Recap of this past week: Monday morning we found out we're having a boy (!), Tuesday we found out my computer's hard drive might be broken (!), Wednesday we found out it was just the cable that goes to the…
The main reason I am posting this recipe is because the Napa cabbage we’ve been getting in our farm share lately has convinced me there is no prettier vegetable on earth. From those lacy leaves to that ombre green color, Napa cabbage is seriously stunning. I don’t often pick up a vegetable simply because it looks nice—I mean, there was that one time—but if I were going to start doing it again, Napa would be the one. It’s a star. And talking about Napa cabbage’s beauty is worth talking about because, as far as lists go, Prettiest Vegetables is probably one of the only ones it’d make. I mean, when was the last time you ordered Napa cabbage at a restaurant? Received it on your plate when dining in the home of friends? Looked twice at it in the produce section and brought it home? What do you think about Napa cabbage, if you’ve tried it? Has it registered as something worth shouting about? The thing about Napa cabbage is, despite its curb appeal, it’s still cabbage. Roughage. A colon cleanser. That brings me to the second reason I am posting this recipe: It’s a good one for cleaning things out (and I don’t mean from your refrigerator).
I keep wanting to write that joining a CSA is like having a child but, I’m 99% sure the only thing that would do is prove I’m not a parent.
And probably make all of you who are parents hate me.
So joining a CSA is not like having a child. It’s just a responsibility—the kind where you have to be faithful to go get your pickups, at which point a bushel of freshly picked produce is placed in your hands, and then you’re sent home to care for it and do something with it; and then, you hear about the creative and nurturing things everyone else who is part of a CSA is doing with their zucchini and kale and sweet potatoes, and you can’t help but think about the bunches of basil sitting at the back of your fridge; and suddenly you’re beginning new cookbooks not by reading the opening introductions but by turning passionately to the indexes and hunting for squash and Swiss chard and cabbage; and you don’t even want to admit these things to anyone because then they will say, well, why did you want to have a CSA anyway? and you know they won’t understand that these guilty feelings are just one side of the issue, just one part.
They won’t understand when they hear you say, I need a new idea for garlic!, that you aren’t saying you hate having so much garlic but that really, even as you speak and in a way that’s hard to explain, you’re in love.
Because at the very same time that you haul your weekly boxes to your car, holding the weight of them in your hands, both figuratively and literally, wondering how in the world you’re going to do what you need to do with the bounty before you, you’re also thinking, I can’t believe this is mine! What a treasure for our family! What a miracle that these things all grow, so big and beautiful, just miles from my home!
Or how now you feel freer to share, freer to open your home for impromptu dinners and desserts and to know that there will be plenty to eat, plenty to go around, plenty to feed everyone.
And that, even though you know in your mind that you paid for them in advance and that’s why you don’t pull out your pocketbook at each pickup, every new box still somehow feels like a gift has been given to you, like Tuesdays have become holidays wherein you and your husband are the ones being celebrated, honored with rich hauls of foods to fill your plates for weeks to come.
A CSA is a responsibility, sure, but, like work and like marriage and like, I imagine, a lot of other things, from having children to being famous to growing older, it’s also something that can bring a lot of joy—when you eat giant salads for dinner, when you taste your first pattypan squash, when you chop up red cabbage and roast it until it caramelizes in the heat of your oven and makes another night of dinner, pretty and purple and wilted on your plate.
As anyone who’s taken part in a vegetable CSA would tell you, there’s a real magic and value in not knowing what each week’s box will hold—just as there’s likewise a fear that you won’t be able to completely use it all up. So to help combat that problem, here are tips from a variety of writers and bloggers currently in the midst of CSAs:
(Or, click here to go directly to the cabbage recipe below!)
If you had met me ten years ago, I would have told you I hated roller coasters, expressways, family vacations to Wisconsin and, with passion, every kind of dog, big or small. I didn’t like the texture of tomatoes until I grew my own, just two years ago. I didn’t like hot weather. And I didn’t like several people I knew, mainly because I’d labeled them weird, or fake, or rude, or something else.
In every example named above, when my perspectives changed, so did my opinion: An October weekend with some college friends taught me strapping myself into Batman and letting it turn me upside down wouldn’t make me vomit—what’s more, it would be fun; A year spent studying in Florida, hundreds of miles from my family and friends, would cure me of my fear of expressways, if only because they were the means to the white sandy beaches; Four years away from my family made me appreciate them, and their vacations, more; we got a tiny white peekapoo, who, by the way, is at this moment sitting on my lap and my left arm, which makes typing an adventure, and named him Bailey, after my favorite movie character.
Old habits die hard, though, and that last group—the people—I’ll admit I still fight sometimes. Or, rather, the tendency to label them based on an initial impression. If I were more discerning—like my brother or my friend Becky, for example—this might be worth something, my first impressions, as theirs are seldom wrong. But mine? Almost always wrong, and almost always humbling.
I am learning, painfully slowly, to give people the benefit of the doubt and know that I don’t know their motivations or their back stories or their past. Maybe if I did, I would understand them better, you know? Like that guy on the road the other morning—that one who honked his horn for two straight minutes at the little old lady who was practically crying, on our way to a red light? Maybe if I ran into him at the post office, he’d be letting people in front of him in line. Or if I’m honest, maybe he’d be the one catching me rolling my eyes at someone or sighing loudly, like I have been known to do and regret, just obnoxiously enough so people know I’m not happy, like that is what is most important.
There are other examples of this learning, even beyond human interaction—like artichokes, celery root, carrot soups and kale, for example. Just when I am sure I don’t like something, I am proven wrong, my quick-draw character revealed. So it was with cole slaw.
I have always hated cole slaw. There’s this sort-of-unwritten rule that people always have to bring it to picnics and summer parties; at restaurants, there’s often a tiny container thrown in with sandwiches or fried chicken, which I either throw away or generously offer to anyone willing to accept. I’ve tried it, once or twice, but have written it off, uninterested, unwilling to look its way again.
Until. Enter perspective change.