Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two pounds of potatoes

We've never been big potato eaters; we eat rice and pasta instead. But over the last few years we've been trying to eat more locally – and we live in potato country. More recently I've been feeling so disconnected from my home that it was time for some positive action. So I signed up for a veggie box scheme. Each Saturday, boxes are delivered from a local organic farm to a house nearby; and each Saturday, we go pick up our box, have a chat, and heft our box home.

My hope was that the veggie box will make me feel more in touch with the land and the seasons – and it will compel us to eat local food. But I realised at our first pick up that it's better than that: just by dropping in once a week to pick up my box, I will feel more connected to my suburb. The scheme is run by two lovely people, and other participants come and go. Soon there will be a dozen more people whose faces I might recognise as I walk along the streets.

And as for the box: wow! Our first box was incredible. On top lay cobs of corn. We demolished them for lunch. They were so sweet they needed neither salt nor butter; they exploded with juice. We ate them with a beet and mint salad, and raw summer squash sliced paper thin, drizzled with olive oil and lemon. I exclaimed and sighed and licked my fingers and reached for more. Saturday lunch became a feast.

What else was in the box? So many veggies: turnip and tomatoes, beets and broccoli, snow peas and summer squash, cucumbers and capsicum and cabbage, celery, lettuces and a solitary onion, and two pounds of potatoes. Various apples, sweet and crisp and enough to make sauce, and nashis sized small for a lunchbox. A centipede, a slater and a dun coloured beetle, which I tossed into the garden. I washed the veggies and loaded the fridge. Combined with the fruit, herbs and veggies in our own garden, we won't need to buy any more produce.

I'm feeling inspired, but it requires a different approach. Instead of shopping for ingredients, I'm reading for recipes. I made a simple beetroot soup which will brighten my lunch – but potatoes? My kids have never loved them, 'not even mash'*, but I guess it's time to learn. And this is where it gets difficult. We live in a culture where we can have what we want whenever we want it; everything is always available. So this choice to limit our options to what's in the box feels challenging. After all, my family prefers rice to potatoes, even if rice cannot be grown here. It's hard to relegate it to a treat.

And I think of my friends who race from work to aftercare to home and throw dinner together – this is where local organic eating so often falls flat. The veggies in the box were wonderful, the genuine article: muddy, unprocessed, with the occasional peck. But my friends don't have time to tease mud out of lettuce leaves or find recipes to use up a box. They buy clean potatoes, washed leaves and frozen peas; they cook in twenty minutes. Until fresh local produce means scrubbed veggies and choice – or people are willing to trade shopping for cooking and that probably means cooking ahead – it's not going to take deep hold.

For myself, I figure we'll do what we can. Perhaps in this challenge, I'll find a new sort of freedom. I may be hemmed in by what's in the box, but I'll be free from concerns of distance or land care. Anyway, I have to admit I like a puzzle – even if it means cooking potatoes.

*Lola: "And I don't like potatoes, not even mash, so don't even try." (Lauren Child, I will not ever never eat a tomato, a most excellent book for a fussy eater.)


  1. Hey Ali... send the potatoes our way - I come from a long line of starch monsters and think that it may be passing on...

    Try boiling them the night before and then frying them up for brekkie grated up till golden... along with a classy relish, its a totally unhealthy but satisfying treat... )

  2. Hey Gord I tricked the kids into eating a heap of taties in a chickpea potato anchovy and rosemary stewy thing! They were all mushed up and they didn't even realise! Will try the tatie fry up and eat it with relish nyuck nyuck.

  3. Potato salad is great also.

    It's almost like mash.

    (Another potato favourite in our household is probably roast/baked potato, and I also love the very thin slices of whole potato).

    Good on your family for liking rice. Outside of a few set recipes I never could eat very much of it.


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