Thursday, February 19, 2009

A New Job

I have a new job, well sort of a job. I’m cooking in exchange for free food, something I haven’t done since I was a starving college student.

My current experience does remind me of my senior year when I was trying desperately to save money to go to Europe. I hooked up with two guys who agreed to buy all the groceries if I would come over and cook each evening. There was a lot of spaghetti and heavy food, but I was not in a position to plan the menu. I was simply the cook. There was never more than a hint of anything besides family style eating.

A good friend recently approached me with a deal I couldn’t resist. She offered me 1/2 share in a CSA membership for FREE if I would do the weekly pickup, deliver half our take to her, and twice a year do the necessary bagging for pickup. This was a coveted CSA that she had been anxious to join for some time.

Ironically the first pickup was the day after I broke my hip, but my dear husband willingly subbed. What lovely food: fruits, vegetables, legumes, eggs, bread, yogurt, cheese, you name it. Quite plentiful and extremely fresh.

After 3 weeks, my friend observed that she was not able to use up her food each week, because it turns out she’s not much of a cook. So she modified her original proposal to ask I could hang onto to the things that required cooking and just share with her a portion of what I made with them. With most recipes, it’s just as easy to make a little more, so why not?

So far I have delivered serving size portions of split pea soup, lentils, and beet salad. She seems quite pleased and I don’t exactly feel like I’m knocking myself out. In fact, it’s nice to hear praise for the things that I cook, something that is only occasional otherwise.

The good news for me in this time of economic downturn is my grocery budget has plummeted. We must still buy chicken, fish, and a few staples at the store, but many other things are covered by the CSA delivery.

This is a throwback to a much earlier time, when it was common to exchange services instead of money. I’m thrilled to feel like I’m contributing to our income with more than just my government annuity, something for which I am actually quite appreciative.

Now I must turn my attention to figuring out what to do with garbanzo beans (which have been soaking overnight), carrots, and couscous. I think a curry flavor sounds just about right. Something slightly Moroccan perhaps?


Blogger Angela said...

What a wonderful idea! Can I come and join your table? I bet you are a superb cook. I once read how a German lady who lived alone but was a good cook, put an ad in a NY newspaper, saying, who wants my services? And she got heaps of mail! Good family cooks are such rare jewels! So she moved in with a Jewish/German family and both sides were happy for ever. (Maybe your husband is good with repairing things...? haha)

1:15 PM  
Blogger tut-tut said...

Coincidentally, I got a call yesterday that a 25 x 3 foot community garden plot has come available. I don't know how that happened, because I was 7th on the waiting list. I'll be posting about our progress with it and my pots.

Our CSA has become just too costly for us at this point. So this plot is quite a godsend, really.

Cooking and sharing; maybe you're starting a movement? Could work out for others.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Avid Reader said...

a cooking and sharing movement sounds great to me!

Just this morning I was thinking about those just-after-college days went we were all broke and starting off on careers--we'd have pot luck parties on Fri and sat nights rather than hit the bank machines for our last 40 bucks a night out on the town. We'd play board games and eat all kinds of ethnic dishes brought in, some people would sit and talk about spirituality or the latest novels they'd been enjoying. Great music and lots of fun and money saved. Maybe these parties will make a come back. Cookie / dessert parties at holidays are making a comeback too.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a young adult I lived in a housing cooperative for three years. Although it had its challenges, I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. Cooking and sharing (skills, chores, music, books, etc.) sounds wonderful still! Especially as we all get older...

So glad you get to participate in your exchange of positive energies, Barbara!


5:58 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

What a great trade! It sounds like a win-win situation for everyone involved. I admire that.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Squirrel said...

I heard through the grapevine that you're a superb cook!

8:43 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Angela -- I will set a place for you any time you can show up for dinner!

Tut-tut -- The community garden possibility sounds excellent. You will have to let us know what you grow.

Avid -- It would be fun to rediscover some of that free entertainment that we once enjoyed.

Anon -- I think I might have enjoyed living in a commune. I did live in a group house for 5 years, but for the most part we cooked for ourselves.

Kristin -- Yes, it is indeed a win-win!

Squirrel -- Whose grapevine are you on?!

9:55 PM  
Blogger Pauline said...

Trading work or services is a great idea. When I lived in Vermont, it was a way of life. I once traded a winter's worth of snowplowing for stenciling the walls of the snow-plower's house. In summer I baked extra tarts and pies in exchange for the rights to the city folks' berry patch.

6:39 AM  
Blogger lettuce said...

thats very cool
what a great arrangement

10:34 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

It's funny that my pleasure reading book right now is "A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove" by Laura Schenone and is about how powerful the art of cooking is. It starts from paleolith cooking through modern times and is very insightful. I am finding it fascinating because of the trends in our family. My mother grew up on a farm in Colorado and learned traditional farm cooking, but of my generation, I am the only female cook, the rest of the family cooks are the boys! I am reading about the period around the civil war right now and how scientific advice would tell people one this was healthy, then reverse it's advice and say the complete opposite!

11:11 AM  
Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

i love anything that is cooperative about food and cooking! in fact, a food coop (buying club and a forerunner to csa) is where I met and 'fell in love' with f 33 years ago!!

our csa only runs during summer and fall - interesting that yours runs in january.....are the veggies grown in local greenhouses

i don't belong to the csa just shop at the markets ....west side and local farmers

2:40 PM  

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