May 29, 2009

Can Birkenstocks Be Far Behind?

I have joined an Organic Farm Vegetable Co-Op.

Wow, just SAYING those words, it’s as if I can feel a thick patina of leg hair sprouting, as if I hear the pitter-jingle of little bells creeping upstairs to attach themselves to hems of all my skirts. Next I’ll be living in a commune, smoking hemp and speaking reverently about Marxism, which would be cute. IF I WAS TWENTY. AND THIS WAS 1969.

But, in my defense, organic vegetables are just SO dern expensive in the Kroger. I can’t bring myself to buy them. I am psychologically and fiscally INCAPABLE of paying four bucks for an avocado when the one across the aisle looks identical, costs 99 cents, and when questioned, the regular avocado swears up and down it was NOT grown with nuclear waste as a pest deterrent. As far as it knows.

What can I say? I buy the cheaper avocado.

But then my friend Julie told me I could join her farm co-op. She drove me out to a vacant lot where a guy in the back of a truck---I call him The Veggie Pusher---hooked us up with full boxes of the good stuff. He’s there every Thursday, and if I do not show, my box is donated to the Atlanta Food Bank. Win-win.

We call it The Crazy Farm Box (CFB). It costs 30 bucks, and it is full enough to give my family of four salads and side-dishes all week. I’m paying that in the produce section at the grocery, easily. AND THE SALADS! The first time we made one out of our CFB lettuces, Scott and I both tucked the first bites in, chewed twice, and then did double takes and stared at each other. We started chewing more slowly, more reverently.

Scott: That lettuce. It does NOT taste like lettuce.
Me: No. It does not. It tastes like…It tastes like…

I NEVER liked iceberg, because it tastes like water to me, but Crazy Farm Box is spoiling me for grocery store green leaf and radicchio, as well.

It’s also kinda exciting, because you never know what you are going to GET. One of my Better U goals is to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, prepared in heart healthy, olive oily instead of buttery ways. SO we are tailoring our menus a LOT this summer to what comes in CFB and what is wild caught and on sale at the fish counter. It’s making for adventuresome eating! Sometimes in CFB we get things…and I do not know WHAT THEY ARE. We got some sort of green leafy bundle last week, and I thought it might be some kind of FIELD GREEN. But a nibble of a corner leaf convinced me this was too STRONG a taste for salads.

Thank the LORD for Google Images. It was Arugula. I googled around for recipes and ended up putting all of it (about 2 cups worth) in the cuisinart with half a cup of toasted pine nuts, half a cup of parmesan cheese, a little salt, a clove of garlic, and a couple of TBS of olive oil. WHEEE! Pesto. A very THICK pesto that can be stored in the fridge and used for up a week. All week you can take out as much as you need, and add VERY hot water, a tablespoon at a time, until it is sauce-level thin.

I served it over whole wheat pasta primavera (just pasta topped with a colorful blend of more CFB veggie that I had stir fried in my no-stick pan with a little PAM.) Three thumbs up, although my PICKY child, Maisy, did not care for it. Understatement. She was COMPLETELY creeped out on the basis that it was GREEN. She believes spaghetti sauce should be RED! RED, MOM! Anything other than red is an abomination. Only red, red eternally, world without end, amen, and one day, come the revolution, the pasta gods will SMITE all us Crazy Farm Box mothers who try to pervert the natural order of things with our wrongfully colored sauces. *sigh* I gave her plain pasta with parm sprinkled on top and said, “MORE PESTO FOR ME THEN.”

As much as I love Crazy Farm Box, I AM still a devoted leg shaver, and there are some places my Crunchier-than-thou friend Julie goes that I CANNOT follow. For example, last Thursday, I noticed the Veggie Pusher had gallon jugs of MILK, too.

Me: He has organic milk?
Julie: It’s “pet milk.”
Me: PET MILK? You mean he milked his…cats?
Julie: No, silly. He is only allowed to sell it as milk to give your pets because it is not pasteurized. It’s real fresh milk, straight from the cow.
Me: BLERG! Ew! Yick! What is this, FRANCE?
Her: You should try it. We drink it and LOVE it – it tastes like magic.
Me: No. No.No. Because, Blerg. Also no. EW NO. And it is VERY dangerous. Here in AMERICA we are all addicted to Tums and Nexium and if we run around all French eating unpastuerized soft cheeses and drinking “pet milk” we puff up and get brain lesions and have seizures and amputations because our tamed American stomach acid is too TUMMED OUT to kill the bacteria!

Julie, who is a registered nurse, gave me very skeptical eyebrows, but I KNOW it is true. I saw it on House. So.


Posted by joshilyn at May 29, 2009 7:16 AM

OH! I love my veggie co-op! We just started with one this year, too, and it's awesome!!! We're eating all kinds of things we would never have bought in the grocery store and it's fabulous. Our co-op buys stuff from a bunch of local farms, many of them Mennonite farms, and we pay for fresh-baked bread every week, too, and we could also get granola and eggs and various meats if we wanted to. In addition to produce and bread this year, we've also gotten a container of local honey (which is almost gone after a month - it's that good) and a container of real local maple syrup. My co-worker also has chickens and more eggs that she can handle, so I always have fresh free-range eggs FOR FREE too. I feel very blessed. And I guess if your leg hair is sprouting, mine must be too...

Posted by: Jen A at May 29, 2009 8:01 AM

We did the Crazy Farm Box thing last year and I pink puffy heart LURVED it for about the first 9 months, at which point I realized (a) I was the only person in our family of 4 who even LIKED vegetables, (b) I could not eat kale every single day, no matter how much I liked it, and therefore (c) a lot of it was going to waste which made me feel EVIL AND GUILTY, as if those wilted greens I was tossing on the compost heap were actually a litter of PUPPIES.

So now I have become an enthusiastic supporter of my local farmers market instead. Just as virtuous (I HOPE) but not NEARLY as exciting. I still miss my Crazy Farm Boxes, yo.

You will do better. I believe in U.

Posted by: Badger at May 29, 2009 8:12 AM

miss my veggie co-op. ours was a saturday affair and one of my favorite things was taking any and all veggies we had not been able to finish during the week and boiling the living daylights out of them and waalaa - vegetable stock!!

Posted by: monica at May 29, 2009 8:18 AM

I make cheese out of that raw milk, you know. Another process that I know delights you just to think about. ;)

Posted by: Mir at May 29, 2009 8:38 AM

I did the farm co-op thing last year and liked the idea but not the farm. Discovered canning and opted for a full share from a different farm this year, even though there are only two of us. Up here in the cold climes our season doesn't start until next week, but I'm so looking forward to surprise fruits and veggies for the next 20 weeks!

And the best part? I get to pick up my share each week at a local wine store.

Posted by: jenifer at May 29, 2009 8:50 AM

I wish there was a Co-op nearby me. I swear I was drooling listening to you talk about the lettuce. I've switched grocery stores I don't know how many times because the produce was so-so.

As for the milk. You should try it - guarantee you won't want to go back to pasteurized milk. I grew up on the straight from a cow milk; to this day I can't drink store bought tastes strange.

When you use the Argulla mixture pesto sauce, try adding black olives to it. If it's a hot meal add the olives after it's cooked. Awesomely great in cold pesto salads. (Hugs)Indigo

Posted by: Indigo at May 29, 2009 9:34 AM

I thought about joining a co-op a couple of years ago, but ours seemed to have A LOT of kale in it and frankly, I just don't love kale all that much.

As for unpasteurized milk, my grandfather was a dairy farmer and gave me some milk "straight from the cow" once. Thirty years later and I still haven't forgotten how horrible it was. But, perhaps it's an acquired taste.

Posted by: Leandra at May 29, 2009 9:35 AM

Go for the raw milk. Yummy.

So envious of you - I used to get a veggie box but now I'm all commuterish and just don't cook in the evenings...

I'm growing lettuce this year though... very easy, and doesn't taste of greenish water; and also, because nobody's said this yet, it has a natural opiate (lactucin) which is meant to help you sleep better... but only the really fresh stuff preserves this... If it tastes like a Real Lettuce, it's probably got lactucin in it...

Posted by: Liz at May 29, 2009 10:54 AM

See? The problem with living in the middle of rural America is that everyone grows their own, so there's no such thing as a Co-op. Well, there is, but here a Co-op is where all the farmers buy pesticides. Completely different scenario.

Anyway, yeah, no boxes of exotic greens for us, so I am completely jealous of your CFB!

PS - I love my Birks and they have no led to unshaven legs, bells or communal activities. :o)

Posted by: CityGirl at May 29, 2009 11:02 AM

Liz's comment made me think of the Beatrix Potter story where the little bunnies eat the lettuce and it is soporific...and then they get caught by Farmer McGregor. So, all I'm saying is, be careful after you eat that lettuce! Which sounds delish...sigh...tell me about the salad dressings next.

Posted by: edj at May 29, 2009 11:06 AM

The fresh lettuce story had me drooling too. I want some, but no CFB for me here in Boston. Just registered for BetterU, so I'm now officially part of your posse. If you get kale in your Farm Box, try Portuguese Kale Soup. Yummy!!

Posted by: Erin at May 29, 2009 11:11 AM

Hey, I wear birkenstocks. They can be cute. No, really! Check out the Papillio.

As for veggies, nothing like a local farm. Next you'll be picking your own berries in the field...

Posted by: Jen at May 29, 2009 11:18 AM

I did that last year... My husbands company had that for us. And it was awesome. I bet in the Alabama clay, the lettuces don't come out sandy like ours did. We had to wash and wash and wash.... and still there was one terribly gritty meal that we just gave up on.

ERIN-- I have a friend in boston who gets a box. google community supported agriculture; maybe you'll find them.

AHHH.. moving this weekend. the guys just finished cutting my sofa in two so they can get it in the door of the new place. I can look up from the computer now. NYC apartments.

Posted by: elizabeth at May 29, 2009 11:36 AM

I'm joining two market co-ops... one that's trying to get started up in my town, and one that's been around for years near my school. I'm so excited... it makes me feel healthy and helpful! PS: I have to agree with Maisy... spaghetti sauce should be red. :)

Posted by: Dani at May 29, 2009 11:42 AM

Growing up in a family that gardened (and used organic pesticides back in the 60s and 70s), cooked everything from scratch, recycled, reused, and conserved, I was all on board with the whole green movement, particularly the food. Already did most of it.

Then, online one day, I saw a post on making reusable sanitary products.

Now, I know that sort of crafty environmentalism might appeal to some people—and god love them, because they are surely better people--but it evokes a special kind of crazy in me. I am just not capable of it. I immediately plopped right over the edge, abandoning my “it’s good for you” beliefs, and since that day my motto is “Better living through chemistry!”

Maybe eventually I will stop asking for an extra serving of pesticides with my vegetables and fruits, but, just in case it is a slippery slope sort of thing, it isn’t going to be anytime soon.

Posted by: KarinNH at May 29, 2009 1:24 PM

I wouldn't serve raw milk to the kiddies, but it's lovely if you're lactose intolerant. I'm Native and canNOT eat dairy without pills, but have no problems with the raw milk

Posted by: Missy at May 29, 2009 3:02 PM

Excellent! As a single person, a Crazy Farm Box is a bit much for me, but I LOVED my raw milk cheeses that I got at the place I went to for dairy last year. Eggs available at the Farmer's Market here, but nothing else, and I miss it. But lovely vegetables and fruits - I was getting hoop house strawberries well into October.

I love to buy organic fruits and vegetables, because that way I know that even if all the critters are dying and the air and water being poisoned - IT'S NOT MY FAULT. I'm willing to pay some extra dollars for that. I also like the Farmer's Market because I run into people there, and there are awesome baked goods (WAY better than at the supermarket).

The Breast Cancer Site ( - sorry I can't do a link) seems to be having trouble making its target for the month - free click to give! I know there isn't much month left, but it's always there to contribute to mammograms for those who can't afford them. There are tabs towards the top for the various causes...

Posted by: Diane (TT) at May 29, 2009 3:44 PM

Back in my younger days, when I still drank milk, it was raw milk or nothing. Once you go raw you never go back.

Posted by: Cele at May 29, 2009 3:51 PM

This is our third year doing a CSA and we love it. Except in the fall when there are weeks and weeks of eggplant. Who needs weeks and weeks of eggplant??

Posted by: Pam at May 29, 2009 10:20 PM

I have found the product of lost-sock mating rituals!

Posted by: Avallia at May 30, 2009 10:24 AM

I get CFB delivered to my door. And since multiple of my neighbors do too it's like we carpooled to the guy in the truck. Eating from CFB also helps you learn tp eat seasonally. It's just not right to eat a ripe tomato in the dead of winter.

Door to Door Organics isn't everywhere. But I highly recommend it if you want CFB but have no farms near you.

Posted by: Catherine at May 30, 2009 12:32 PM

Gosh like a year and a half ago Mir at WCS was raving about how amazing and pretty and cool you were so I started reading your blog. I'll be honest I wasn't a frequent reader but you're freaking hilarious and I've always meant to grab one of your books from the library. I finally remembered while I was there yesterday and in my stack of books I grabbed Between, Georgia. I just finished it and wow, what a phenomenal kick-ass book. I mean really. It kept me reading and interested and passionate the whole time. Things connected and the love and emotion of the story came through. I mean I always kinda got that Mir was telling the truth about how cool you were but now that I've read the book (and last year when I read your story about being arrested...still best blog posts ever written) I'm hooked. I'll be getting the rest. You're great and I can't wait to blog and email and call and tell all my friends about this amazingly cool and real author who they need to start reading! Thanks!

Posted by: Angela at May 30, 2009 4:30 PM

Yay Angela, thank you --- especially about TELLING folks. Especially right now, with a new paperback release at the front of the store, good word of mouth helps more than anything.

Posted by: Joshilyn at May 30, 2009 5:20 PM

First of all, I agree with Angela but the reason I was commenting before I read the above comment was because, sadly, I agree with Maisy regarding pasta sauce. Sorry. Take my opinion with a grain of salt though, I eat like a 5 year old (chicken nuggets and french fries, please), which is why I need A Better Me. I really need to start buying veggies at all let alone organic ones. You are so far ahead of me on the vegolutionary scale.

Posted by: Em at May 30, 2009 10:15 PM

I love my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm! I've even gotten MY picky eater to try a few things she would never have otherwise tried. And I get raw GOAT's milk!! HEAVEN for the lactose intolerant.

Posted by: DuckieMom at May 31, 2009 2:28 AM

Heh! I don't get it often as it's hard to get a hold of here, but I happen to have just polished off a gallon of raw milk. It tasted like some kind of melted icecream and was especially naughty if I made it chocolate-y.

Our closest CSA is over 30 minutes away and they want $600 up front, though, so I'll be sticking to the farmer's market for now.

Posted by: Brigitte at May 31, 2009 7:22 AM

Oh, no, you're not 1969 long-haired hippy cool, you're VERY 2009 cool. Co-op vegetables are the new black. Or...uh...the new purse dog. I don't know, because I'm not the slightest bit cool, but YOU ARE. Because of your co-op vegetable box. I swear it's true. I read in on the internet.

Posted by: Kira at May 31, 2009 11:20 PM

Forgive me. I'm drooling all over your blog.

Because? I have tasted unpastuerized milk and lo, it is GOOD. I would, if I could, lay on my back and open the tap on my uncle's bulk tank and drink to my heart's content.

Alas, the floor of the bulk tank room? It is very dirty and also, my uncle sold his cows several years ago.

BUT! My point: raw, unpasteurized milk is VERY good. I haven't eaten much in the way of organic food, but if the lettuce can make you swoon, then think about how delicious the milk could be.

Posted by: Erin at June 1, 2009 9:23 PM

This comment has nothing to do with CFB or Birkenstocks. I just have to tell you how much I have loved your books and I've read all three. I cant tell you how anxious I was for "The girl Who Stopped Swimming". I read it twice as I've read the others twice. I've let my niece and my daughter read them and made them return them to me. Now I have let one of my good friends read them with firm instructions to return them when she is done. I'm waiting for her rave reviews. Thank you for sharing your gifted writing with me, I truly enjoyed them and I hope to experience another soon? Its hard to eat salad and write so maybe you can stuff the lettuce in a wrap and get busy. Thank you again. Sincerely, Sue Vargo. PS I REALLY deserve an autographed copy , then I can use the copy I have for a "Lending Copy" and let more of my friends experience a great time reading a good book.

Posted by: susan vargo at June 8, 2009 12:50 AM