Monday, August 11, 2008

Locavore Experiment: I am shamed

This weekend I took a spur of the moment solo road trip to visit my friend Sarah in Lawrence, KS. She was celebrating her birthday and a kick-ass new job and I wanted to surprise her. The seven plus hour drive was totally worth the look on her face when I walked up to her at her party (and the chance to see a really cool part of Kansas).

So, of course, before I left Minneapolis for KS I was having pretty typical unprepared locavore difficulties. I figured I'd need to eat on the way down, so I decided to stop by the co-op to pick up some local corn (that I peeled in the parking lot and then ate raw, which I love), some dips and pita chips made at a local restaurant (although I'm pretty sure it's impossible to get chickpeas locally), and some chocolate covered raisins made locally. I loaded up my water bottle from the tap and was on my way. I was feeling pretty good that I had planned that far ahead.

I wasn't hungry before the party, so I just headed over and decided that, locally made or not, to not accept the cans of Budweiser that Sarah was plying me with would just be looking a gift horse in the mouth. The party was in the back alley of a downtown bar. It was lit with strings of white lights in the way that all alleys should be lit and a country band was on the stage. I was having a great time chatting and comparing accents with her friends, when I met a friend of Sarah's from high school and her husband. I was dumbly rambling on about the differences in the landscape from Minnesota to Kansas and the striking beauty of wind turbines in Iowa (which I then photographed from the moving car on the way back), before I finally started to get around to talking to them about what they do and where they live. I should be prominently featued in the magazine "Modern Jackass" (thanks, This American Life, for coining that phrase).

Turns out that this couple, Gretchen and Randy, are living the life I want to live but will probably never have the guts to live. They have a farm with chickens and sheep and a garden. They bake their own bread and make their own yogurt and sell the wool and the lamb meat and trade chickens with other farmers for dairy and other basics. Of course, they both have to still work full time and they wake up at four in the morning to to the chores, so maybe I'm romanticizing things a little bit, but still.... Part of their reasoning is that they know where pretty much all the food they eat comes from. In fact, they eat out every once and again, but said that it makes both of them feel sick because they're not used to processed foods.

The duo has big plans -- bees and doing pressed cheeses and spinning their own yarn and eventually getting their gumption up to do their own slaughtering. They think they have little gumption.. while I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to go the next 24 hours eating local.

Later on, Sarah was talking about how great it was that Gretchen and Randy were doing this. She had also grown up on a farm but, looking back, is amazed at the disconnect in the food chain that she experienced growing up eating wonder bread even though she was on a wheat farm. She then dragged me off for egg and chorizo burritos at the local Mexican stand. Oh, Sarah, how you thwart my thoughtful eating at every turn!

The next day we met up for a bite (I had a great Turkey burger -- no idea what the origins were, but it was good) and then walked around downtown Lawrence. It reminded me a little of Madison, WI -- only a little more "grown up" somehow -- as in you'll probably see fewer people vomiting into the gutter in Lawrence.

After painfully parting ways with Sarah, I had to stop at this fabric store. It had an amazing selection of fabrics and was, appropriately named Sarah's Fabric Store -- as if she had set up the whole thing as a very-nearly-successful ruse to get me to move there.

OK, so I was less than adherent in my locavore experiment this weekend, but I'm not quite willing to give myself more allowances on this one and I'm definitely not willing to make some sort of "rules" I have about eating get in the way of traveling. Granted, I don't usually take off for last minute road trips and I think that that was my main lesson this weekend. With a little bit more planning and forethought I think I could have been more of a localist even while traveling. I could have easily brought a cooler to stock up on healthier foods. There was a farmer's market in Lawrence the morning I was there -- I just didn't make the time to get there -- and there are certainly restaurants that focus on local food. It was a trip, after all, through the country's bread basket. Eating food raised right there shouldn't be that hard, right?


Sarah Jean said...

Rhena, did I tell you about Local Burger? We so should have gone there for lunch when you in Lawrence. Here's a story I wrote about the place for Midwest Airlines magazine:
Also, the craftswoman in you might enjoy this blog, by one of my favorite alt-country musicians setting out to produce a small line of eco-friendly clothes a year from now:

Thanks for reppin' KS in your fab blog! One might call it a fablog.

Rhena said...

Next trip down -- local burgers on me. Gretchen and Randy told me about it, but I was afraid that if I went when I knew they were going for lunch, it would appear as though I was stalking them. (Which I seriously debated doing.)

Thanks for the links!