Friday, November 9, 2012

A Love Letter from New Jersey to the Power Crews, and Kohlrabi Puree

On the way to yoga last night, I passed about ten power trucks.  I have a lot of "Sandy heroes"--the volunteers who rescued people, the volunteers at churches working triple shifts to shelter those who have been displaced (many still have no homes to return to, at the shore, in Staten Island, and all over where trees fell into people's bedrooms), the people organizing drives for underwear and personal hygiene items, the people who came to pump water out of people's houses for free, even the school maintenance workers that have managed buildings turned into shelters--but among the unsung ones, for me, have been the power crews.  They've been here for almost two weeks now, since the day after the storm -- crews from Texas, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania -- working around the clock, in the cold weather, trying to restore the damaged power infrastructure.

The work has been slow, not because of the lack of manpower, but because of the sheer magnitude of the task.  So many lines are a tangled mess, so many poles were snapped, so many trees down, preventing access to make repairs.

And while by and large people have been patient, they've also started to complain.  At times it feels a little like the Star-Bellied Sneetches.  Why do they have power but we don't? they ask, looking down the street to their neighbors' houses, ablaze with light.  When will it be our turn?  We see each other in the grocery store, and we no longer want to ask the question, because we're afraid of the answer, afraid that we might rub salt in the open wound.  We open our homes to each other, we share what we can, but we know that in some ways, it's not enough.

I've taken to waving at the power trucks, my window open, screaming "thank you!!" at the top of my lungs.  I don't know if they hear me, but I want them to know that I'm grateful.  That regardless of the union politics (which I can understand, too--people are trying to protect your jobs in the long term, even as you give so generously of your time in the short term), the lack of supplies, the people who are grumbling and impatient, we are grateful.  You've come here under the least desirable conditions, because you felt that you could help.  You took risks, left loved ones behind.  You rise at the crack of dawn when the temperature is still barely above freezing, and work out of cabs where the floor is littered with Red Bull.  You labor by flashlight long after the sun goes down.  Every time I see a power truck pass by, especially those from another state, I find myself moved almost to tears.

Our CSA season is over; it was supposed to end anyway, even without factoring in the effects of the hurricane, though I was impressed by what my farm was able to pull together on the day after we got our power back, even when they still had no power themselves, and weren't expected to get any back for some time.  There were turnips, and rutabaga, and celeriac, and carrots, and kale, and kohlrabi.

Kohlrabi gets a bad rap.  One of our neighbors, a fellow CSA member this year, refers to it as the "evil kohlrabi"; their son actually now draws comics in which the kohlrabi stars as the main antagonist.  But it's really an impressive little vegetable, not beautiful by any means, but hardy enough to resist being destroyed by the hurricane, resilient, versatile enough to have a presence in soups and stews and curries without taking over, and surprisingly tasty even on its own.  A little knobbly around the edges, but tasty when you get to know it, and salvagable even when it's been split wide open.  Sort of like the people of New Jersey in general, really.

So, to the power companies from across the nation who have come here in our time of need: thank you.  From the not-always-beautiful, but remarkably resilient and strong-willed people of New Jersey.

*I am still taking interested bakers for the online Sandy Relief Bake Sale/Auction.  So far my bakers include JeCaThRe of Bread, Wine, Salt ... (Not)Maud of Awfully Chipper ... KeAnne from Family Building With A Twist ... Ilene from The Fierce Diva Guide to Life ... Jennie from Still Life with Crockpot ... and ManyManyMoons of Many Many Moons ... (all of whom, by the way, absolutely rock as bloggers, and you should go read them).  If you're interested, please leave a comment on the original post by this Sunday, November 11 at midnight.  I will be in touch with all of the participating bloggers next week with details.

Kohlrabi Puree
My mother used to puree kohlrabi.  I don't remember it tasting this good; this version could actually find a place on your Thanksgiving table.  The original, from the New Basics, includes leaves and mushrooms, but I have mushroom haters in my family, and the leaves were no longer attached.

4 kohlrabi bulbs
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic , minced
3 Tablespoons vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the kohlrabi bulbs, peeling them if the skins seem tough.  Cut the bulbs into 1-inch chunks.

Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and add the kohlrabi chunks. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another 1 to 2 minutes. Don't let the garlic brown.

Drain the kohlrabi chunks and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add the stock. Purée until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the purée to a saucepan and reheat over low heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Serve warm.

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  1. Now you've got me intrigued. Though I've heard of kohlrabi, I wouldn't recognize it in the produce section.

    Unless it's something you buy at Kohl's? Hmmm.....

    I admit I snickered at the star-bellied sneetch part. Wishing all you Joisey kohlrabis a speedy adjustment to the new normal.

  2. Oh, I love this post and the comparison of the mighty if not showy kohlrabi to your steady, hearty citizens of your state.

    I would love to participate: I do mostly cakes. Is that OK?

  3. It sounds so cliche, but its true, you never cease to amaze with your big heart, kindness, gratitude, ability to make analogies (especially when it comes to life and food) and how choose your words so beautiful to make your point.

    I can not imagine what the people of New Jersey are going through right now and have so much respect and admiration for those power crews. I am sure it won't shock you to hear that I have never heard of Kohlrabi.

    Thank you for this. Your experience with Sandy has helped make it real for this Mid-Westerner who luckily and thankfully otherwise might not really get all that you and others on the East Coast have been through. Continuing to send peace, love, light (literally if I could), thoughts and prayers your and all of New Jersey's way. xoxo

  4. I'm glad you guys are okay, J. I'm still shaking my head about it all. It's still incredible to me.

    You're right about the power crews. And because the electric companies catch a lot of flack, my guess is that the crews do, too. But you're right about them being there - in many cases - from a long way away.

    I actually made this two days after you posted it! I'd bought kohlrabi at the local farmer's market and didn't know what to do with it. I actually love it raw...but there's only so much you can eat raw. It was yummy made the way you suggested (even O had some...and he's going through a very fussy food patch). Thank you.


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