Friday, August 23, 2013

Eating like kings and queens

Warning. Soap box-esque thoughts forthcoming.

Over the past few weeks, I've become increasingly aware of a stigma that at the very least used to exist (not sure if it still does, for various reasons) against homemade bread (and other homemade things too, I'm sure). At least three different people (either in real life, book, or facebook comment) have mentioned things like,
"Of course we were poor so we had to eat homemade bread. Our mother made everything."
"It was always a treat to get things from the bakery. Otherwise we always had homemade."
"Kids at lunch would never trade sandwiches with me, because our bread was homemade."

Excuse me, what?!? What kind of backwards society do we live in where homemade bread is not seen as superior in every way possible? Healthier, better ingredients, tasty, inexpensive and easy to make, etc. The only drawbacks I can think of are that some people have a fear of working with yeast, and some people don't have time (or don't think they have time) to make bread. Making bread is time consuming, especially if you want bread RIGHT NOW. Sorry, you'll have to wait, or plan better next time. And think of all the things you can get done while the bread is rising.

This sort of thinking of course applies to other things as well. So many other things are so much better (in most ways) when they are made from scratch, at home. Now before you stop reading this blog because you think I'm the most pretentious person on the planet, please realize that I don't think that people who eat a certain way are better or worse than people who eat a different way. Human value is not based on what we eat, and in general, people are not better or worse than each other, just different. Secondly, it is weird how stigmas work. On one hand there is a stigma against homemade bread, and on the other hand, people who make their own bread are now somehow better (and also worse, because of the stigma). It does not even make sense. Let's be logical here.

All this to say, I've been thinking lately about how a sign of poverty in our (first world) times can be seen not in how many people have things to eat, and not in how little people have to eat (little in amount, not as a descriptor of people), but in the quality of food, and the amount of non-foods that pass as food these days.

A while back we went to a waffle-feed. Hundreds of waffles were consumed (by hundreds of people). I have no idea what was in the waffles, perhaps they were made from scratch, or perhaps a mix (just add water), so I can't speak for them. But I can speak for the toppings that were offered. When I eat waffles at home, I like to top the savory waffles off with some sour cream and eat alongside other savory items like bacon or eggs. I like to eat non-savory waffles topped with yogurt and blueberries and bananas. At this particular waffle-feed, the options were....plentiful in a way, and severely SEVERELY lacking in other ways. The options for toppings were all (only) available in gigantic containers with pumps. Pumpable butter product, and about a dozen different syrups, all but one containing high fructose corn syrup as its first or second ingredient. Even the "maple syrup" was made of high fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors. I think it was technically (and legally) labelled maple FLAVORED syrup. It just turns me off, people. This is not food. This is a sign of severe poverty.

Yes, hundreds of people got to eat. Yes, it maybe even tasted good (though I only had one pump of the pecan flavored syrup...the only one without high fructose corn syrup anywhere on the ingredients tasted fine, though real pecans would've been even tastier, obviously). But why is this acceptable in our society? Do we suffer from the poverty of being too poor to buy/serve/eat real ingredients? Do we suffer from the poverty of lack of knowledge about what we put into our body? If it is artificial anything, why do we call it food?

The bread you buy at the store has a million ingredients (real, artificial, necessary, and filler) in it, but apparently it is a sign of poverty if your mom has to make you bread.

I just don't get it.

Rant over.

Not my picture. Why on earth do we call this food?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Town Square

This blogpost will probably contain no surprises, if you've read this blog over the course of the past few years. Maybe you haven't though, so SURPRISE! The powerball was big again, and of course I get all existential (we didn't even buy a ticket, people calm down). Though I don't really need the powerball to dream big dreams.
Since June's blogpost, I've been obsessing thinking about ways to best love our new city. I think on a very small scale, we can try to shop as locally as we can. Probably another post coming on that. On a larger scale, I still don't think we've lived here long enough to truly know what the city needs (first glance says the downtown area needs some businesses to come fill the empty buildings...but what kind of businesses would draw regular customers? I don't know yet). I do know that at the new Farmers Market in town, in the call for new vendors, they included handmade items in the list of things people could sell. And I thought, maybe if I get my act together and make a bunch of soap, I could sell some at the Farmers Market next summer (don't have much made...and even if I did make some this evening, summer would be over by the time the soap was ready to sell).
All this thinking about selling soap at a Farmers Market got me to thinking about selling soap at a Christmas Market (SURPRISE!).
And then I thought, LONG PRAIRIE NEEDS A TOWN SQUARE. Now, again, we have lived here for just under two months. I have no idea if Long Prairie really would utilize a Town Square or not. But since this is my blog, and the powerball was big, I'm going to pretend like I have the funds to back this up and dream a little. Indulge with me.
Last week while I was thinking about all this Town Square stuff (SURPRISE! before the powerball), the Long Prairie account on facebook asked us faithful followers what kind of businesses we'd like to see in town. Well thank you for asking, Long Prairie Facebook account. I have been thinking about this very thing. I waited a bit to answer, of course. 1. I wanted to gather my thoughts, and 2. I didn't know what kind of answers people were going to give. I had just moved here, I shouldn't be the first one to post (especially if I wasn't even thinking in the same book as people, much less the same page). Also 3, I have zero nostalgia for Long Prairie, so it wasn't like I could say, "I wish it was how it used to be." No idea how it used to be.
Anyway, here is part of how I answered:
If money were no object, it would be great to restructure downtown to have a town square, with businesses/restaurants surrounding. In the spring/summer/fall, concerts and farmers market could be held there (or craft fairs...large gatherings, etc) and restaurants could do outdoor seating. In winter, we could have a Christmas Market....and maybe a skating rink in the town square.
Businesses... A larger bakery, art studio, craft supply store, and more restaurants...maybe a cute little deli.  (of course [the new coffeeshop] would have to move to the square!)

Doesn't it sound AMAZING?!?!!?!
And of course all week I've been thinking (even dreaming while I'm sleeping) about the new Town Square. And how great downtown would be if we could just walk there and get everything we need (or, when we move out of town, to drive to downtown, park, and then walk everywhere to get whatever we need). Who needs a supermega-walmart-esque one-stop-shop, when you have a Town Square surrounded by all the businesses you need? I still don't know what businesses exactly, but a small, locally owned grocery store/deli would be nice. And the coffee shop, of course. An outdoor mall, if you will (and I think you will).
My first thought was to have it in the middle of Main Street, but after some thought, we thought maybe it would be better if the Town Square were right across the street from the ever-majestic-on-the-hill courthouse (of course, maybe that street would have to be moved. maybe). We'd have to tear the old armory down (from what I can tell, it looks abandoned anyway), and then build businesses around it (or, just turn the businesses on main street around...if we want to have a really big square/rectangle).
And then of course, we'd have our Christmas Market. And it would be a wonderful utopian society where everyone shopped locally and walked everywhere and lived happily ever after.
Dear Lotto Winner from Minnesota,
Would you be willing to fund this project (if of course this is what Long Prairie needs...I know it's what I want), and help invest ($$) into some new businesses to be named?

The city block where the Town Square will go. You can see the Courthouse in the background (left).

Goodbye Armory. Hello Town Square! This is looking out from in front of the courthouse.
OK. If you just got to this blog and only read the captions under the pictures, please note that I am dreaming, and not actually making things happen. Unless you are the Lotto winner. Or the Mayor. OR some other rich benefactor with an interest in small town development.
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