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Taste the Wonderment

This past year, Susie and I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The requirement is that we pay the farm for the upcoming season’s vegetables in April. And then beginning in June and lasting through November, we pick up an assortment of vegetables every Tuesday at our Huntington drop off location.

We don’t know for sure what will be in our bag until Monday evening when the farm emails us what to expect. This week it was corn, tomatoes (large and grape), baby bok choy, potatoes, and cantaloupe (there is the occasional melon). A few weeks ago, we picked up onions, romaine lettuce, beets, new potatoes, kohlrabi, corn and ong choy (Chinese water spinach).

In addition to the extraordinary freshness of the vegetables (the lettuce lasts two weeks!), we have to adjust our cooking based on what the farm provides. While I can eat corn on the cob every week, after several weeks corn salad felt like a necessary and welcome change. And again, after weeks of potatoes it was time to make salad rather than the usual roasting of them. We have to be inventive or at least more creative than we used to be. Sometimes we have to do research.

And so, after some reading, we grilled the kohlrabi. And while it will probably take us several summers to perfect what to do with this somewhat strange looking cruciferous vegetable, we must admit that had it not come in our bag we never would have purchased this large turnip looking thing with green horns. We better start preparing for the inevitable squashes that will arrive in the fall!

For most of our lives, our cooking was dictated by what we were in the mood for or what Shabbat or the holiday required, rather than being influenced by what the land provides. It is a refreshingly demanding shift in orientation. So much of American cooking is built around convenience. Restaurants are often touted for their prompt service. They are heralded for their portion size. All we seem to want is more. We want whatever we want when we want it.

We began to shift our shopping and tried to buy more of what is in season and grown locally. Most Sundays we pilgrimage to the local farmer’s market. And these days, when I arrive early enough, I discover my favorite treats of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Sure, I can purchase these berries in the supermarket all year round, but they are most likely imported from California or South America and bred to withstand the rigors of shipping.

When we started eating local berries only during the summer months they seemed to taste better. Perhaps, it was that we saved, and therefore savored, their sweetness for these months alone. We discovered.

The earth provides taste and wonderment.

My spirit is renewed. I am forced to think about what the land offers us—today. This can appear demanding, but it can also be spiritually rewarding.

The earth is meant to give us nourishment. It is meant to provide sustenance. The land offers us nuance, beauty and inspiration.

And while the CSA, and farmers markets, do not offer us everything we need, or admittedly all we sometimes want, it has helped to reorient our lives more towards what the earth provides. Who would have thought there is wisdom to be found in a kohlrabi.

The Torah concurs: “God gave you manna to eat in order to teach you that a human being does not live on bread alone, but that one may live on anything the Lord decrees.” (Deuteronomy 8)