The Downside of the Veggie Box

No human interaction in a box.
Last week I was at my neighborhood grocery store picking up a gallon jug of white vinegar. We had just gotten another pound of green beans in our box from Local Roots, along with one bunch of fresh dill, and I had my heart set on pickling and making the "asim beans" my mom used to make when I was a kid. ("Asim" is the Tagalog word for sour; the beans I'm talking about are more commonly known as "dilly beans.")

Standing in the checkout line, I was thinking about how grateful I was to the veggie box (if it's possible to be grateful to a box) for giving me the impromptu opportunity to make one of my favorite childhood foods. I was not expecting, all of a sudden, to come face-to-face with the one drawback of participating in a CSA.

As I was checking out, I saw my favorite store worker. Over the years, J and I have had many conversations and developed a nice relationship. (I know about his affinity for dark beers--and have even forced him to take a bottle of Old Rasputin stout from the four-pack I was buying just so he could try it; he knows about my love for Mama Lil's peppers; we both agree on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.) We exchanged a smile and a wave, and he came over to say hello. "Hey," he said as he walked up to me, "Where have you been? Feels like I haven't seen you in months."

"Yeah, it has been a while," I said, realizing how nice it was to see him. Then, fumbling for an answer, a bit confused, I said, "I haven't been anywhere, though. I've been right here." As the words came out of my mouth, it dawned on me that between the weekly glut of vegetables and the large amount of beef stockpiled in our fridge, I simply haven't been shopping much. When I do go to the store, once a week or so, it's just to quickly pop in for a bottle of wine or seltzer, or something random like celery, or a gallon of vinegar.

As I walked home, I thought about how I miss having those kinds of interactions, how there is some human contact lost when your produce shows up in a box on a stoop every week. Of course, through the CSA and the Local Roots weekly newsletter and updates, I've learned quite a bit about the people who grow and harvest the food, which I really value. But it is quite different from the sort conversation that leads to those casual friendships that somehow became such a big part of your everyday life.

I am considering taking a jar of the pickled green beans to my friend at the store, as they turned out perfectly, just as I remember.

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