In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

How To Manage Your Farm Box

It never looks like this.

Farm box, Community Supported Agriculture, Weekly Delivery of Unwelcome Kohlrabi and Cabbage -- whatever you call it, it sounded like a good idea at the time.

The Unwelcome Kohlrabi

This winter you forked over $300 to $600 bucks to a farmer for a once weekly box of produce (contents: unpredictable) and will soon find yourself overwhelmed with weird vegetables whose season you thought was long since passed (honestly I was getting cabbage in July, and I always thought that was a winter veg?). Here's what to do: 1. It's too late now, but you should sign up for a farm box that delivers on a day or night when you have nothing else scheduled to do. Because you are about to be neck deep in garlic scapes (yay!) and bok choy (boo!), and they will ROT if you don't address them IMMEDIATELY. So: cancel all your plans, you've got work to do. 2. If you have a good farmers market nearby, yay for you -- because you are going to have to fill in some holes on that farm box. So ideally, you'll get the box on night 1, and day 2, head to the market to round things out. My farm box delivered on a Monday which was a total nightmare. I'd be eating cabbage and kohlrabi all week, then go to the market and see gorgeous asparagus, and couldn't buy it because I knew was about to get my avalanche of butternut squash (seriously, it grows in the summer) 2 days later. Don't let this happen to you. 3. Get yourself a food saver (or alternatively good freezer bags.) . If you have to eat everything in that box this week, you'll go homicidal. So divide what you have into "eat this week" and freeze. Chop up the freeze portion into bite size bits and freeze for November when you'll be all gooey hearted at the thought of summer and your nice farmer. 4. Now, with half the stuff safely stored, you need to make some menus to use the stuff, so plan to go to the grocery to get meat and other stuff you'll need. Tonight, however, have on hand bacon or pancetta, garlic, parmesan cheese and pasta. You'll definitely have something you can saute with garlic and bacon and toss with pasta (maybe a little heavy cream) to eat tonight. 5. Garlic scapes -- long, stiff, curly green stalks that are essentially the tops of fresh garlic plants and look a little like angry, petrified scallions --are my favorite farm box item. Puree your garlic scapes with olive oil and put the resulting gloriously bright green pesto in a good Tupperware container. Float a bit of olive oil across the top to seal it. This can be eaten on crostini, pasta, used as a dip, spread under chicken breast skin and roasted, swirled into cream cheese for your bagels, mixed with rice and stuffed into peppers... Do not waste these scapes. They make everything they touch wonderful.

The Treasured Scape

That isn't my hand.

6. I hope you're not a vegan because sometimes the only way to deal with strange new vegetables is to cover them with cheese or puree them into a cream soup. Keep this in mind: salt inhibits bitter tastes, so get out the fleur de sel when dealing with an unfamiliar vegetal foe. You'll thank me.

7. Prepare to throw some stuff away. It's heartbreaking but also a good lesson in a) exactly how many veggies you don't eat and need to eat more of and b) exactly how much food in general you often waste. Bad, you, bad. But yay you supported a farmer and gave him the capital, and reliable customer, he needs to flourish. I thank you, Flavor thanks you, and so does your food grower. The giant nasty food industrialists curse your name, but as a very revered Marine General once told me, you should judge your worth by who your enemies are. (That was after I got thrown out of a Coalition Provisional Authority hotel in Hillah because they didn't like what I wrote about them. I thought it was fine. The CPA had armed Ghurkas escort me back to the Marine base across the road which had less reliable air conditioning and terrible food. Ghurkas are much less scary then they sound, and frankly they agreed with my assessment of the CPA. When I got back to base I was summoned into the commanders office. He said the CPA had called him to complain about me. He asked me what I wrote. I told him and he said: "that sounds about right." That is why I love Marines.)


  1. I always wondered what those were.

  2. I LOVE kohlrabi! They're my favourite vegetable!

    My favourite way to eat 'em is peeled and sliced into sticks like carrot sticks. Delicious. :)