15 Minutes with CSA Members Rachel Murphy + Osei Essed

Rachel and Osei moved to Red Hook three years ago from the hinterlands of northern Manhattan. They say  Sunny’s bar was the first attraction, but everything else about Red Hook — with the possible exception of the B61 — has convinced them that this is the best place to live in all of New York. (Shhh! Keep it a secret!)

You may have had occasion to hear Osei’s band, The Woes, anywhere between Brooklyn and Austin, Texas, over the past couple years.  Rachel’s band Like, Mountains is just getting underway. The group marks the first time the two, who met at SUNY Purchase while students in the Music Conservatory, have had to play music together in the nine years they’ve know one another.

Rachel and Osei live on Coffey Street with their eight-year-old pup Elston and a cat named Mop. They both grew up in Westchester for the most part and have been members of the Red Hook CSA for three years. Its getting better all the time!

What was the food culture in your house growing up?

Rachel: Hippie-kosher. My dad worked from home, and he had some very solid meals in his arsenal. My mom taught him how to make chick soup with matzoh balls, and he improved on it with beer, to make them fluffy. We kept fairly kosher; no pork, no mixing meat and dairy, but we used the same dishes for both.

Osei: Growing up in Suriname we had a great variety of fruit growing in our yard. So our snacks, both fresh and prepared, came primarily from these. We ate traditional Surinamese food every night and rarely if ever ate at restaurants.

When we moved to New York we did not have as many fruits, but the traditional home cooked meals where still the mainstay. Surinamese food is a mixture of West African, East Indian and Indonesian cooking with some European influences, which uses the vegetables found here in the New World.

One food you won’t you eat?

Rachel: Flesh* (except really special meals; see below) 

Osei: I don’t eat red meat or pork.

Favorite vegetable?

Rachel: Tomatoes. Osei makes this awesome tomato stew. He says it should be served with pasta, but I can eat a whole pot cold.

Osei: I like them all. Lacianato Kale might be up there.

Favorite food experience?

Rachel: One of my cousins was bartending at Bouley Upstairs a couple years ago, and he treated us to a chef’s tasting menu. It was a sublime experience. There was a dish that made both of us laugh – though we don’t really know why. It was a cauliflower soup with trout roe and chorizo, and it unlike anything I’ve seen tasted or heard.

Osei: I have to agree with Rachel; that meal at Bouley was incredible. I also had a wonderful experience one of the two times I had the duck meatloaf at Buttermilk Channel.

Favorite appliance?

Rachel: Mortar and pestle. Freshly ground everything is better.

Osei: I just like my Le Creuset cookware. No appliances.

Favorite food book or memoir?

Rachel: I really like reading cook books in general, especially descriptions of technical. Also, Farmer Boy, one of the Little House on the Prairie books, has some really wonderful descriptions of old-fashioned food prep. Like doughnuts. Mmm, doughnuts.

Osei: Groote Surinamse Kookboek (a Surinamese cookbook; possibly the only Surinamese cookbook)

Most disastrous kitchen or garden experiment:

Rachel: I threw a dinner party one summer in high school, and the main dish was a pasta and fresh mozzarella dish, but I didn’t cool the pasta enough. The cheese ended up in a big ball with bits of pasta and eggplant sticking to it.

Osei: I once tried to make homemade ravioli when I first started cooking. One of the least delicious things I’ve made.

Why are you involved in the Red Hook CSA?

Rachel: I think the closer your food grows, the better it tastes.

Osei: We get fresh fruit and vegetables every week, and it’s wonderful to be able to walk to the source (of the veggies at least).

What’s the best lunch option near you?

Rachel: I work in midtown and am currently obsessed with two sandwich sources: Macaron Cafe and No. 7 Sub.

Osei: Depends where I’m working. On the LES, I love Soy on Suffolk; in the East Village I’m a fan of Minca Ramen Factory.

What inspires you?

Rachel: Sense memory and the fact that summer lasts only a few months in NY

Osei: Sound, sight, silence, solitude, comfort and pain. The smell of salt water and the view of New York harbor help a lot, too.

Your opinion: Does talking to plants help them grow?

Rachel: Not when I talk to them. They just die faster, I think.

Osei: It’s not unlikely.

Tell us one thing about yourself that would surprise us.

Rachel: When I was about ten, I could eat as much steak as was available to me. I think that’s why I don’t eat meat now; I already had my share.

Osei: My first language is Dutch.


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