Fall Food and the Grocery Store

It has happened the past three years, right about this time, the beginning of November slump. No, it’s not the return of the cold air (it’s chilly!), and no, it’s not an insulin-induced sugar low from too much Halloween candy, although that may contribute. 

The last of the summer’s CSA vegetables have finally run out.

Last weekend, with little more than seven types of mustard, two homemade simple syrups (lavender and Serrano-mint), and fifteen types of BBQ sauce in the refrigerator, we finally went to the grocery store for produce. Granted, we had supplemented our Avalon Acres Community Supported Agriculture box with some greens, onions, or fruit here and there, but this is the first time we really needed to stock up.

And boy, was I disappointed.

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Image provided by Avalon Acres CSA food blog

(I know I’m going to sound elitist, but if you can’t deal with it, you probably should have stopped reading paragraphs ago, or months ago. I know I am, and that’s part of why you love me. As a good friend says, I’m not elitist, I just know what’s good.) So, here’s the deal. When we first started getting “the box” (ha, I don’t know HOW I’ve been saying that without just dying of double entendre–the power of quotation marks for you), we were overwhelmed at just the sight of the weird and fun vegetables. Exhibit A: kohlrabi.

This year we even got parsnips–and purple carrots. I know!Image

And then, we started tasting the vegetables. Sugar snap peas that you could eat raw, and without ranch dressing. What? Next to a sin in the South, but these were that delicious.

The meat was amazing. Steaks like you’ve never tasted, thick slabs of bacon to die for, and all of it kept in fridge unlike the meat and produce from the grocery store. Even the yolks in the eggs were brighter in color than we were used to seeing.

Sure, at the end of the week when the new box came in, we would often throw out some food that was either dried out or limp or going bad, but usually we ate most of it, because we had to cook, and we cooked a lot.

So why am I lamenting? Well, we bought a bunch of produce the other day, and it wasn’t too expensive. It was definitely more expensive than the $16/week that each of the four of us was paying for the box, though. I cut into one of the tomatoes, and it was already squishy. The seeds poured out of it instead of holding firm. The meat was an anaemic pink instead of bright red. Later, I made a soup with some of the leftover box carrots (a little limp but still good for soup) and some bagged baby carrots. The difference in taste was incredible. The box carrots were flavorful and earthy, they even had a little crunch. The baby carrots were too sweet, soft, and flavorless.

I know the difference here is bigger than regular vs. organic. This is farm vs. store and heirloom vs. mass produced. I’m not living in a dream world. I know that I can’t have spinach in November if I don’t shop at a grocery store, but it does make me sad that I have to give up taste to do it.

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