I’m a sucker for good packaging. When I went to the co-op this week, these concord grapes were laid out like a hot breakfast in their own specially designed little cardstock bag, a squatter version of an apple sack, with a long white stitched handle and perfect Manischewitz-y purple font extolling their delicious and organic status. And, they smelled so very grapey, an olfactory punch powerful enough to create lush sense memories on the spot. I bought a bag and carried them home. By the time I got them back to the apartment, the bag was a crumplety mess, and when I liberated them from their 4x6x4 home it was like a grape clown-car. They just kept coming and I realized I had way more grapes on my hands than I could reasonably eat. Sharp-sweet, tannic, and full of seeds, what to do? Obviously, make Grape Jam. I got out my laminated “making jam without added pectin” chart from the very back of my recipe binder, and went to work. Skinning, seeding, boiling, sugaring, boiling, pouring into jars, putting hot hot hot on toast. Sweet, simple, at once fresh and old fashioned, this jam turned out fantastically, and it’s the most glorious rich dark purple color. Oh boy!Quick jams like this are sort of just about the easiest thing you can make. Have a pot? Can you stir? Good. You’ve got what it takes. If you’ve never made jam before, this tutorial is ah-mazing and has great pictures of each step. This kind of lazy-man’s jam plays fast and loose with canning/preserving requirements, so it will only keep for a few weeks in your fridge (add “the space to store a pot large enough for water bath canning” to my “homesickness vs. wanderlust” chart) but with enough crusty bread and one or two friends who should be gifted a sweet little pick-me-up-in-a-jar and you’ll go through it in no time.
After a few long years of hard, hard work and inspired perspiration this past weekend the beautiful and brand-spanking-new Greene Hill Food Co-op threw open its doors for the first time. The block itself seemed to roar with kale and a groundswell of happy, hungry humans with pure hearts and canvas bags. The idea of the food co-op is sort of communism-light: anyone can pay an equal, one-time, refundable share to join, everyone shares the work, and everyone enjoys the (literal, abundant) fruits of this labor in the form of gorgeous fresh produce, sweet and light loaves of locally baked bread, and chicken that perhaps wore a cowboy hat as it roamed the open range- all at reasonable prices. In a neighborhood where the food options are limited to the polarizing spectrum of corner bodegas where plantain chips are the only vegetable in sight and fancy-pants specialty food stores that have fresh figs and Humboldt Fog for $16/a quarter pound, this sort of place- where good food isn’t just well curated and lovely, but is sustainable, affordable, and available to all- is a jewel.
There are a few different options for membership plans, based on income: The Avocado Plan (where the well off can pay their share and also the share of someone else), The Lettuce Plan (where the comfortable can support themselves), The Carrot Plan (where the pretty broke can pay their share in installments), and The Apple Plan (where those who qualify pay a reduced fee and can make the membership investment in installments over the next five years- also the co-op takes food stamps). Sweetheart and I are in a weird place with this- being writers and musicians has us hovering essentially at the poverty line (eek)- but- we’re also participants in an active food culture, enthusiastic home cooks, the type of people who watch King Corn streaming on Netflix, have friends farming at Blue Hill and working for The Greenhorns, the type of people who went to Oberlin. In short: we are well armed with the righteous knowledge of food. We know how to provide ourselves with fresh, delicious meals from scratch and prioritize the ability/desire to choose to put a fair portion of our income towards eating (and living) well. Extra money doesn’t go towards physical luxuries, it gets put towards a stoop garden and non-agribusiness meats (and once- dinner at Chez Pannisse). Even though we may not have a cent to pay the rent, but we’re gonna make it, we may have to eat beans every day, but they’re going to be sustainable garbanzos. The Greene Hill Food Co-op is newly open, but the most exciting thing (in addition to a quart of Annie’s Goddess Dressing for $3.50, and the prettiest loaves of rye I’ve seen outside of Orwasher’s) is what this may mean for the future, for the neighborhood. The co-op gives a sense of ownership and personal responsibility over the food we eat, it makes the opportunity to pick healthy options not just readily available to all but totally desirable, and it shares the knowledge and power that comes from making your own food choices with everyone. It’s actually DOING something about it all instead of just reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and being abstractly horrified at pictures of factory farms. And, of course, we’re still taking members. Sign up here and let’s go grocery shopping.Images including vegetables from the Greene Hill Co-Op’s Flickr, see more here.
Here’s an interesting, easily digestible article about food equality.