I was so anxious on Monday as I awaited word of delivery of my very first Israeli community supported agriculture (CSA) delivery to its drop spot in Tel Aviv. I was nervous, not because I thought the vegetables wouldn’t be good or because I was unsure if I was getting a good deal (the veggies are great and it’s very cost-effective), but because I was relying on this week’s box of straight-from-the-farm vegetables to convince my Israeli flatmates that CSAs are a worthwhile investment.
I picked up the box right near the corner of Dizengoff and Gordon in Tel Aviv. I walked home with vegetables in hand for ten minutes, smelling the basil and thinking about making pesto, which I probably won’t have time to make this week.
As I approached my apartment I saw that nobody was home. Damn. I wanted my flatmates to see me walk in with it and “ooh” and “ahh” at the produce. I left the box prominently displayed in the kitchen and gently rearranged the chard and arugula to look a bit more presentable. Within twenty minutes one flatmate returned home. She was visibly excited about our new abundance so we started unpacking the box together when we noticed that one of the tomatoes was squished.
She looked disappointed and I panicked. “We’ll use it for sauce,” I think I muttered in Hebrew, trying a bit too hard to stay positive. “Lo Nora,” she said, it’s not a big deal.
Although CSAs have been sprouting up in Israel they’re still a novel concept for many Israelis, used to the “glamour” of the outdoor markets and the reality of the prevalence of supermarket options. In so many ways I felt as if I was asking my flatmates to abandon an element of their national culture, to stop frequenting the shuk for vegetables where I myself have accrued priceless memories this year.
But I was committed to the prospect of an inexpensive, organic way to have an abundance of vegetables in my home that I shared with my flatmates.
An abundance of organic food to share
The truth is that I had been hesitant about starting a CSA in Israel. At first I was in denial that they actually existed here because it’s just much easier to say, Israel is so behind the US. I’ll just wait ‘til I’m back in the US to follow through with what I believe is right. (Turns out I said the same thing about composting and buying eco-friendly dish soap earlier this year. It seems that while temporarily living in another country it’s appealing to take a break from one’s values, hence my bamba addiction).
After learning about the emerging CSA culture here, in small part thanks to Michael’s post here at the Green Prophet, my excuse changed to the fact that I knew no farmers personally and I had no interested flatmates with whom to share a weekly supply of vegetables. And I also travel a lot in Israel and find myself on any given week in another city here, and would need a flexible CSA that I could cancel depending on whether or not I’d be around.
Then all at once I began getting fed up by the Carmel market in Tel Aviv, a new flatmate moved in who both wanted good quality vegetables and a lot of them, and I finally visited the organic farm, Or-gani, and met a nice group of farmers. I volunteered on the farm for a day, packed CSA boxes, and left with my own box whose contents I shared with friends over the course of a week. I learned that nothing says I care about you like a fresh, organic cabbage.
Surprise organic vegetables enhance meals
Two and a half days into it and CSA life in Israel is phenomenal. I received so many items I would never buy in the shuk, like chives and celery root just to name a few, that have been enhancing my meals. The veggies in the fridge are now beautifully displayed so that we can all see what we have, rather than our old system which involved keeping each person’s own veggies in the bags we bought them in, in one corner, where we’d often forget about them until we smelled them rotting.
I’m certain I’ll be eating more veggies this summer. And now when I cook I am more eager to share my creations with my flatmates because the veggies belong to all three of us. This new sharing mentality will hopefully improve our dynamic.
Now it’s just a waiting game to see if these veggies will be sufficient for the week and to find out if the flatmates want to continue. I may play dirty, though, and spend more time cooking this week so there’s always food available and they’ll equate CSAs with eating well, as I already do.