Today on Alphabet City: A fight with the community teaches Jon Paul a lesson in Cher-ing.
With the approach of Thanksgiving comes the end of our CSA—community supported agriculture. We buy a “share” that goes directly to support Windflower Farms in upstate New York—and every Tuesday from June through November we pick up our produce at a local distribution site outside Fort Washington Collegiate Church on 181st Street. We call it Ch/Share Night since the soundtrack I put on each week is a mix of that Cher’s tunes. We treat Ch/Share like a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge—what meal will Chef Juan Pablo (or Susan) come up with that night? (Here’s a link to a local news segment about weekly dinners.)
The challenge for me has been the “community” part of the CSA. There’s a simple 2-shift work requirement during the season, which seems simple enough—and a great way to meet your neighbors. But not for me. Over the years, I’m always getting into fights with people. There was an altercation with the lady I asked to move it along—she was holding up the line while picking out three perfect red onions as if her life depended upon it. There was the tiff with the fellow who didn’t like me telling him it was his responsibility to bring his own bags to pick up his share—why was it my fault he showed up unprepared? There was the exchange of words with the woman complaining to me about another delivery of kale—I’m just a volunteer, not the farmer, eat more greens.
This season I’ve been irked by an increasing number of parents letting their toddlers rummage through the vegetable and fruit bins as if we’re on a Sesame Street skit. A couple of weeks ago, a father laughed as his kid wiped snot from his nose all over the apples. I couldn’t hold my tongue anymore, and tried to be as nice as I could.
“Hey, it would be great if you keep your son from handling all the fruit.”
“Since when did the share become anti-family?” the father screamed.
“Sir, I’m not anti-family. I’m pro-child control. It’s flu season after all.”
“What are you a Republican?”
“Okay, take it down a notch.”
“Come on Johnny, this mean man doesn’t want you to have apples.”
Yep, that’s me. The Wicked Witch of the Ch/Share.
The Ch/Share has been a blessing in Washington Heights, because getting fresh and quality vegetables is definitely a challenge up here at the tip of Manhattan. We can see first hand why there’s an obesity and diabetes crisis in our neighborhood. Combine lack of access to fresh food with McDonald’s as a community center—and it’s no wonder this area is ground zero for obesity and diabetes epidemic in the city.
The situation is not much different than the early years of living in Alphabet City. For years, Juan Pablo would look at our ghetto “grocery” store Key Foods and say, “If only that Key could turn into Whole.” We’d laugh at the improbability of the famed organic grocery store moving into the neighborhood. And then, the day we packed our moving boxes, Whole Foods moved into the Bowery. That’s when we really knew we couldn’t afford the area anymore.
Now in Washington Heights, we still live near a Key Foods that, amazingly, is even more ghetto than the one in the East Village. While it has an enormous Kosher section thanks to the orthodox Jews living nearby, god forbid you want a good head of lettuce and some broccoli rabe.
But that’s okay. We’re still dreaming that the “Key” will turn to “Whole.” Until then, six months out of the year, I’ve got the Ch/Share in my life. And I’ve got all winter to get in shape for next season’s CSA battles.