Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

Although you wouldn’t be able to tell it
I’ve moved.

Here’s my new address:

www.apronless.com

I will be shutting this blog down soon
and posting at apronless.com from now on
so update your RSS feeds and whatnot.

I’m still putting up curtains and hanging pictures
but I’ve put out the welcome mat
so feel free to drop in whenever you’d like.

There will be cake over there soon
and you know you wouldn’t want to miss that.

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Things I Did This Year and Didn’t Write About

All day long I go around writing in my head.

I construct grand entries
witty one liners
things that happened I want to remember
or I take a million photos of something to document later.

Then the kitchen needs cleaning
the dogs keep bringing me their toys to play fetch
hair needs washing
and I fall asleep, exhausted and feeling behind,
again.

At least, that’s how I feel
until December rolls around.

December holds the key to self-redemption in the Blog Universe.

I can dump everything I wanted to write about
(but was too busy throwing slobbery, dirty Kongs around for our dogs to get to)
in a grand ‘look back’ entry
and no one will think twice about it.

In fact
people may hope that January will see a turn around the bend
and that I’ll post more often.

It’s nice in my head you know.
Lots of puppies and dandelions.
No alarm clocks, either.

Without further ado/procrastination
I present to you the things I did this year and didn’t write about:

I saw my family a lot
which a bit out of the ordinary.

I ended up eating Pappasitos more than should be allowed, though
so hanging out with the family has its downsides.

There are redeeming qualities:

like how they are not afraid to give you a really stupid look
when you ask a question that deserves it.

I also started taking a lot more photos this year.

Of everything.

Having a phone with a camera made for innumerable impromptu photoshoots
exponentially increasing documentation of cooking projects.

I can’t decide if having a camera on my phone is a good thing or a bad thing.

One part of me is glad that I’m documenting
the other sees it as lazy.

If I used the More Advanced Camera
my photos wouldn’t look so grainy and dark
but I am spoiled by the instant gratification of one-click shoot, upload, and post.

So, I’m split
but I will stop with the agonizing and post the damned photos.

Italian Creme cake for a surprise party in April or so.

I was obsessed with panna cotta in the spring and summer.
Thinking about it still makes my mouth water.

Breads also took over most of my brain.
I grew and killed a starter

R.I.P., R.I.P., R.I.P., and R.I.P..

After a period of mourning
I received the gift of mature starter.

Dead starters notwithstanding
breadmaking is going swimmingly.

This year I made the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had

and possibly the worst bread I’ve ever made
(that actually made it into the oven instead of the disposal).

It was terribly dry and dense.
I was not the only one that had a problem with this bread
so I felt a little bit better about wasting all that chocolate.

Both shots are pre-baking.

In my bread making mania
I also tackled croissants
(armed with the More Advanced Camera).

I can’t stop laughing at this picture:

If you know what is about to happen
then you can imagine the little pats of butter in there crowded together
saying
‘OH NO!’

Pull out a cookbook and find out the ending
’cause I’m leaving you with that cliffhanger.

They turned out alright but I will be revisiting croissants with a different recipe and better lighting.

One can only eat bread alone for so long
so it was fortunate that my other obsession this year was sandwiches.

Red wine braised skirt steak with peppers and cheese on ciabatta

Grilled guyere on rye with butternut squash soup

Pork shoulder with cabbage and jalapenos on cheater (purchased) bread

Roasted eggplant with tomato sauce, red peppers, and basil on sourdough

Roasted eggplant (again!) with mozzerella and pinenut-anchovy relish on ciabatta

Of course
of course there have been cakes almost every Monday:

I need to remember to never again employ whatever technique I used to decorate the top.

Yep.

Not all the cakes turned out beautifully.
Some of them were too ugly to even photograph.

I’M LOOKING AT YOU, BOSTON CREAM PIE.

I am getting better at the frosting
slowly
so I need to keep pushing myself
no matter how frustrating.

Lest the stream of poorly lit cameraphone photos lead you to to think that I ignore my More Advanced Camera
I have photos to prove that I did haul it around every now and then.

Sometimes I had it with me in my kitchen:

Other times I toted it around town.

Caesar Salad Class with Carla Cardini:

Photography Workshop with Penny De Los Santos:

Taco Truck Crawl II put on by this guy, this place, and these guys:

Actually, it was probably best if you didn’t follow the bus.

Unless you like doing U-turns.

One of the several trucks that took credit cards.

It was a grand year for food
in my house and about town.

Next year, I think it will be much the same at home
although I can’t say the same for what it will be like out the door.

In three months we’ll get word on if we move from Houston or not.

Medical school ruled our lives for the past five years
and I can hear residency stomping around the corner.

To make a short list:
we could move to Pennsylvania, New Jersey or West Virginia.

We could also stay right where we are.
Match Day is in March
and we’ll know at the same time as the rest of the U.S. where we will be spending the next three years of our life.

I hope those years will be filled with cakes, sandwiches, and fun things to learn, though.

It is comforting to know
that if good food is hard to come by in our new locale
I’ll just stay in and make it on my own.

And write about it
of course.

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Real Nuggets of Genius

I had grand plans for this weekend.

I was going to finish the Taco Truck Crawl entry I have in draft stages
upload photos from the Bivalve throwdown
help out at a wedding
attend a party
and probably bring about world peace.

Instead
I was up in Austin for the weekend
playing a key role in Project: Distraction.

One of my younger sisters is in a miserable spot right now
so I decided that she needed some silliness
noise
and a shoulder to lean on if she needed it.

I couldn’t and can’t help her in any other way
even by making her food.

She can’t hold down much right now
save for some Ensure drinks
so I felt incapacitated all weekend.

Nothing like feeling helpless while a loved one suffers.

I have NOT had the problem of being unable to eat.
I think I Hoover up everything as I go past it.

My waist, thighs, and hiney are not very happy about it
so this week I’ve tried to incorporate several truly healthy meals.

I say ‘truly’
becaue I’ve got a split pea soup and a butternut squash galette on the menu
that both sound healthy
but I know a soup loaded with savory chunks of pork
and a galette with a tender yeast crust are not all that great for a diet.

I am not on a diet
lest I give you the wrong impression
but those are not things that will help keep me in shape.

To counter the faux-healthy meals
I will be making fattoush with a puckery lemon dressing one night
as well as a low fat turkey meatloaf another night.

It’s taken me 25 years to finally accept ground turkey as an acceptable stand-in
on some occasions
for ground beef.

Cook’s Illustrated uses 93% lean turkey in a few low fat recipes
and they took my by surprise at how good some of the ground turkey recipes are.

Bearing that in mind while the Beef Lover in me screams
“TRAITOR!”
I’ll give their turkey meatloaf a shot
and throw some mashed carrots and steamed broccoli on the side as well.

Even though I will be trying to refocus on healthy eating this week
tomorrow is Monday
which means Cakeday.

I was thinking about doing a dobos torte
but I am beat from the weekend
so I think I will try something less time consuming.

I’ve picked it out already
and most of the elements are not new
so I am putting off making it until tomorrow.

This could be a very bad thing
or it could turn out like the last time I did that
which was carroty-goodness-overload.

I made a carrot cake in only a few hours and had none left to bring home.

That’s a good thing.
That’s my goal with my cake-a-week.
I don’t always make that goal
but it is what I strive for.

If I keep having cake to bring home
then I’ll end up with a bajillion little pieces of cake.

I don’t know what to do with a bajillion little pieces of cake.
Maybe put it in ice cream?

:crickets:

…WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT BEFORE!?

I need to write more often if these nuggets of GENIUS are what come of it.

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October Smells Like Cake

Cakes have been a major component of my life for the past few weeks.

I found myself with some time on my hands this month
and it coincided nicely with receiving Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s new book
Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

Although I’m not a big cake eater
(I’ll take pie over cake
and ice cream over them both)
I love to bake them.

Given my tepid feelings towards cake consumption
I consistently have a problem with what to do with cakes once I make them.

The thought of having too much cake on hand
and then it going to waste
is what normally stops me from baking
but I put that concern aside for a little bit earlier this month.

Inspired by the new book
I took an evening to lounge around in bed and page through my new treasure.
The dogs kept me company as I looked through it
passing by the chocolate chocolate chocolate cakes
and then suddently staring at a photo of a beautiful four layer cake
called Woody’s Lemon Luxury Layer Cake.

While I like milk/dark chocolate
I never really crave it.
I do crave lemony things, however.

That yellow cirtus has my heart for sure.
Have you ever seen a piece of fruit look so happy?
It’s BRIGHT YELLOW! It FITS IN YOUR HAND!
You can cook/bake/clean with it!
It’s MULTIPURPOSE!

I go through a lot of lemons and need to plant a lemon tree already.

Now that you know my feelings on lemons
you could understand why I would be drawn to a recipe calling for zest in the sponge, curd to fill, and curd in the white chocolate frosting.

Sponge set up

Zest bomb

Out of the oven

Pulling away from the pans
as it should
after a few minutes

I left it to cool and started on the curd.

I would have photos of the curd in progress
but the first batch turned out poorly
and it was because I followed directions.

PSA: Don’t make anything that is lemon-based in a stainless steel/metal container.
Just don’t.

I don’t care what the recipe says.
Use a glass bowl and wooden utensils and I promise you
your lemon whatever won’t taste like it passed through water fountain pipes.

Cause that’s what happens in a stainless steel pot.

PlusIgoofeduponanotherthing
but we don’t need to talk about it.

(Don’t forget to add the eggs when making your curd.
You can’t just add them in at the end.
Yeah. I did you a favor and learned for you.)

So I made another batch and then set everything aside to cool overnight.

The next day I made the buttercream.

It had a fair amount of white chocolate

Melted

Back to the stove with some butter, eggs
and vanilla

The frosting base had to cool too
(notice the name of the cake did not say “Woody’s Quick Lemon Luxury Layer Cake)
but after cooling I whipped in some butter

then the some of the lemon curd

and ended with a whole boatload of amazing buttercream.

I put that aside and went back to working on the cake layers.

Cooled and torted

Simple syrup to keep them moist
(helpful since they were already a day old)

Curd in between

I sigh a happy sigh.
It looks like sunshine.
Who wouldn’t want to eat sunshine
…that tastes like lemons (and not of fire)?

Whoever doesn’t want to
well, I’ll have their piece of sunshine then.

Buttercream on top and in between the sandwiched layers

Crumb coat

I know some bakers don’t do a crumb coat
but I swear by them.

True to its name
this is the coat that captures all the crumbs in your frosting
that way they don’t end up marring the surface of your pretty cake.

After I applied the crumb coat
I put the cake in the refrigerator to set up a little bit
so as to make the final frosting layer nice and smooth.

That was the goal at least.

Perfectly smooth buttercream frosting on a cake is one of the hardest thing for me to do.
Possibly harder than Pie Crust.
If I ever met Crust and Buttercream in a dark alley at night
I would run away
screaming in terror.

Buttercream won the battle this time.

It also seems I was so enraged at losing the Battle of Smooth
that I could not take a decent picture of the finished product.

It was a night of failures
because I also added some yellow food coloring to the icing
and it turned splotchy from lazy mixing.

Thats what you get.
Bad lighting
subject cut off
and the equivalent of cow spots on the cake.

You’re just going to have to like it
or not like it.
Whatever you want.

It wasn’t winning any beauty pageants
but hot damn it was good.

If you’ve ever wondered
what it’s like to try to get a nice slice of cake for a photograph
it looks a little like this

I quit after three slices.

The insides

You can see the buttercream filling is a little bit cracked.

After I finished frosting the cake I put it in the refrigerator to set up again.
When I took it out
I didn’t wait until it had warmed up all the way through to slice it
so it cracked a little.

My problem with having too much cake was taken care of when I tweeted that I had a lot of cake and no one to eat it.

Summons were issued
and the cake went a’traveling to a little ol’ Houston bar.

I still came home with a few slices
but it was better than having the behemoth sit in my fridge for a week or two.

This cake was not the only cake to come into my life this month.

I made an angel food cake too.

Good ol’ Woody liked a lot of egg yolks in his cake
so I had about fifteen whites in a big bowl in my fridge.

You can see theres a few spots where the flour didn’t incorporate well.
It was still pretty fluffy and light
and since it was my first angel food cake
I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

I didn’t do all the cake making this month.

Dorothy Young put on a Cheesecake making class.

The master showing us how it is done

Some students listening and reading their notes

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful

Dorothy Young’s tasty pumpkin cheesecake with candied pecans

This guy was also there
making coffee

and of course
for those who couldn’t attend the class
there were plenty of people live-tweeting it

This isnt even a full round up of all the cakes I’ve seen this month.
October is also not over
and of course
I have a few more cakes planned.

I will practice again with a cake with a buttercream frosting
trying to attain perfect smoothness with a non-crusting frosting
and probably get frustrated with it
then stalk off to do something where I am not involved with preparation
like eat tacos.

Thankfully that respite won’t be too far out of reach this weekend.
I have giant plans involving taco trucks this Sunday.

To maximize the taco-rest opportunity
I should start the cake on Saturday
go to bed pissed off at the cake that night
wake up to eat tacos
then come back blissed out and issue a beat down on the buttercream.

Yeah
you better watch your back buttercream.
When I’m done with you
you won’t even dare to wrinkle.

I’ll get your friend, Crust, in November.
In the kitchen
with a pumpkin.

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Eatin’ Some Food in Bahstan – Fancy Pants Edition

Last weekend Husband had a conference in Boston
and I went with.

I grew up in Massachusetts
and figured it would be fun to rent a car and drive past my old houses
especially since the foliage was supposed to be pretty in those parts of the state.

I’m a sucker for red, yellow, and orange leaves
and those just don’t happen in Houston.

We were to leave on Friday morning and stay through Monday evening.

It almost worked out that way.

We missed our flight on Friday.
Well.
They wouldnt let us board the plane
but that’s not the point of this entry.

I am watching my mailbox for vouchers though
because you better believe got all up in Continental’s business after having to deal with the GATE GUARDIAN IN RED
and customer service
WHICH WAS NOT SO CUSTOMER SERVICEABLE.

::huffs and puffs::

Onwards.

We spent most of our Friday sulking in IAH
and arrived in Boston too late to really do anything.

It was about to start raining
and to top it all off
I thought my eardrum ruptured on landing.

Luckily this turned out not to be the case
but it still hurt tremendously
and I couldnt hear out of it for about ten hours.

I concluded that the only way the day could get better
was to end it
so I went to sleep while Husband frolicked at the first night of his conference.

The next day
it was still raining
Hub went back to the conference
and I was left to figure out what to do.

With all the rain
I decided that renting a car was not going to happen.

Getting around in Boston proper was a little crazy
and I wasnt comfortable driving around on unfamiliar highways in a rental car
especially in the downpour.

Instead I picked up from where I left off on researching Boston restaurants
and decided to try Marliave.

I made reservations on Opentable.com
and commented that I would like to do a three course meal
chef’s choice
with the only restriction being no seafood.

I don’t like seafood.
I’ve tried and tried to like it
but it all tastes disgusting to me.

I’ve had fresh seafood of all types
and no matter how hard I try to fall in love with it
it always tastes like something at the bottom of a freshwater fish tank to me.

Say what you will
but thats how I roll.

I made reservations for 1:30p
and when I got there
the hostess didn’t seem to be aware of my reservation.

The hostess asked where I would like to sit
either upstairs or downstairs
and I chose upstairs for the light.

In the upstairs dining room
there were only two other tables with patrons
both of which were paying their checks.

The server came by and introduced herself and asked if I’d like a drink or anything to start with.

I guess no one was aware of my reservation or request.
I asked if I could do a three course meal
chefs choice
(sans seafood)
and she looked a little confused.

Like… appetizer, main, dessert?
“Yes, that would be great.”
Ok, let me go check with the chef.

She came back a few moments later
and by that time the two other tables were gone.

The chef says that’s no problem.

So it began.

Standard nibble delivered to all tables.

Bread panfried in olive oil
with olive oil
and olives.

It was a bit olive-y
if I do say so myself.

1st course:

Duck rilletes with brioche toast and apples.

I thought the rilletes were a little muddy tasting on their own
but when put together with the apples and mustard or brined items
they were quite good.

The caperberry was best with the duck however,
and I would have been happy for a few more of those on the plate.

2nd course:

‘Hand-stuffed’ ravioli in roasted tomato sauce.

I could tell the ravioli were made earlier in the day
because the edges were a little tough
but the tomato sauce and filling were outstanding.

I thought this was my main course at first
and was a little bummed that they forgot about the wine pairing
but it dawned on me halfway through
that this was the pasta course
and this was going to be a four-course meal.

I began to pace myself accordingly.

Sure enough
the server cleared my plate
and set down a big steak knife and new fork.


iPhone photo, sorry

3rd course:

Pancetta wrapped stuffed rabbit loin with leg, whipped potatoes and mushrooms

The only downside of this dish was that the salt in the pancetta
took away some of the thunder from the rabbit loin.
It was just a little too much.

The wine that was paired with the entree was
(at least what the sever said)
a 1994 California Cabernet.

I can’t find that on their wine menu
so the world may never know.

I am not a huge wine drinker
but enjoy a glass when it is paired properly with food
and such was the case at this meal.

4th course:

Pumpkin pie with cranberry relish

The pumpkin pie was straight out of the fridge
and I like mine better.

The cranberry relish was very good though.

I appreciated the fact that the chef let the tartness of the berries play a role in the dessert
instead of trying to make the whole thing sweet sweet sweet.

After I managed to eat almost all of the dessert
I asked for the check.

Between the time the server cleared my plate and brought me the bill
Chef Scott Herritt came out to see what I thought of the meal.

I was struck by the fact
that he was wearing a perfectly starched and unwrinkled blue shirt
and all I could think was that he kept that in a closet somewhere
specifically for occasions when some random chick comes in alone
and orders a massive lunch.

SOMETHING’S UP AND REQUIRES FORMAL ATTIRE.

He spent only a few moments at the table
(literally. Like five seconds)
but I remarked upon the cranberry relish
and also that I loved the caperberry with the duck rilletes.

He looked at me warily and smiled,
said he was glad I liked it and thanked me for coming in.

When I got the bill
I saw they comped me one course
which was nice
and fair
since I only asked for three.

During the meal
I wasn’t sure if I needed to say something
“Scuse me, am I supposed to be getting four courses? I only asked for three… BUT DON’T TAKE IT AWAY! I LOVE THESE RAVIOLI!”
or leave it be
and I opted for the latter
waiting to see how they would handle it.

That being said
I was something between touched and flattered
that the chef would want to share his work with someone that walked in and said
“give me what you think is best.”

That or he thought I was a restaurant critic
and was trying to ply me with as much excellent food as I could eat.

I’ll take it either way
thank you very much
because it was quite delicious.

Marliave
10 Bosworth St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02113
ph. 617.422.0004

Not-so-fancy-pants edition of eating in Beantown to follow.

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My Pita Poofed!

I’ve been sick for the past week.

That means not much cooking went on in my house
even though I tried to guilt trip Husband into cooking for me.

Instead, he picked up Lipton noodle soup at the beginning of the week
and got Chinese takeout at the end of the week.

Hot Pockets also made an appearance in there.

It was not a proud week
but it did remind me a lot of summertime as a teenager.

Back then I made what I could find in the pantry and freezer
and I guess that was a lot of Lipton, Hot Pockets, and eggrolls.

Saturday and Sunday still found me dragging myself from one flat surface to another
but I was going a little bit crazy from not cooking.

Since Husband was neither going to use up the tomatoes eking past their prime
nor the cucumber languishing in the refrigerator beside the bell pepper
I decided it was time to return to the kitchen.

Wasting food almost causes me to lose sleep at night
and since I was already coughing most of my nights away
I decided it was time to make some gazpacho.

Modified from Jose Andres’ Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes (about 10 plum tomatoes)
8 ounces cucumber (about 1 cucumber)
3 ounces green pepper (about 1/2 bell pepper)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

Note: I recommend a lighter olive oil. Lucini is great and doesn’t PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE with olive oil flavor. Depending on what olive oil you use, the flavor be overpowering, so stick with one that is on the buttery side.

Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Chop up all ingredients (peel cucumbers, remove seeds and top of bell pepper, tomatoes can be cored, but leave the skins).

2. Throw everything but the salt and oil into a blender.

3. Turn on the blender and blend until smooth. Take a taste and see if you need more vinegar. The sweetness of the tomatoes will vary from batch to batch. Add some more vinegar to balance out everything if necessary.

4. Add the olive oil and salt and reblend.

5. Strain mixture through fine mesh strainer. Your mixture should be smooth with a lot of body.

6. Chill. I like mine very cold.

I like to serve the soup with grilled toast brushed with olive oil.

Andres has an elaborate garnish component in the book
but I rarely prepare it.

Husband and I nibbled (sipped?)
on the gazpacho all Saturday
and by Sunday I was still self-quarantined
but could not hold myself back from cooking a full meal for any longer.

First I made pita bread

Post-roll, pre-oven.

I couldnt be arsed to break out the real camera
so just used my phone.

I make no excuses.

My fourth attempt at this recipe
finally succeeded
and my pitas poofed.

Like the elusive Big Foot, this puffy pita was hard to photograph.

Is that enough alliteration for you?

I slid pair after pair of dough rounds in the oven
and after a while my reward was this:

I would be inclined to say they we’re pillowy, puffy, pitas
but that might be pushing the ‘p’ theme a bit
so I’ll just say that they were soft and had the appropriate pocket in each.

I also made “New Bride” Chicken Curry with a red onion raita.

Both recipes are from Ruta Kahate’s 5 Spices, 50 dishes
a short cookbook with which I’ve had great success.

I improvised some saffron jasmine rice as well
which consisted of steaming some jasmine rice in chicken broth with saffron.

The chicken curry was pretty simple.

Brown some onions

add the spice paste and garlic, stir around for a while
then add the tomatoes

cook the tomatoes down a little bit

add water and the chicken
(I’ll use broth or stock next time)
and simmer until chicken is cooked through.

The book says to cook the chicken uncovered
but I covered it for the last bit of stove time
since I wanted a looser sauce.

I discarded the skin after cooking
because anything less than shatteringly crisp chicken skin is not for me.

The recipe calls a bit of apple cider and sugar to be added at the end
which I loved.

When I tasted the saffron rice straight out of the pot I didn’t care for it too much
but found was great with the curry.

Sunday lunch
in Technicolor!

I halved the recipe
because I only thawed a pound and a half of chicken.

I love rice with any type of soupy gravy or broth
so next time
even if I halve the recipe
I would double the base.

The onion raita didn’t go perfectly with the chicken
but I liked the flavor of it.

Next time I think I’ll serve it with something other than chicken.

I think it needs to accompany a stronger protein so it doesn’t overwhelm it.

Husband proclaimed the meal
a ‘make again’ meal
although he politely picked around his onion raita.

I have liver and onions with grilled polenta up next on the list
and I’m hoping that it turns out well.

My experience with liver has not been a good one
but this is from our meat CSA
so I’m hoping that it turns out better than other liver I’ve had.

We’ve heard nothing on our vegetable CSA.
The owner deleted my comment from her blog
never contacted me about helping them
and hasn’t updated anyone in three days about what is going to happen.

For all that arm flapping and doom and gloom
it doesn’t seem like she’s very serious about making this work
but who knows
maybe she’ll come back with a plan.

I don’t know what she’s doing up there
but I’m not sure she does either.

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CSA Woes

For the past couple of months we’ve been having issues with our vegetable CSA.

We’ve received very few of our weekly deliveries lately
and the owner of the CSA (a co-op) has cited family emergencies, weather, and just plain exhaustion.

I get it.
I’m not standing there
expecting a delivery like clockwork every week from a group of farmers.

I understand that when it rains
you can’t just SLOSH ON THROUGH your fields to pick tomatoes.

Things like car repairs come up
and for someone running razor thin margins
getting the radiator fixed can’t always happen on the same day that it breaks.

What is frustrating
is that I’ve heard the same things week after week lately.

For the first half of the year
we did not have any problems
and the deliveries were amazing.

Things seemed to go downhill quickly these last few months.

More often than not
our delivery is delayed by several days
and there have been instances that when it does show up
the produce is bruised or past its prime.

My husband and I have had numerous conversations about whether or not we will renew in January
since we prepaid for the year.

The last conversation we had
we were both tired of the lack/wild variation in timeliness of deliveries, poor produce quality as of late
(a whole bag of green beans was moldy)
and exasperated by the fact that we received an email stating that we would receive a delivery that week
and nothing ever showed up.

Nice.

We were not the only ones with less than squishy lovey feelings for our CSA.

Yesterday I received a notification of a new blog post from the owner on the social networking site
(one we had to join to receive updates about deliveries and pertinent information)
and scrolled on down in the e-mail to read it
(at least that was convenient).

Below are some excepts:

In the last 2 months 22 members that were supposed to, by the agreement all members signed, did not give any notice and dropped their membership. When I got back on line this morning two more members had dropped without adequate notice. All members (on their honor) agreed to give us at LEAST 2 months notice but, these ex-members did not give us this courtesy. In addition , over the last two months we’ve only gotten a few new members~ most of which were only quarter shares. Of those remaining members due to renew this month , only one paid their renewal on time.. . . I have put $6000 of my own personal money into the CSA over the last two months , trying to keep it afloat, but now I am totally tapped out and cannot affoard to (simply don’t have it) put another dime into it. I don’t stand a chance of seeing that money again.

We need to get at least 4 shares sold in the next week or the CSA is going to go bust.. . . We must get the renewals that are owed in immediately, we must get the renewals that are due to come in over the next few weeks in on time and we must get the shares sold that were abandoned or it is the end of the only CSA in the Houston area. That is brutal but, it is the plain truth of the matter.

I am putting the future of the CSA into the members hands. We have come up with several ideas to try to regenerate interest in the CSA.. . . Two months of money going out at the rate they have been ~ with very little coming in at late at best, have put our CSA into a serious downward spiral. If you have any input that you feel may be constructive, we are very open to your suggestions.

As things stand as of right now, we have no operating capital to get deliveries out. As soon as we do we will deliver the remaining undelivered members currently due deliveries. We will then shut down for the remaining time~up to a month, if necessary~ until our membership can support the costs of deliveries again.

Well
that explains a lot.

I’m not sure why she waited so long to clue the rest of the members in
but there ya go.

I posted this response in the comments section:

“I think many members feel the same way that I do in regard to the CSA at this point. There have been MANY deliveries that were not made, even when e-mails went out that the deliveries would be made that night or that week. In addition, the deliveries are very rarely made on the day they are supposed to be made. Please do not think that I (or we) believe that you can control situations like rain or emergencies, but when something happens almost every week that prevents/delays the deliveries, it becomes very frustrating. In addition, I’ve received several deliveries with moldy fruit and vegetables or items that were obviously past their prime. The issues in getting the produce even delivered prevented me from contacting you because I did not want to add to the apparent stress that you all were undergoing. Looking back, I should have contacted you to give you a heads up on the situation if you were not aware of it.

If you want to run the CSA like a business (which I feel like we’ve received conflicting information about), I would suggest sticking to the contracts we all signed and ceasing delivery when a member does not pay. Given that it takes months to cultivate crops, perhaps consider a deposit so that if the member does not renew on time, you take the deposit and can recover some of your losses of growing the produce for those months in anticipation of a renewal. Alternately, stipulate that the member must notify you within two months of their renewal date (YOU need to be tracking this, NOT the members) if they will not be renewing. If they do not give notice to what they will be doing, then do not deliver to them until they do. People will take advantage of you, inadvertentlyor not, if you give them the opportunity.

A few other constructive ideas: move the e-mail list to something besides [weird social networking site]. I get many notifications from [site] that I don’t need to see and it would be helpful to separate the members into their respective lists and send them relevant e-mails. I’m not concerned about when other lists are being delivered, just mine (you could set up a Send To All e-mail group if you need to send something out to everyone, like this e-mail, or if you’re notifying when people will be late). People’s inboxes are already full and would rather see less e-mail than more.

Start a group on Facebook and set up a Twitter account for the CSA. Both free, free, free and I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had ask about the CSA because I am active on both of these sites and have mentioned the CSA before. The [site] is hard to navigate and not many people are on it. I had to set up an account simply to get e-mails about the CSA. Make it easy for people to access you and that will help alot. In Facebook you can set up photo albums and make postings for recipes if you wish. On Twitter, tweet (send a message out) about the produce you’re delivering that week to generate interest.

We are due for renewal in January, but given the issues that the CSA has been having, we will probably not be renewing our membership either. I hope to see things pick up for BlueStar Acres, but I think it will take action on the members’ part as well as yours.”

I tried to be fair and honest.
Farming is hard and is not something that you can force to a schedule and expect quality out of it.

I don’t expect to get my deliveries EVERY WEEK AT THE SAME TIME.
Some consistency would be nice
and I really don’t want to get an e-mail saying that our delivery is going to be late ‘because everyone is just so tired.’

That does not make me very confident in you
nor does it make me want to give you my money.

You want my business, you win me over.

Many of the commenters reiterated a line from the welcome e-mail all members were sent upon sign up
that the ‘CSA is not a business.’

Uh-huh.

Whether its a profitable business or not is a different matter
but when I get an e-mail from the owner saying they can’t continue providing a product because they don’t have enough money to pay people
doesn’t that sound like a business?

The CSA is not run like a business
but it is a business operation.

There is a lot of debate on the blog going on right now–
some people out-and-out ripping the owner a new one
others sprinkling flowers everywhere and shining love out of every orifice.

I volunteered
along with some others
to help transfer files over to Facebook to get them started there
and also to build a database for better tracking of membership and renewals.

The owner is supposed to get in touch with me today
but I’ve yet to hear from her.

I haven’t quite given up on this CSA yet.
There were quite a few months when our deliveries were beautiful;
the fruit and vegetables were ripe and heady
and the selection was enough to make Central Market jealous.

I really want to see them succeed.
I love fresh produce and have been challenged wonderfully this year to try new recipes.

It was also an eye opener as to how hard it is to identify some items without a neat little printed sign in front of them.

Husband couldn’t tell the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber
(there was much pointing and laughing at him)
but I’m proud to say he’s done been learned.

If anyone is interested in joining this CSA
please let me know.

I know that seems strange to plunk out here after all of this
but honestly
when they’re in their groove
they really impress.

Plus
I’d really like to get the rest of my deliveries.

Edit: You know what, nevermind. The ridiculous saga that has taken place in the past few days with the owner has only enabled us to settle firmly on NOT renewing our membership.

I’m sorry to say that a lot of flapping arms and incoherent posts on her behalf do nothing to make me want to help the CSA
especially coupled with the owners consistent inability to follow through on ANYTHING.

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