Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rose's Poison Potato Heart

A heart-shaped nightshade, chloro-filling itself green, spying us with its seedy eyes as it imagines disrupting our nervous systems under the surge of its alkaloid toxins; they ripen the longer it sits on display in the kitchen.

The fierce and fabulous bike educator Rose Johnson showed me her heart when I visited her Panhandle apartment two weeks ago to interview her for a series on LGBT bike leaders that the S.F. Bicycle Coalition commissioned for Pride Month. (Wanting to volunteer more for the SFBC but never having a regular schedule, I decided to contribute by writing for them.) As she made me a lunch of salad with chickpeas, summer squash, and red sea salt sprinkled over boiled eggs--I brought cranberry juice and Tartine bread--I discovered that we also shared a veggie passion.

That crafty Rose has parlayed her vegetable knowledge and cooking skills into a way to make ends meet and supplement her work teaching bicycle safety classes and leading public school children on rides. While working at an organic grocery store, which would send her home with their "ugly" vegetables, deemed too weird for rational consumers, she got creative with her veggie bounty and eventually dreamed up the idea for Apothocurious, a "CSCA," or Community Supported Culinary Adventure, in which she delivers weekly spreads, sauces, and salads to customers on her rusty trusty bestie, a Fuji Finest road bike. Rose is about to embark on a summer adventure, and so Apothocurious is on what she terms a "hummus hiatus," but check out her blog for updates on when the spreads will be back on the table.

After we discussed this sinister-cute potato heart, I happened to watch Agnes Varda's amazing amazing 2000 documentary about those who make use of the otherwise wasted scraps of industrialization The Gleaners and I (which is really The Gleaners and the Lady Gleaner if you're attuned to the French title Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse). In a scene at a potato farm where the mechanized harvesting process leaves behind tons of potatoes, the elderly elf Varda bends over to pick up all the heart-shaped potatoes she can.

Later, the camera lingers on a pile of potato hearts that the filmmaker has amassed as she runs her hands over them and considers her own decaying body. The blog Eat Me Daily has a nice write up of the scene and further considerations on potato hearts here.

I'm always interested in ways that foods "gone bad" or somehow left behind can be saved and turned into something edible or at least consumable in other ways (sour milk into yogurt, hard bread into bread pudding, old wine into my mouth when no one's looking), so I especially appreciate how Varda's film consideration of the old green potatoes (and all sorts of other things, you'll find, if you watch the movie) gives a chance to compensate for the energy that went into cultivating them, changing our perception or veering our thoughts and actions in a new direction, even if the tubers aren't directly converted back into food energy.

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