Winter greens and other comic treasures

A chinook blew through last week, smearing the sky with fog and taking the luster off the snow. Add several rounds by the sanding truck, and my little world was a dull monochrome. I pulled out my phone, opened my fridge, and snapped some colour from my crisper.

It was a soup day - not recipe soup, but "use up the abundance before it falls into corruption" soup. Carpe tuber, root, and rhizome soup, held together with tomatoes and veggie bouillon, with lentils for protein and whatever greens were on hand for roughage and colour. Our grocery box service tries its best to stay local, so the greens I had on hand were of the late harvest variety: still crisp and full-flavoured, but their structure had gone from supermarket perfection to something delightfully Seussian.

The swiss chard came bunched close like a romaine heart, and pulled apart to reveal these fat, yellow-trunked angular pines. All we need is a miniature CindyLou Who to string them up with bingle balls and whofoo fluff.

The baby bok choy wasn't bunched at all; it came in loose spangles with round leaves like so much overgrown clover. If it wasn't for the flavour, I'd have pegged it for an entirely different plant. I chopped up both unusual renditions and tossed them in. The soup pot didn't object to the difference.

My little crisper drawer adventure reminds me of the Inglorious Fruits and Vegetable Campaign from France's Intermarché. I wonder if our short growing season is cut even shorter by a market that doesn't allow local produce that doesn't look like it did at the height of summer. I wonder where along the line it became kosher to throw out perfectly good produce because it didn't measure up to some artificial definition of vegetal beauty. Waste argument aside, we're missing out on a lot of fun. Imperfect vegetables look hilarious. The fact that they taste fine is just a bonus.

I'm not big on foodtography. I'd rather just get eating. But misshapen fruits and wonky vegetables have me grabbing for a camera, whatever the light. Carrots with limbs, leeks with centres that squiggle, burlesque berries, and warty potatoes are more likely to be documented than their plain jane cousins. Washing up grocery store niceties is generally pretty boring, but backyard garden fare comes with potential for play: who will find the ugliest potato? I think I hit the jackpot this time.

We'll see what the next end-of-season lottery brings.


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