By Stella Menkov
Last summer, my mom and I drove to Edgewater farm stand every Wednesday to pick up our CSA. I would don my mask to grab a box and a weekly newsletter while my mom went shopping for extra produce, milk, and fresh mozzarella. Usually there was a pint of berries nestled on top of the vegetables; in the car during the drive home, I pounced on them, and the mellow taste of fresh, in-season blueberries (completely unlike their sour, plastic-packaged winter cousins) mingled with the scent of tangerine hand sanitizer and the mouse that had died somewhere in our car.
When I was a little kid, the CSA had just meant more veggies for me to eat, so I was mostly neutral about it, unless there was kohlrabi, which I hate. (Seriously, kohlrabi is just like broccoli, but worse.) Back then, it was my mom who put together dinner for the family, so she was really happy to get a box delivered to our doorstep every Wednesday by a family friend who owned a farm. But, last summer was the first time we had gotten a CSA since those days, and the first summer we got our vegetables from Edgewater Farm. I had just turned seventeen and, new for me, I was in charge of dinner most nights. The weekly CSA was a treasure trove—as I lifted the carefully packed vegetables from their waxy box, I felt like a dragon dripping with gold and rubies. I finally saw what my mom had seen in that weekly delivery way back when: opportunity. There was summer squash that would become shakshuka, with a flatbread on the side; sweet corn that I could grill alongside some chicken-apple sausages; or fresh ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, perfect for a Greek salad. One week I even made the CSA newsletter’s recipe for kohlrabi salad, and though I still officially hate kohlrabi, I have to admit that it was delicious. When I wasn’t using recipes from the CSA newsletter, I scavenged them from my mom’s recipe box, our cookbooks, and Bon Appétit. I watched carefully to see who would prefer which meal that I made. My mom and I liked the summer rolls—little chewy rice-wrapper packages stuffed with fresh herbs, leafy greens, and whatever crunchy, grate-able veggies I found in the box—with a sweet-and-salty peanut dipping sauce. My sister and dad liked the weird salad I made with green beans and anchovy paste. My little brother, who grew about a foot during quarantine, would eat pretty much anything we put in front of him, but generally preferred whatever contained the most sugar.
In the late summer, my dad showed me how to use our charcoal grill so that I could grill eggplants and corn and skirt steak. I called my family to the kitchen, and they came running from the four corners of the house. For the last little bit of summer vacation, before the start of the school year forced her outside of our COVID bubble, my grandmother often joined us. She arrived a little early to cut up a cucumber for the salad and to talk with me while I gathered up serving spoons and platters and directed my brother to set the table on the porch.
Last summer is a blur of long days spent indoors, but I remember clearly those evenings on the back deck, slapping away mosquitoes and savoring the smell of smoke from the grill and freshly minced garlic. Now, the world is waking up from the pandemic and a new season is on the way. My grandmother is back in our COVID bubble, and as I inspect the first green sprouts that push their way up through the ground in her garden, I dream of the warmer days to come and all the sweet, soft blueberries in my future. I plan on being too busy doing all the things I missed out on last year to cook a big dinner every night, but I know I will make summer rolls one last time before I pack my bags for college this August, and leave my home and the Upper Valley’s vegetables behind.
Stella Menkov is a senior at Hanover High School and will be attending Kenyon College in the fall