Thursday, May 31, 2012

Midwestern Food Fears

I'll miss sushi.
I have a healthy heap of fears facing me in this new project but one of the biggest is food. Mind you, concern over our food supply is one of the chief reasons for my experiment but I'm talking about what I'm going to eat in North Dakota. Truth is, there's a notable lack of healthy food options in and around the regions where our nation's food is grown.

Restaurants offer little more than iceberg lettuce, factory-raised meat, any form of potato and pie. Oh, and Walleye, the only fish variety one will find in these regions. This is distressing to a self-confessed food snob (I blame San Francisco and my early years as a food critic) who is trying to be vegetarian and on her most ambitious days, vegan.

(The glaring exception here is if you are lucky enough to receive an invitation for a home-cooked meal. Midwestern cooks are incredible, though hesitant to use spices. I'm hoping to score a few invites.) 

Remote rural grocery stores can be a shock to a person used to buying organic produce and local products. Though I avoid Whole Foods (for the cost, not the inventory), I buy fresh produce and/or staples several times a week - nothing processed. My market of choice here in Colorado is Sunflower; in California, Trader Joe's, of course!

This strict policy may induce eye rolling but the truth is, I am not opposed to processed foods (favorites include Pringles, Kraft Mac & Cheese, all breakfast cereals and my biggest vice, Diet Coke) but they are bad for my body and I try to resist; I'm not always successful. (I always lose control on road trips.)

I do, however, make my own ice cream, hummus, hollandaise sauce and vanilla extract and hope to add a few more items to the list very soon. I've attempted homemade yogurt and bread but both were failures. I'll give it another go once I get settled but I worry that the ingredients for these items will not be available and I'll have to turn to Amazon. (One way or another, the FedEx guy is going to be among my new friends.)

Olive oil, next to the lard, which actually better for you than margarine.
On my prep trip to NoDak in April, I visited the grocery store in nearby Walhalla to see if my staples were available and was relieved to see quite a few mandatory items, among them:
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Garbanzo Beans - pricey though, $1.99 for 15 oz., compared to 99 cents here.
  • Wheat tortillas
  • Organic milk - I'm not drinking milk anymore but I found this encouraging. 
Encased in plastic, like everything else.
There was plenty of produce, all of it completely wrapped in plastic (even the bell peppers), likely to protect it from its long journey from Mexico or Guam. The produce will only be a challenge for me in the first month or two, until everyone's garden starts to produce. Brent tells me that the only time people lock their cars in NoDak is in summer: "Otherwise, people will put extra stuff from their garden in your car. I forgot to lock it last year and found a bunch of zukes and tomatoes in my truck." 

Such is a North Dakota reverse crime wave - people putting things in your car, instead of stealing it. 

Alas, no organic apples to be found, one of my favorite snacks and the #1 food on the Dirty Dozen list of foods with pesticide residue. Maybe I'll make a friend with an organic apple tree - this is my best hope.


Brian said...


Your experiment sounds wonderful and a real adventure. I just wanted to wish you good luck. I am trying very hard to get back to Colorado as you leave for NoDak. If you can't find anyone else and if I make it back to Colorado and you need something from Sunflower, leave me a message. I'd be happy to help out a fellow Lancer.


Brian said...

Brian O'Neill you can find me on FB.

Heather Clisby said...

Wow, that's an awfully nice offer, Brian. I haven't been called a Lancer in years! Hope you make it to Colorado - 'tis a beautiful state.