Mariquita Farm co-owner Julia drives into the city, parks next to one of the many restaurants they supply and throws open the back of her truck.
By prearrangement, I pick up a large box of vegetables that I will (gladly) pay $25 for. I have a rough idea of what the box might contain (thanks to the farm's extensive website) but I don't know for sure and I don't know how much. There's an old saying: Not knowing is most intimate. Meaning, the way to get closest to something is to stop having a lot of ideas about it. Or, there are ways of knowing that aren't so much about concepts and opinions. Or, when we approach something as an expert, we sometimes stop exploring possibilities. And possibilities are really a lot of fun.
Last week my box contained creamy smooth turnips that roasted up to a caramel sweetness. There was something called Puntarelle Frastigliata. There were bags of broccoli shoots, baby leeks, deep red and orange carrots, and three bulbs of young sweet fennel. Before The Mystery Box, I never heard of Puntarelle Frastigliata—turns out it's a kind of Roman chicory—but now I know that it's delicious when sliced very thin and tossed with warm olive oil, garlic and a little mashed anchovy. So, you don't live in the Bay Area and your local organic farm isn't ready to go guerilla? You can still add some surprise and mystery to your kitchen. Make a vow to buy, research and cook one new thing a week. Ask your honey or a friend to "pick up whatever" for you at the farmer's market and then cook everything they bring back, no matter what. (Cardoons!) Host a mystery box cooking party and invite some guests to bring the mysterious ingredients and others to take on the challenge of cooking them.
Or just simply cultivate "not knowing" with what's already at hand. Be curious and willing to make mistakes. Explore possibilities. Try getting out of the way and you might find yourself somewhere you've never been before. (Garlic Scapes! Orach!)