Tuesday, February 3, 2009

City Kitchen Chronicles: Call the Waaaaahmbulance

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

Waah, my urban greenmarket isn't in season. Waah.

On Sunday, the temperature in New York City hit 50 degrees. Bright sun, gentle breeze – it felt like spring. But – and maybe this is something I need to work on – no sooner was I unzipping my giant, knee-length, down-filled winter coat than I was angry. Angry that it’s not really spring. Frustrated that it’s barely February. This weekend I found a note written last year, on “the first warm day of the year.” It was dated April tenth. I am getting impatient.

Spring dresses are taunting me from my closet. I want to be able to go for a walk without freezing my toes (and tuchus) off. And boy, am I in a vegetable rut.

I’ve written before about my love of the farmers market. Aside from the fact that the awesome Union Square market is almost an hour of subwaying from my apartment, it’s wonderful – the produce is fresh and delicious, it’s reasonably-priced (sometimes cheaper than the supermarket, sometimes a little more), and it’s environmentally and socially responsible. And then there’s the actual shopping, my summertime Saturday morning routine. Even when it’s hot or rainy, or getting cold in the fall, I love the walk through the market, the piles of vegetables, the connection I feel to my food and where it came from and the city.

But although the market is year-round, the produce isn’t. If I were to head down there in January I’d find maple syrup and jam and meat and milk. It’s still a great thing – I swing by for eggs when I can – but I just don’t live in a climate with a year-round growing season. Waah.

This is only my second winter since falling in love with the farmers market, and I’m surely more entrenched in my habits and enamored of my little hobby than I was last year. So not only am I missing fresh, seasonal vegetables, but I’m missing lovely Saturday mornings in Union Square, a weekly few hours of healthy me time, communing with the city and some kale.

There’s also a part of me that just doesn’t know what to buy! In July I know I’m getting string beans and young greens; August is red peppers; October I buy Brussels sprouts and squash. Faced with the choices at the supermarket, it’s almost too much. And it just feels wrong to eat these veggies out of season – not morally wrong, but like writing with my left hand though I’m a righty.

Being out of my vegetable comfort zone, out of my vegetable habit, leaves me, well, lately eating not nearly as many veggies as I ought to. Building my meals around vegetables is an important step for me to eat well. Each week at the market yields slightly different veggies, and I get excited about my finds. Besides, if I’ve got a crisper full of kale, I’ll eat it, but if I don’t… well, things lately have maybe not been so great.

I realize that this is not an unsolvable problem. The answer is: go to the freaking supermarket, buy some freaking vegetables. Rather than what’s in season I can go by what’s cheap, or what looks good, or, gasp, I can actually shop for specific recipes! I wonder if next summer I’ll be able to overbuy produce to freeze and store for winter – an investment of money that won’t pay back for several months, but if I can scrounge the extra dough, maybe worth it.

But just like every time I hear on the radio, “Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in three weeks,” I’m at once excited for spring to come and lamenting how damn far away it is, every supermarket vegetable I buy reminds me that for all that I’m a snow-loving December baby, now that I’m a local veggie junkie, this isn’t my favorite time of year.

Does winter affect how you eat? Beyond soup and comfort foods, are you relying on frozen or stored food more? Do you live in southern California and laugh at this northern whining?

(Photos courtesy of WhatISee, Grist.org, and Good Housekeeping.)


Post a Comment

Related Post