15 Minutes with CSA Member: Shelley Bernstein

Next time you see that red 1974 Super Beetle tooling around Red Hook, be sure to wave. It’s Shelley Bernstein, farm-hand extraordinaire (as evidenced by her photo above).

She is also the Brooklyn Museum’s Chief of Technology. Remember that great exhibit, Click: A Crowd-Curated Exhibition? Yeah, that was her.

She has been in Red Hook about six years — “I love it because it reminds me of Texas” — and has one super-cute pup, Teddy.

I’d tell you what she does in her free time, but she has none. She’s a self-described workaholic who is either at the museum on the farm or walking Teddy. Sounds like a pretty nice life.

What was the food culture in your house growing up?
My mother went to cooking school when we were living in Europe, so I had a good example there.  On the other hand, my father and I ate every meal at Burger King for an entire year at one point.  At 16, when I became a vegetarian while still living in Texas, my parents had trouble grasping the concept.

One food you won’t you eat?
As a vegetarian, meat is the obvious answer. But I will admit I have issues with eggplant.

Favorite vegetable?
As of late that tends to be seasonal, so right now I’d say I’m super excited about the okra we just got from the farm.  The okra and upcoming tomatoes will be especially welcome considering my Texas heritage.

Favorite food experience?
Backpacking through Europe picnicking on local cheese and fruit; picking watermelons on my grandfather’s farm; eating freeze-dried ice cream at Space Camp.

What do you value about food or eating?
That I’m lucky enough to have a lot of choice, but see that many others don’t.

Favorite appliance?
Cuisinart food processor and mini-chopper; vintage Pyrex mixing bowls and refrigerator dishes.

Favorite food book or memoir:
Chapter 9 of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.   I’m not a fan of marketing in general and reading that chapter on big organic changed the way I eat and shop.

Most disastrous kitchen or garden experiment:
Ah ha, that would be the pie crust all-nighter that I pulled for the first Red Hook CSA potluck.

Why are you involved in the Red Hook CSA?
In the past couple of years, I’ve really started to notice the difference the Red Hook Community Farm has made in our neighborhood. I find that very inspiring and it is something I want to support.  It’s one of a few instances where I find the very diverse Red Hook community coming together.

I’m learning a lot about community as I continue to participate, which is something I care a lot about on both a professional and personal level. Lastly, I’m finding that volunteering on the farm is a great way to mitigate what is often a stressful work week.

What’s the best lunch option near you?
There are a ton of good options in Prospect Heights near the museum, but Chavella’s is really pretty amazing and my current favorite.

What inspires you?
I get inspiration from all kinds of things – stuff just sort of hits me. Here’s a recent example.

Your opinion: Does talking to plants help them grow?

Do you sing to them?
I don’t even sing to my dog!

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Fail forward.

Tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise us.
That I spend a lot of time thinking about city planning in addition to community.


2 responses

  1. Nice interview. I’m also a fan of vintage pyrex bowls and would trust anyone who admits to being a vegetarian and not liking eggplant. There’s a lot of integrity in that.

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