. I try to buy without thinking ahead of time what I'll do with the vegetables, giving me the chance to come home and stare, wondering how to use things up before they rot. And so, the other night, I prepared various dishes, using a combination of the market (beets, green onions, radishes), our garden that Nan planted (chard, spinach), and the store (tofu, cukes, olives).

While I like the freedom of choice that the Farmer's Market provides (I only choose what I'm interested in and don't have to place the undesired in the trade bin), I miss the surprise that the CSA bin holds. I miss my Sunday frenzies in the kitchen making vegetable stocks, veggie stews, and assorted other inventions, using up most of what I picked up the previous week to make sure there was room for the new pickup. I miss playing veggie detective, trying to discover the name of the veggie and its potential uses. I miss you CSA.


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