15 Minutes with CSA Members: Aaron Sedivy + Jeanette Estima

You may recognize Jeanette Estima. That’s because she the CSA’s fearless leader of cooking demonstrations. Yup, that’s her you’ll see — along with other member volunteers — sweating in the heat on Saturdays to make us tasty snacks and give us culinary inspiration.

You’ll often find Aaron Sedivy beside her, offering a wit, humor and music recommendations. Plus, he’s a damned fine designer, making beautiful posters and logos. (Seriously, did you see the CSA fliers?) So stay tuned for his stylish Red Hook CSA T-shirts.

Aaron and Jeanette have been happily ensconced in Red Hook for almost three years. For Jeanette, New York has changed a lot, and not always for the better.  “But Red Hook feels like old New York. If it weren’t for Red Hook, we probably would’ve moved on to another city,” she says. Aaron thinks it’s the most “West Coast-like” neighborhood in the big city, which makes the Portland, Ore., native feel at home.

Aaron came to Brooklyn in 2006 from Chicago, where he had been living since he dropped out of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  His one claim to fame from the windy city was riding his bicycle every day for an entire year: sun, rain or snow. Although an avid hater of baseball (“It’s not even a real sport!”), Aaron was happy to leave advertising for mlb.com, where he now makes slick Flash-based applications.

Jeanette grew up in a large immigrant community just outside of the Bronx, wandered for 10 years in a questionable manner (see last question below), and found herself back in New York in 2005.  She will soon be leaving her comfortable job as a grant writer for Amnesty International USA to wallow in the bosom of academia. Her desire to look at city development through a human rights lens has led her to the New School to study Urban Policy this fall.

When not writing code or on his bike, Aaron is probably still in front of his computer, blogging about music, working on a podcast or hoarding mp3s in an obsessive compulsive manner.

When not working, you can find Jeanette lounging around her favorite Red Hook haunts, yammering on about cooking and handing out Savage Love-esque advice–after all, food and sex make the world go ’round.

They talk to the Collard Courier about food, killing herb gardens and burning down Pizza Huts.

What was the food culture in your house growing up?
Aaron: Betty Crocker’s classic cookbook, poorly executed. Mom did her best, god bless her.

Jeanette: Traditional, European peasant food, eaten in the company of many relatives, with lots of wine to wash it all down.

One food you won’t you eat?
A: Chicken and rice. Never again. No casserole should ever include condensed mushroom soup.

J: Cheese.  (I know, I know!)

Favorite vegetable?
A: Of late, the humble tomato.

J: Garlic. It may not be a vegetable, but I’ll say it every time I’m asked.

Favorite food experience?
A: Nearly all of my favorite food moments are around the simplest things made surprisingly well. Fusion cooking be damned, if you can make a drop-dead spaghetti and red-sauce, it will be my new favorite. The last such was simply Baked’s Jammer. Buttermilk biscuit + butter + jam, yet amazing. Good show, folks.

J: I have two. First, that instant where something you’ve tried before tastes different, and you realize that the taste is actually the same, but your experience of it has suddenly changed. It’s a great moment of reflection on where you’ve been and where you could go, food-wise.

My other favorite is that dinner that starts out as just a small group of people coming together to have a simple meal and turns into an all night, hang out around the kitchen, pull more food out from the fridge, and keep the wine flowing sort of party. I definitely get this from my parents.

What do you value about food or eating?
A: It is the only necessity of life that we can easily and consciously enjoy.

J: I value that it can give me awesome taste / sensory experiences. I value that it is a common language, connecting you to anybody, anywhere. And lastly, I value that it is one of the biggest political statements you can make without even trying: everybody’s got to eat, but you can choose what and where you eat.

Favorite appliance?
A: Still the stereo.

J: My pocketknife and corkscrew combo.

Favorite food book or memoir:
A: Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers got me back into cooking after a couple of years in the woods, as it were. Lesson learned? I like cookbooks with big glossy full color photos.

J: My subscription to Cook’s Illustrated.

Most disastrous kitchen or garden experiment:
A: I had the idea of walnut cranberry pizza, but lacked walnuts, so I substituted too many Spanish peanuts. I ended up with PB&J pizza, which wouldn’t have been all bad if it hadn’t also include tomato sauce and mozzarella.

J: Every indoor herb garden I have ever tried to grow. Rosemary plants in particular, despise me.  My parents were farmers so this is particularly embarrassing. Seriously, people, I need help!

Why are you involved in the Red Hook CSA?
A: There are as many reasons to be involved as there are reasons our food systems today seem nearly unfixable. Honestly though, I am involved because Jeanette said we should be. She was right.

J: I don’t want my choice to live in a city to completely separate me from my food–this separation has caused a lot of unnecessary harm in the world. CSAs help me stay connected to food, farming, and my community.

What’s the best lunch option near you?
A: S’Nice. Vegetarian sandwiches in highly savory fashions. Yea.

J: A Mediterranean-style buffet near my job in midtown. The cook is always very excited about the day’s options, and commends every choice you make, saying: “Yes! That’s VERY good, very good!!”

What inspires you?
A: Food-wise? I would say: single ingredients. I find myself on missions to make, say, parsley soup, based on what seems like an unsubstantiated whimsy. The CSA is good this way, it will provide the whim, I must provide the inspiration. Outside of food? Sound.

J: Guerilla gardening…but really, anytime things grow in unlikely places. And, of course, good argument.

Your opinion: Does talking to plants help them grow?
A: The only help it would provide is added carbon dioxide, so you would have to be a ‘close talker’.

J: No.

Do you sing to them?
A: I am nearly tone deaf, they probably would not appreciate it.

J: No. But I do talk to them, mostly to shame or berate them.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Fail. Try again. Fail better.

J: It all begins in crisis.

Tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise us.
A: I once accidentally burned down half a Pizza Hut.

J: My youthful dalliance? Spending five years working on a PhD in Philosophy. It was kind of like running away and joining the circus. No, really.

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