It's been weeks since I've eaten an avocado, I realized one day. Long a favorite of mine, whether in guacamole, or added to a salad with grapefruit as a tart foil, it fell off my menu this summer -as did the grapefruit. What happened? What happened is I decided to eat local. Not lo-cal, though that turns out to be also true, but local.
Next week or possibly the following, I will pick up my last share of produce from CityFresh, a joint initiative between the New Agrarian Center (NAC) and Ohio State University Cooperative Extension. It is part of the movement called community supported agriculture, or CSA. I buy a share - in my case, a half share - a week in advance; each week I pick up my share and pay for the following week. I don't know what the bag will contain from week to week, but I know what it won't contain - an avocado, for example. Avocados don't grow here in northeast Ohio. Squash does. Last week could be called Mo' Betta Beta Carotene; my haul included sweet potatoes, some the size of your or my big toe, butternut squash, and a pumpkin. Then there was Root, Root, Root for the Roots: carrots, beets, and potatoes (yeah, yeah, I know they're tubers; gimme a break) were featured.
Now let me tell you, when you bring home an overflowing bag of fruits and vegetables knowing that the following week you will bring home yet another bag similarly bounteous, you eat your fruit and vegetables. It can be a challenge to one's ingenuity when you face down a cabbage the size of a St. Bernard's head, and there's only two of you. Kale? Swiss chard? Thank goodness for Google; my paperless cookbook. Apples that taste like the apples I remember swiping from my neighbors. Local peaches - oh my! No ned to bury in cobbler, these Red Havens were good eaten out of hand. Concord grapes - yum. Cute little watermelons. Onions with some bite and substance. Tomatoes that didn't travel through several time zones to get here - need I say more?
The effect on my family's diet was noticeable. When planning meals, the first thing I would consult was the produce drawer. Vegetables dominated, fruit was dessert. Meat and starches were secondary, with lean protein and whole grains preferred. Happily, my cholesterols improved over the summer. More than that, I looked forward to meal preparation as not just a necessity, but as a connection to where I live, and what the land and the people on it have to offer. I have always believed in eating fruit in its season; 4 weeks of perfect peaches are made that much sweeter by their fleeting presence. When winter comes, I'll eat avocados again. Even in eating one can appreciate the tension between local and global economies.
Now for a recipe, Greens and Pasta:
Swiss chard or kale
Romano or Parmesan cheese
Pignoli (pine nuts)
Whole wheat pasta - shape of your choice
1. Cook the pasta and drain.
2. Clean the greens and chop very fine.
3. Saute the garlic in olive oil; add the greens. After the greens have wilted, squeeze in lemon juice to taste, and simmer covered until the greens are done. Kale takes longer than chard, and chard takes longer than spinach, for a frame of reference.
4. Toss the pasta and the greens. Top each serving with the cheese and pignoli. Enjoy with red wine and a crusty piece of bread. To increase protein content, add navy or other white beans. Anchovies are another pleasant way to season.