Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Will Work for Food

About 7 years ago (Jesus! Time flies) I moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, an idyllic neighbourhood full of restaurants, shops, lesbians, toddlers and dogs, and home to the Park Slope Food Coop.

Back then I knew about the coop but mostly thought it was a bunch of communist nazi hippies who would shun people like me for eating carne asada burritos and the occasional Egg McMuffin, and engaging in such practices as underarm hair removal ("shaving"). Despite those preconceptions I was vaguely curious about joining, but the rules state that everyone in a household has to join, and the rest of my household was firmly opposed to committing to the required 2.75hrs of work every 4 weeks. So I dropped it.

On recently returning to the Slope in an apartment not 3 blocks away from the coop, and feeling quite affected by such tomes as The Omnivore's Dilemma, Plenty, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I raised the question of joining to the other half of my new household. He replied: "the co-op gives me the heebie-jeebies - they sound like crazy ideologues" and sent me an article as evidence. Still, he agreed to go to an orientation, and we both signed up that night. Our motives were a little different: He was swayed by the produce quality (excellent) and prices (everything at the coop is marked up exactly 21%, which makes most goods ├╝ber-cheap in comparison to other local stores), and I was won over by the availability of locally-grown foods. We both signed up for shipping and receiving shifts, and I went home and calculated how much I'd save on cat food in a year ($42!).

This morning I worked my first shift. I barely slept last night because I was so anxious about it - I had dreams that my job was to crack open eggs to hatch chicks (?), and that Birkenstock-clad lesbians were hitting on me. Stereotype much? Anyway, I arrived just before 6 a.m., and my shift flew by. I stocked parsley, onions, potatoes, coconuts, apples, and more potatoes. I learned when to throw something in the soup kitchen bin (you wouldn't buy it but you'd eat it if you had it) and when to compost (you wouldn't eat it yourself). I learned to keep organic produce separate from conventionally grown varieties, and that everything needs to be rotated so the older stuff is on top (some of the potatoes at the bottom of the bin were very sprouty). Overall it was a pleasant, easy experience. Halfway into the shift, someone did a coffee run. There were several announcements inviting everyone to come look at the lilacs that had arrived for the coop's 35th birthday celebration this weekend (they really were beautiful). Everyone with whom I worked was friendly and helpful. Nobody suggested we join hands and sing Imagine, and the cashier didn't point me to the tofu when I paid for my (grass-fed, reasonably-priced*) ground beef at the end of my shift. In fact, the only advice I received was to keep my boxcutter closed when I wasn't using it, which seemed quite sensible.

OK, there was one debate about whether all people who do yoga like kombucha. They don't; I'm living proof.

*FreshDirect sells organic ground beef for $6.99/lb, antibiotic-free ground beef for $5.99/lb, and regular 85% lean ground round for $4.49/lb. The organic grass-fed 85% lean ground beef I bought at the coop was $4.92/lb, and it was delicious.

4 comments:

amy said...

i've wanted to work at the food coop for donkeys years, but it's just too far away from my hood. maybe once we move, if we move... in the meantime, think you can sneak me some beef?

Gillian said...

@amy - I'm pretty sure that buying food for someone else is a cardinal sin at the coop, but we'll have this delicious meat on the bbq all summer long, so stop on by! :-)

Brianna said...

As we discussed the other night I am SO jealous (almost jealous enough to just ditch Queens but I do so love my CSA and my very cheap rent...).

But the real reason for my visit is this: This is your official notification that I tagged you to fill our a somewhat lame meme, read all about it here

Dawn said...

Good luck with that. I lasted about 3 months. However, I do feel pangs of guilt every time I walk into Key Food.