I did something very unlike me at the end of the last school year. I signed up for CSA at my son’s school.
In my defense, I thought CSA stood for Cick Some Ass, but apparently it’s Communist Supported Agriculture, which is the prelude to the Agricultural Revolution and getting Obamacare. (Disclaimer: I’m not a political analyst.)
Ok, fine, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which is very fancy way of saying that I dropped off a check at the school last May and now every Tuesday I pick up vegetables.
There are many problems with this. Too many to list, really, especially for someone as low-maintenance and non-complainy as I am. Well, maybe I’ll list a few.
First, my Tuesdays are absolute shit now. Because if someone says “hey, George Clooney would like to whisk you away to his house in Lake Como, his private plane leaves on Tuesday, does that work for you?” I have to hold up my hand and say, “that sounds nice, but no wheels up until after I pick up the week’s vegetables from the CSA!”
Everything on Tuesday revolves around the CSA.
I tried to get my son on board.
“So listen,” I started, “you know today’s CSA day, right?”
“Yeah,” he said, looking around for any unlocked doors or perhaps an open window.
“Well, I’m going to try really hard to make it in time for pick up, of course,” I continued, “but if I don’t, I need you to come home, grab some bags and then go back to school to get the vegetables.”
“Why do I have to do it?” he protested, apparently having reviewed his constitutional rights right before this talk.
“Because I may be busy and will need you to be the Vegetable Hero,” I explained.
“I don’t want to be the Vegetable Hero,” he said.
“Heroism, Vegetable or otherwise, isn’t really a choice,” I delved in further. “Heroism, again, vegetable or otherwise, is a calling.”
But somehow week after week, I put off George Clooney and report to CSA vegetable pick up.
And then I bring them home (the vegetables, not George Clooney and friends) and face a new nightmare of What the Hell is this Delicata Squash and Welcome, 90 Onions, to Your New Home! It’s really quite festive.
But last week was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and now the camel has to wear a back brace and go to physical therapy with $30 co-payments. Last week I got an email reminding me that as part of the CSA experience I had signed up as a volunteer to staff the vegetable distribution table. To be honest, this was really the last thing that I need. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against volunteer work, if you’re on parole or are trying to suck up to someone. But if you’ve been living a life of virtue, as I have, I don’t see the point.
However, it seemed easier to show up than to stage a revolution, so that’s what I did.
I surveyed the situation, saw some other volunteer saps and settled into my seat.
Unfortunately, my seat was next to a box of some crap labelled “MEDLARS” with a handwritten sign to “take a handful!” and to “let them BLET!”
Immediately I became greatly alarmed.
“What the hell are medlars and what the hell is blet?” I asked my fellow parolees. No one knew, but everyone had an iPhone so after a few terse exchanges with Siri, we knew that medlars was some kind of an apple reject and bletting is a process beyond ripening, closer to rotting.
It’s amazing what a long and happy life you can live without knowing this shit.
But I couldn’t unknown it, so I re-settled in, all smarter now and waited for others to come and pick up the vegetables.
“Hey, what are medlars?” someone asked.
“Sort of like an apple thing,” I’d respond.
“Really? It doesn’t look like an apple!” the junior botanist would protest. And I’d shrug, because really, what can you do?
Some others, parents I’ve known for the past decade would look at me as though I was their friend Marinka by day, but a secret Medlar expert by night.
“What region is the Medlar from?” they’d ask.
“The nether region,” I’d mumble.
“Do you have cooking suggestions?” one mom inquired, mistaking me for a less suave Paula Deen.
“Just take the onions and go,” I’d shoo.
About an hour in, one of my colleagues noticed that the Medlars weren’t moving. If anything, they seemed to be multiplying and the stress of having to dispose of them at the conclusion of our shift was enough to make us blet.
“I think we’re selling them wrong,” he said.
“We’re not selling them!” I clung to the power of semantics. “People are picking them up!”
“People are not picking them up,” this guy told me. A real stickler for accuracy, apparently. “That’s the problem.”
Personally I though the problem was that the Medlars were there in the first place, but I could see by the way that they’d positioned themselves that they weren’t going anywhere.
“What should we do?” I asked, my voice breaking. “Guide us out of this darkness.”
This guy had a plan. For some strange reason he thought my referring to Medlars as “an apple mutation” that has to “decompose like a corpse before being eaten” although not without its charm, was off-putting to members of the human race.
So he started saying things like “Medlars are a mythical and rare fruit with magical powers and also high in fiber!”
And it seemed to be a more effective PR pitch than my “rot, baby, rot!” chant.
I don’t get it, either.