Monday, August 3, 2009

Sustainability: A Promise and A Confession

In Ma Nature's book, August is a superstar. She's pregnant with potential. Her drought-loving ways force juicy tomatoes out of the earth. Cucumbers explode with abandon, insouciant and oblivious to their imposing presence like teenagers on the subway. All of a sudden our peaches are no longer from South Carolina, but from towns closer to home. Inconspicuous, dense cantaloupes hide from the sun beneath expansively shady, ankle-deep leaf canopies and begin to sweeten, secretly. Summer squash, who sauntered onto the scene last month, seem to spring out of the soil with certainty.
Corn. Pears. Watermelon. Summer honey. Blueberries. It is easy to eat locally in August, and there's really no reason we shouldn't be frequenting our local farmers' markets (or, if you're lucky like me, urban farms,) every possible day.
We must celebrate nature's bounty and eat, for soon it will be winter and we'll subsist on tough-skinned squash and root veggies, canned summer memories supplementing-- if we're lucky (and motivated enough to can the millions of tomatoes that will ripen before we know it)-- our bland yet reliable winter produce.
It is the month of tanginess. Of sweet, slimy, and satisfying. The Juicy Month. So why am I ordering good old George's calzone again?
1. I live in Washington Heights.
a) Most of the produce in the bodegas is from Mexico or Florida, two of the worst places for human rights violations in the food system. After reading about the modern day slavery of the tomato pickers, I can't, in good conscience, purchase a Mexican or Floridian tomato. Since knowledge is power, you cannot, in good conscience, ignore that link.
b) Yes, I could've taken the train down to the Greenmarket today. But in my lazy world, could've=didn't.
c) George's Pizza is reliably delicious, cheap, and easy. His calzones are a lactose- intolerant person's worst nightmare, and, conversely, a cheese-lover's fantasy. He's been in business since what seems like the Civil War and is no joke.
2. I have become incredibly lazy on my days off.
a) Working in the sun all week is tiring. Plus, I'm half Irish and need a break from all that Vitamin D.
b) I am attempting to "be" a writer: I hole up all day in my apartment and convince myself I am incapable of leaving, then start to believe it.

Apparently, I am eating my fruits and veggies, because fruit flies have taken over my entire apartment. The culprit is our compost bin. Or perhaps it is more apt to write "compost" bin. We abandoned all attempts to compost when I opened it one morning and was pelted with steroid-sized fruit flies. I was so terrified I closed it and haven't gone back since. They're huge! They've been living in the very thing that sustains them: sweet, dark, rotting dankness.
The roid-sized fruit flies remain in the "compost" bin, which we might choose to call the "rot" bin for accuracy's sake. Meanwhile, their smaller relatives, deprived of sugar and desperate, hide in my coffee grinds and burst forth into my nostrils and eyes as soon as the filter door swings open. They bite. They make me itchy just thinking about them.

I have no idea what to do with the box, other than throw the entire thing away, which seems like a waste, but what are the options? I thought of dumping it out on the street late at night, right before street cleaning, but Frank objected to this idea citing our local homeless man and the capabilities of the street cleaning machine.

I know what I have to do: I have to empty it into a garbage bag, outside, at night. I have to get it all in there. Then I have to tie the bag. I will proceed to... take the bin to the bathroom to wash it out in my shower? This seems unnecessarily gross. But I can't think of what to do! I'm not a city kid! (Any suggestions from city kids, who may or may not have dealt with a similar problem, would be greatly appreciated.)

I'm scared. Of the flies. Of the methane. Of the rot. I did it all wrong and now I have to pay.

After I eat my calzone, I promise to eat fresh fruits and veggies from the farm for as many meals as possible. I figure this counts as penance for my failed compost endeavor, in the eyes of the Sustainability Gods.
Apparently, sustainability is a concept shared by humans and fruit flies alike. One being's trash is another being's treasure.


  1. Dear Cara,

    In reading this post I found myself jealous, not of your compost experiment but of the beautiful tomatoes that you've been eating this summer. My family and I grew organic heirloom tomatoes plants this year but just as I see them ripening I notice that the bottom of the newly red tomatoes are turning to mush. While our plants are full of huge tomatoes (mostly green at the moment) we've had very few that we've been able to eat. Any words of urban gardening wisdom?


    Desperately Seeking Tasty Tomatoes

  2. Dear DSTT,

    It sounds like Blossom End Rot, although there's a chance it could be late blight, which is sweeping across the Northeast at an alarming rate. Your observation of the soggy bottoms point to End Rot, however. Use eggshells in the soil to counter the lack of calcium caused by uneven watering. (June is the culprit, not you.)

    Thanks for your question!