Oh, god. It’s almost Wednesday again, isn’t it? There was a time when I looked forward to Wednesdays with giddy anticipation, but not anymore. Now it’s a sense of guilt and dread that overwhelms me every Tuesday night.
You see, Wednesdays are vegetable pick-up day at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. Earlier this summer, my friend Natasha and I were inspired to change our lives and become better citizens of the planet by eating locally, so we bought a “share” of a local farm that participates in community supported agriculture. So each week for three months we receive a box of fresh vegetables, whatever is in season at the moment.
Wait… has it really only been three weeks? I have nine more weeks of this? My god, somebody make it stop!
I mean, I like vegetables. Truly, I do. But I had no idea the sheer volume of produce that can fit inside a box. I’m only one person! I can’t keep up with this! And Natasha’s boyfriend Farnsworth is no help. He thinks we made our vegetable bed, so we need to lie in it.
It’s like Nat and I are Lucy and Ethel working the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory, but instead of delicious chocolates speeding down the line, it’s just kale. Bunches and bunches of kale. Do you know how much kale one person can eat in a week? My colon sure does, but that’s a story for another day.
Plus, I don’t even know how to cook kale. I had to look it up online and you know what? Every single recipe involves bacon drippings. Where do I buy bacon drippings? Is there a used lard store I can swing by on the way home from work?
I want to make a giant pot of soup and just throw everything in it all at once so I don’t have to look the farmer in the eye tomorrow and lie to him once again when he asks how I’m enjoying all the vegetables.
And here’s the other thing about fresh vegetables: they rot really, really fast. If I don’t cook the vegetables immediately, they start decomposing within hours. By Saturday, my apartment is like one giant compost heap. I picked up the cantaloupe three days after delivery and my thumb punched through the rind, straight into its oozing core. I screamed like a little girl. Do you hear what I’m saying? Fresh vegetables made me scream in horror. HORROR!
It’s almost like I wish there were something they could do to the vegetables to make them last longer. Like, if there were something you could add to them – maybe some sort of chemical – that could preserve them so they had a longer shelf life. Or, even if they can’t be preserved in the refrigerator, maybe the farm could cut the vegetables up into little pieces and flash freeze them in tiny bags for me that I could keep in my freezer until I really needed them. It would be cool if they put cooking instructions on the back of the bags, too. Another idea would be for them to pre-cook the vegetables, sterilize them and store them in something like tins cans that I could put in my pantry for years on end.
These are just some ideas I might submit to the farm’s website for future improvements. Because I would totally love my locally produced, farm fresh vegetables if they would just make these few minor changes.
I learned so much in the last class, what more could possibly be left? I already knew all about how many bees lived in an average hive, how many eggs a queen lays, how to identify queen cells in a hive, how to prevent swarming, how the worker bees can make a new queen if they need to, how commercial beekeeping is partly to blame for hive collapse, how you have to register with the state if you have your own beehive. I learned all of that, and more.
But what I hadn’t yet learned was ZOMG PON1ES! HOW DELICIOUS HONEY TASTES WHEN YOU SUCK IT STRAIGHT OUT OF THE HONEYCOMB! I might have accidentally licked a bee in the process, and it was so wrong it was right.
So yes, this past Saturday was my second beekeeping class, otherwise known as Beekeeping II: Electric Boogaloo. No really, it was called The Harvest.
This time, in addition to my pal Natasha, I dragged my mom around with me. Somehow I convinced my mother that for her birthday weekend, she should drive down to Chicago, don a beekeeper suit and participate in a full hive inspection. But she’s Sicilian, so she don’t need no stinking suit.
We watched the expert Bosnian beekeeper gently brush away the bees with some leaves so that we could gather the first honey harvest of the season. We also watched as about five bees attempted to build a new hive in the back of his pants. But he’s Bosnian, so he don’t feel no bees walking on his butt.
After we inspected the hive, we brought in the frames of honey for extraction, which is an incredibly sticky and messy process. Fortunately, there was a 13-year old boy in the class, and 13-year old boys were put on this earth to volunteer for sticky and messy projects. I’m not sure he knew what he was in for, though, when he found out he had to crank this bad boy for about 15 solid minutes.
Then our instructor cut up the pieces of the raw honeycomb she had gathered, and I felt like the glorious bastard child of Winnie the Pooh as I shoved the giant piece of honeycomb into my mouth and chewed the tender wax until every last bit ‘o honey was gone. Seriously. If you ever get the chance to eat honey right out of the hive, trample whatever mofo is in your way to grab that honeycomb. You do not want to pass up that opportunity.
I cannot say it enough: bees are the coolest things EVER. They are so much cooler than you or I could ever dream of being. If you put on all the skinny jeans and hipster messenger bags and ironic t-shirts in the world, you would still not even come close to being as cool as a bee, so just stop trying. Frankly, it’s starting to seem desperate.
The only thing that comes close to being as cool as a bee is when your mom and your friend (who is actually kind of freaked out by bees, by the way) agree to join you when you invite them to spend a gorgeous Saturday morning/afternoon in a church on the south side of Chicago to learn about bees. That’s as close to bee-cool as you can get.
And since I was too focused on the bees to remember to have someone take a photo of my mom and me, I’ll have to post this one instead. [Sidenote: it’s clear to me now that my love of photobooths began at an early age.]
Happy birthday, Mom!
I discovered some important things this past weekend while visiting my brother and his family in Wisconsin. For one thing, if you decide to go fishing at high noon in July on a lake whose maximum depth is six feet, it’s not really called fishing. It’s called taking your worm for a ride.
Another thing I learned is that you should never trust an 11-year old boy’s taste in discount sodapop. Take my word for it when I tell you that Dr. Faygo and Dr. Pepper are not even distant cousins.
But my most illuminating discovery had to do with my 9-year old nephew. With my older nephew, I love spending time with him because he’s already smarter than me and we can spend hours making dioramas representing pivotal moments in the Hopi tribe’s history. But with my younger nephew, ever since he was born, I have had an uncontrollable need to squeeze him to near asphyxiation. It’s a constant struggle for me to keep my hands off his little face. I was never quite sure why, until I spotted him across the room from me wearing his little red hoodie, and suddenly it hit me. He is the spitting image of my all-time favorite doll from my childhood.
The doll my mom bought me at a flea market when I was about two years old. The doll I carried around so much that all the velvet wore off her little body. The doll my mom had to sew up dozens of times when, either from natural causes or from the cruelty of my brothers’ friends, her stuffing would come loose. The doll I named Red Baby.
Behold the indisputable evidence:
And it’s a good thing he reminds me so much of Red Baby, otherwise I might take offense when he tells me things like, “Cool, Aunt Jenny! I wish I had big fat veins in my hands like you do so I could push them in and watch them pop back up again.”