Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bringing home the bok choy. Or, maybe not.

I grew up with those old Enjoli ads.  (Remember those?  Or am I showing my age?)  “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let you forget you’re a man… cause I’m a woman…”

Much as my lesbian feminist self would like to deny it, that song still hums somewhere deep in my subconscious image of How Life Should Be: I’m supposed to be able to do it all.  And as a single mother, I often do “Do It All;” at least, I do everything that gets done.  I work full time, I pay the bills, I cook the meals, I check the web to ensure that the products I buy are actually healthy for kids, and in my spare time, I try to teach my children all the things they might need to know to survive in a post-carbon economy and live a sustainable lifestyle.  Whew.

Plus, I bring home the bacon.  Totally righteous pasture-raised bacon, right there in the deep freeze alongside the rest of the pig.  But in trying to keep up with the cultural sprint toward sustainability, I’ve slowed down our consumption of aforementioned frozen pig in favor of mostly plant-based meals.  Bok choy in place of bacon.  Totally righteous, local, organic plants, grown by totally righteous local farmers.  Sustainability, ho!

Each week I head to our local farm to pick up our box of veggies, and I used to bring it all home and scour my cookbooks for ways to cook the less popular options.  By March, we are all feeling particularly oppressed by the surplus of greens, more greens, plus some bok choy.  It’s so warm out, where are the strawberries?  Really, not for another month yet? 

(My kids are finally getting old enough to really understand that the presence of fruit outside the grocery store does not necessarily correlate to the fruit actually being in season.  But they still look longingly at the shipped-in strawberries.)

I used to dutifully transfer the contents of my veggie box into my bags.  But the more I get used to the single-mothering gig, the more honest I have to be with myself about what “sustainable” really means at my house.  Greens and bok choy that rot in the fridge and then get fed to the chickens, no matter how righteously grown, are not really sustainable.  And they make me feel guilty for not being that mom whose kids just love those hearty greens. 

I’ve spent many many hours pulverizing greens into specks too small to scrape off your pasta, or experimenting with seasonings (including bacon, of course), making kale “chips” and other “kid-friendly” suggestions (oh, please, no more suggestions, I swear I’ve tried).  The real truth is, only my oldest child and I will eat more than a bite or two of greens that aren’t spinach.

This spring, I’m getting real with my sustainability, and really looking at what makes a sustainable life rather than just trying to Do It All, so as a first step, I leave the bok choy at the farm for someone else to bring home.  I bring home only as many greens as my ten-year-old and I will eat in a week’s time, and I do as much as I can.  Which is enough.

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