"Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the futureŠ" These lyrics to Steve Miller Band’s "Fly like an Eagle" seem to be stuck in my head a lot recently. Regardless of what they meant by them, for me they speak directly to an issue many of us struggle with. We feel don’t have enough time to do the things we want - or need - to do and are always looking for ways to try and hold back, slow down and manipulate the flow of time.
This has to do as much with perception as it does balance and choices. Where you are in life also plays a role - parents of young children have ‘different’ time than recent retirees. And then there are the unexpected things that pop up that you have no control over. Our recent week that was suddenly filled with the extra tasks that come with flat tires, broken refrigerators and seasonal head colds is a perfect example. But we all figure it out and make do.
No one is going to argue about the changeability of time and how, due to a number a factors, it shifts and slides. Likewise, everyone will agree that slowing down our lives and taking time for the things that mean the most to us is important and nurturing. And how about the power of longer lengths of time creating things that are wondrous and beautiful - Fine wine, aged cheese? A big, beautiful maple tree or the Grand Canyon? A carefully written book or crafted piece of art? Or ‘time heals all wounds’? I try to set aside some time each day to slow down, relax, enjoy and contemplate things like these. But, in order to do this, I also spend time looking for more time.
Which leads us to convenience, which can be such a double-edged sword. Far too often convenience - a quality that makes something easy or useful for someone by reducing the amount of time or effort required - means a compromise. So when I find something that is convenient and enhances my efficiency, thereby increasing my time, without compromising quality or my values and goals, I get excited.
Enter the new buying club we’ve joined. Food Connects, a Brattleboro-based non-profit who also brings our area many other great food programs, has recently launched buying clubs that allow you to choose affordable local foods online and pick them up at one of four locations. Part of the Vermont Community Fund’s Farm and Food initiative, these clubs help everyone access local foods using Food Connects partnership with Windham Farm and Food, while supporting local farms with a new market. Even in the winter months we will have easy access to locally grown produce as well an inventory of locally-sourced bread, bagels, yogurt, cheese and eggs.
Yes, very convenient - both of my daughter’s schools are pick-up points, making it easy to support our desire to eat more local foods in a way that makes good use of both our time and money. As you can imagine, many families from the schools participate, but this club is open to all community members, so if you haven’t already done so, check it out - http://foodconnects.org/buying-clubs.html.
Keeping with the convenience theme, the favorite item in this week’s buying club basket was the Delicata squash. Pale yellow with dark green splotches and stripes, Delicata are a winter squash about 8 inches long and three to four inches across. As easy as squash can be to cook, Delicata beats them all with an additional bonus - you can eat the skin. And by this I don’t mean it is possible to eat it but that most people probably don’t want to, I mean that you can and it tastes good. This is convenience!
We received 3 lovely Delicata as part of our buying club order and immediately upon arriving home, I preheated the oven to 375 degrees (currently my favorite roasting temperature), split 2 of the squash down the center lengthwise and scooped out the seeds. Then, I sliced them into half-moons about 1Ž4 inch thick, tossed them with olive oil, a generously sprinkle of kosher salt and about a teaspoon of garam masala, that intensely fragrant spice blend from South Asian cuisine and roasted them in a single layer for about 35 minutes. I didn’t bother to stir them and they still came out perfectly. Leftovers were sent to school the next day and eaten very happily, I might add.
Roasting is a great way to easily and conveniently cook all kinds of winter vegetables. They do take a bit of time in the oven, but it is not as long as you might think and once they are in the oven you are freed up for preparing another part of dinner, checking homework with kids or finally getting to unload that dishwasher. If need be, you can always prep the veggies the night before and keep them in the refrigerator (in a covered container) so all you have to do is toss with oil and salt and put them in the roasting pan when you get home. Voila!
I’ve got some beets from the buying club that are next up for roasting. I’m told that I can quarter and roast them, skin and all and that the skins will slip off once the beets are tender and have cooled a bit. I also recently recommended that friends roast their head of Romanesco, the fantastical-looking Italian vegetable that looks like light green broccoli covered with minarets and spires, for a deliciously different way to enjoy it. Cauliflower and broccoli florets are just as good roasted, as are carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, onions and garlic. Just make sure that the pieces of vegetable that you are roasting are all cut roughly the same size and that you are roasting things with like densities so that you won’t end up with some veggies over-done and others under-done (ie, add broccoli after the carrots have roasted for a bit). Roast with a splash of balsamic vinegar for a bit of intense sweetness, drizzle with extra olive oil or sprinkle with herbs. Roasting vegetables is a great efficient way to maximize time without sacrificing flavor or nutrition
Simply remembering to notice time - how we spend it, why we make the choices we do - goes a long ways towards helping us to value the time we have every day. Finding convenient and efficient ways to support our basic needs and wants - delicious, healthy, local food in this case - gives us both pleasure and satisfaction in our busy worlds that often seem to overwhelm. Keep your eyes open for opportunities that aid in this process and enjoy the benefits that they bring. I’ll be keeping the buying club in mind and my roasting pan at the ready, savoring both a little extra time and delicious dinner.