Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Carnivores' Biweekly Christmas

This fall the Bernheisels subscribed to a CSA with some other families in town. We don't have enough subscribers in our group to warrant the CSA owner coming to our town to drop off food, so every other week someone in our group drives to Hohenwald to pick it up. And then everyone in the group meets at a local church to get their orders.

The fun thing about the CSA is that we never know what we're going to get each time. Because the CSA distributes what's made available by the local farmers, there's really no way of knowing what to expect. In years past, this would have been cause for great alarm on my part, given my dearth of knowledge about cooking. Now that I've honed my domestic skills (slightly) I find myself giddy with anticipation every time Jay walks through the door with his two cold-storage bags full of meat.

Sometimes the food turns out great. The other day I used a chuck roast to make a rockin' vegetable beef stew courtesy of FoodNetwork and Paula Dean. We've also roasted few whole chickens and grilled out lots of pork chops.

Sometimes things don't go so well, though. We gnawed our way through some darn chewy pork ribs the other night, barely getting enough meat off to fill our bellies. And the ground beef is so lean that just a few extra minutes on the grill will turn hamburgers into hockey pucks.

But the quality of the meat is unreal. Ground beef browning in a pan makes the whole house smell rich and musky. Even the typically-dry white meat from a chicken breast is sweet and juicy. The bacon has an unbelievably rich flavor and even the pork ribs are tasty if first baked in the oven before being grilled.

Before, when I shopped for our meat, it was easy for me to remember the inventory in the freezer because I had chosen it myself. Now, I have to make a list of what we receive in our order to help me recall what's waiting to be eaten. Every morning I read out a list of what's left in the freezer and Jay and I get excited as we choose what to have for dinner.

Last year I was talking to my grandmother, who is an unbelievable cook, about the current state of health and diet in our country. She said that she was raised to believe that no meal was complete without a starch of some kind, but in the past few years she realized that there was really no good reason for that. I agreed with her at the time, but now I understand why our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were so used to having a potato or rice or bread with a meal--because good quality meat is expensive! On more than one occasion I have pulled out a one-pound package of pork chops, turned it over in my hands, and wondered if it was enough by itself or if I should take out another to go along with it. Hating to forfeit another meal's worth of meat, I often choose to open a box of couscous or make a tabbouleh salad. Is it healthier? I don't know. But it's one of the few sacrifices I'm willing to make for the sake of saving a buck or two on food.

This week I'll be figuring out what the heck to do with a pork roast. I say toss it in the crock pot. Jay says pull it and make an Asian dish. The good news is that we have two, so let the experiments begin!


Darby said...

You are a braver woman than I am! I'm not sure I could deal with not knowing what food I was getting each week!

justagirl said...

Thanks for visiting me! We have CSA here but not in the winter. :( And we don't get meat as part of the deal, which is fine by me... I have come to really broaden my food horizons. Even as a vegetarian, there were always certain veggies I didn't know what to do with, like rutabaga. So in the past year I have learned to love a lot of new things. Hope you are all well!