by Marinka on November 12, 2013

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.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 7.46.06 PM

“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.

One year ago ...

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

jeanie November 12, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Your post inspired me to google – from a gardening expert ( “bletting the fruit correctly results in a delicate flavour, very sweet with an almost honey taste and a rich, custardy texture. The medlar flesh is brownish-coloured, looks soft and grainy and has a mushy, thick, custard-like appearance”

That MIGHT have sold it…


Mama bird diaries
November 13, 2013 at 7:40 am

I am doing a CSA for the first time this year. I only get fruit bc I don’t know what do with strange vegetables. And I keep telling them I’m allergic to everything but apples.


Jennifer November 13, 2013 at 8:11 am

This post is hysterical! I signed up for a similar thing at my daughter’ school called Farmigo. I only purchase boring things like apples and broccoli. But last week I did get a butternut squash. That was fun to carry home!


dusty earth mother November 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

You are my Hero, Vegetable and otherwise.


November 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

Oh, the Medlars and bletting. How terrifying – and hilarious. I think you did a great job, oh parolee of the CSA. xo


Suzy Soro (@HotComesToDie)
November 13, 2013 at 10:45 am

Hilarious. And I’m a professional bletter so I should know.


Abby November 13, 2013 at 11:22 am

I ditto Shari. And also extend my thanks for the new vocabulary word I can use to describe my aging process.


Jonathan November 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm

That was hilarious! Did you end up having to provide a home for all the medlars ?


anna whiston-donaldson November 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm

CSA sounds too stressful for my delicate constitution. Thanks for the hilarious heads up!


Deb Rox
November 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Oh, so that’s why George called me so late on Tuesday like I’m fine being second fiddle. It’s so bletting to be treated like a medlar. But I hope you are busy next Tuesday too!


Deborah J November 14, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Haaaaa! Here in Oz I used to feel CSA deprived. Now I’m cured.

Medlars are obviously the troublesome member of the fruit family. You know, the one who stays too long.
I have a similar ambivalence about the Custard Apple. I mean it’s not an apple. It doesn’t look or taste like custard. It’s sort of a banana..ry, pineapple..y slippery seedy thing.
It should just make it’s mind up what it wants to be.
…and don’t blet it. It will taste like vomit.


anymommy November 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm

This post made my day. You are a funny, funny woman if I haven’t told you that lately. I have never heard of medlars or blet (blech!). I didn’t think things even grew in NYC … I figured you all manufacture food out of sterile polymers by now.


Braja Sorensen November 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

I’m pretty sure Siri has drug issues…


November 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm

And this is why I slowly backed out of the school gardening club meeting. Thank you for your service.


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