One of the CSA’s mantras is that our organization runs entirely on volunteer labor. From each member household’s 4-hour volunteer commitment to the spontaneous aid a member may offer on arriving early to distribution when the scramble for set up is still underway, volunteering is fundamental to our CSA project. Several of our members take on considerable responsibility as volunteers to ensure that the vegetables and all the rest get to each of us as smoothly as possible. How does this extra volunteering work? What makes these people volunteer? (Are they crazy?) What does the CSA look like from where these volunteers sit? To answer these questions and to recognize and celebrate the work of these dedicated volunteers, we will be interviewing each member of the site team here in the weeks to come. This week you will get to know a little about one of our site coordinators, Eric Severance. Roasted eggplant and tomato salad with yogurt and Yemeni spices
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1″ rounds
1 lb. tomatoes
1-2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
3/4 c. whole milk yogurt (you can also use Greek style)
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 tsp zhoug dry spice blend (a Yemeni spice mixture: if you don’t have, you can mix black pepper, cardamom, cumin, red pepper, coriander seed, ground together)
Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and let sit on a plate for about 1/2 hour. Wipe off the salt and the collected juices (make sure you wipe off salt, otherwise this will be way too salty). You can rinse if you like but then you need to dry the eggplant really well.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and brush with oil. Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet, e and brush with more oil on both sides, and sprinkle half the thyme.
Prepare a second baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Cut the tomatoes into quarters or halves (depending upon the size), and also brush with oil. Sprinkle half the thyme.
Place pans in oven. After 10 min. flip eggplant with a spatula and change positions of pans. Bake until vegetables are soft (tomatoes might cook faster which is why they are on separate sheets), checking to see that they don’t burn. Let cool.
Meanwhile, mix yogurt with 1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, minced garlic, 1 tsp. salt and zhoug (or a mixture of the spices).
When vegetables have cooled enough to handle, cut into coarse chunks or cubes, and gently stir in yogurt mixture (make sure you add the juices from the vegetables). Serve with crusty bread or pita or whatever you like.
You can use any mixture of spices you like: turmeric, smoked paprika, za’atar. I just happened to have zhoug lying around and it was delicious.
- Give us an idea of how site coordinating member desk management fits into your weekly schedule.
Well, it fits because I make it fit, really. And because I’m lucky to have an excellent boss that is a CSA member in his own neighborhood and very much behind the spirit of this sort of thing (he ended up in the city some time ago via a largely agricultural community in Ohio, via France, who’ve always had a better connection to terroir than we’ve had here). I work on the upper west side, so I have to duck out of work by 3:30 (this gets tricky sometimes) to make it to the site by 5 to begin the set-up. All that being said, it’s easy for me to simply block out Wednesday nights as CSA nights and leave it at that. My schedule is frequently so hectic that other positions within the CSA might ot work out for me. This is Wednesday, leaving work early and juggling boxes of veggies.
- What motivates you to volunteer extra time and energy to the CSA This is a big question, and one I’ll not really be able to answer here (trust me, neither you nor I has the time right now), but I’ll give summarizing it a shot. I read a collection of Wendell ? Barry essays a couple years back that rang so true it demanded I make some change in my life, and giving a little time and energy to the CSA is really just barely scratching the surface of what I should be doing, to what it really demands, that I’m incredibly grateful to even have the opportunity to help out in this way. What’s the motivation? It’s the people that show up every week, excited about their veggies; it’s the Etta’s and the other core members; it’s the kids whose parents bring them along to pick up their shares, and they’re oftentimes as excited, if not more-so, by this or that veggie or fruit than their parents, or the kids that get dragged along to help their parents with their volunteer shifts, and then end up keeping their parents late because they don’t want to leave; it’s the farmers and their vital endeavors that all too often involve so much struggle and sacrifice; it’s my small part in what, I truly believe, is a mini-revolution.
What’s the most challenging thing about site coordinating/member desk management?
The nightmares. Don’t laugh (OK, you can laugh). I just had one recently where the volunteers wouldn’t do what I asked and just sat there, looking at me and smoking cigarettes on the porch, and I kept checking the weather forecast and looking at the sky and it was gonna rain any second but nobody was ready for it… Scary stuff. But seriously (not that the Site Coordinating Nightmares aren’t serious), it’s what I call “The Anxiety,” and it’s trying to work out how much of each thing we have so that at the end of the night we haven’t run out of anything, but we also don’t have too much leftover. I love that we give to the neighborhood soup kitchens, but I also want to avoid waste (the kitchens can’t use all that much dill in one meal, after all) and to give everyone their fair share, so too much is no good, but the worst is when we run out of several items before everyone comes through. I’ve left distribution feeling very depressed that I’d had to tell folks we’d run out of Collards and Corn and Blueberries, etc.
What do you like most about site coordinating/member desk management?
A member came through earlier this year and asked to whomever was within hearing distance, “Is it just me? Doesn’t everybody get excited that it’s Wednesday night? That it’s veggie night?” No. It’s not just you. It’s as much that spirit as it is the veggies that make site coordinating one of my favorite times of the week. Also, I love eating stray cherry tomatoes.
- Vegetable thought for the day? (or something else equally corny–ha, ha–pun really not intended. Rhubarb: celery’s saucy cousin?