"We'd eat dirt first, …"

In some ways, the old home town remains the dead end I thought it was fifty years ago. The city fathers wisely put the kibosh on both the railroad and the freeway system cutting through their valley, leaving the place quite deliberately off any beaten track. It's two lane blacktop in from every direction of the compass, and, of course, two lane blacktop back out again, which has discouraged some of the more virulent operations from pillaging here. The downside of those wise decisions left this place as another typical food desert surrounded by some of the most productive cropland in the world. In season, the local produce, eaten to appropriate excess, more than compensates for the sad wintertime produce aisles.

Yes, there are exceptions and truly exceptional alternatives to Safeway's interpretation of fresh.
They're out of the way and unlikely to satisfy your entire shopping list with a single stop, but they represent consistent lifelines for anyone who might otherwise feel tempted to move back to Seattle or Portland, where wider variety will always reign. My forebears ate with the seasons, and I can think of no good reason why I should not also temper my desires for anything out of season here. The potatoes here are sold so close to where they were grown that they bear little resemblance to ones found in any season in any other part of this country.

Yesterday, we happened upon a little meat market that we'd never stopped at before. The theme of the day seemed to be 'poking around,' as we stuck our noses into several little shops just to see what they held. This meat market didn't look like much from the outside, and even once inside, it hardly rivaled any meat market we'd ever visited, but when I asked the proprietor to introduce me to his meat case, he stepped through each cut, including the Korean Cut Beef Ribs, explaining in small detail how each should properly be prepared. I was sold. Yes, of course he had lamb in the back. Beef Cheeks? Pork Cheeks? Yes, both, in the walk-in because he doesn't get much call for those cuts. Ask at what passes for a meat counter at Safeway if they have beef cheeks and you'll get a well-enunciated Eeeeew in response.

We quickly determined that this guy knew what he was doing behind a meat counter. We left with two steaks, one of which he'd held on a cutting board while The Muse determined just how thick she wanted it cut, and two fine beef cheeks, destined for a Sunday braise. This morning, we visited the fruit and vegetable shop extraordinaire located just the next town over. It's run by Seventh Day Adventists who don't eat meat, but with the variety of eatables stocked in this place, they'd hardly need to. We stocked up on fine parsnips and yellow beets for our Sunday braise, and I even found a jar of Mirabelle Plum Jelly, the discovery of which sent The Muse into rapture.

Since we're both dedicated foodies who hold the conviction that we'll one day move back here, the food sourcing seems critical to comprehend. The supermarkets seem to have all gone further downhill since we left, but with this meat market and the old reliable veg shop, and the wonderful bread bakery that uses locally-grown hard red wheat flour in their terrific baguettes, we're supposing that we could survive even the wintertime here again. In the old days, before the exile, we'd drive to Portland monthly to buy eatable bread, but not even that seems necessary today. Yes, a Walmart does stand on apparently sanctified ground South of town, but neither The Muse nor I would ever let our shadows cross that threshold. We'd eat dirt first, no matter how much money we might manage to save by helping them undermine the great American (and European, and Pan Pacific, and Asian, and African, and South American, and even Middle Eastern) tradition of ShoppingSmall.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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