The Vegetable Dilemma

Sometimes, something sounds like a great idea. Then reality hits like realizing you’re taking a test in the wrong classroom.

Good intentions 

vegetable questionI joined a natural foods co-op. It’s an amazing place with organic and locally sourced produce, grains, meats, eggs, even prepared dishes and stuff I wouldn’t begin to recognize. And, best of all, they deliver!
Pat and I wanted to start eating healthier, so I decided that if we had healthy food on hand all the time, we’d be forced to eat better. That was the master plan.
Co-op members get the weekly produce by ordering a share. The share contents change based on what has been locally grown and harvested that week, and both the small and large shares have a lot of variety.
The first week, I ordered the small share, two pounds of ground beef, four ahi tuna steaks, and two dozen eggs. It was exciting and a little overwhelming having so much fresh food at once, including some of the produce that I couldn’t identify. But we enjoyed eating new dishes, even if it meant more cooking and meal planning.
Because it went so well the first week, I decided to get the large share the second week. I also added a humane beef roast, more eggs, and some gluten-free baked goods.

Full share

Then reality knocked. I opened the door, and there stood the delivery driver with a produce-case-sized box full of unknown items and the roast, eggs, and baked goods tucked in a corner.
After working a 10-hour day, identifying mystery produce was the last thing on my mind. I put the meat, eggs, and baked goods away, left the produce in the box to sort itself out, and ordered Chinese food. A couple of hours later, after devouring dumplings, spicy shrimp-something, and a glass or two of Pinot Grigio, I hastily shoved dozens of mostly unidentified plants into the fridge and went to bed.

No hiding

Reality was still waiting when I woke up. I opened the refrigerator doors, and the lurking vegetables peered back, demanding my attention. Responding with a mini panic attack, I quickly closed the fridge and settled for cold water from the calm side of the refrigerator door. Every plant from that box was calling to be identified, inventoried, and planned into a recipe to cover each day of the week. To add insult to injury, I further realized that this exercise ends with cooking every day. I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of my master plan.

Not so scary

Finally, after realizing that making a giant vat of vegetable broth and calling it a day was not the best way to go, Pat pitched in, and we heaped the bounty onto the kitchen island and started identifying: Swiss chard, pea sprouts, fresh basil, rainbow carrots, gala apples, spinach, red potatoes, green onions, shiitake mushrooms, avocados, Roma tomatoes, sweet peppers, jalapeno peppers. Relieved that most of this stuff was familiar, I started formulating recipes as we worked. I’d have to learn more about Swiss chard and pea sprouts, but now I had an ingredient list and the beginning of a meal plan.

I would have never guessed that ordering vegetable shares would force me so far out of my comfort zone. I wonder what other boundaries we can push to live healthier and happier lives?

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