Local Foods Not So Local
A trip to a local eatery provides Hank evidence that sometimes what you think would be local foods are not local at all.
Hank enjoys the process of feeding people quality food from his Osage County, Kansas farm.
courtesy Karen Keb
I’ve had occasion to eat supper at my favorite country-crossroad café a couple of times so far this year – the occasions were festive, the atmosphere was perfectly local and comfortable, but the food was positively industrial.
Having become accustomed to eating grassfed red meat and pastured chicken and eggs, all raised on my Osage County, Kansas, farm or by friends and neighbors, I’ve developed a difficulty finding something to order off the menu. I can’t blame it entirely on home-raised meats and eggs. My partner in culinary crime gets plenty of credit, too, because she has a knack for creating scrumptious meals from simple, high-quality ingredients. Did you know that a simple grilled cheese sandwich can be transformed from a staple comfort food into a wildly wonderful supper with the combination of homemade whole-wheat bread, fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly shaved shallots, garden-fresh basil, a touch of real mayonnaise and farm-fresh butter? It makes my mouth water just writing about it – and there’s not even a quarter-ounce of high-fructose corn syrup involved.
So there we are, ordering supper at my favorite country-crossroad café, saying hey to folks and visiting with our server when my partner in culinary crime decides on the fried chicken, then asks whether the mashed potatoes are real. Our server wrinkled her face into a grimace and just shook her head no – but the chicken was battered and fried right there. I already knew I’d have to forego the sirloin because the last piece of boxed feedlot beef I ate – though beautiful and perfectly prepared – didn’t taste right. I don’t eat poultry I haven’t raised myself if I can help it, so the fried chicken was out. I scanned the menu up, down, left, right. Aside from several mouthwatering (and oh-so-tempting) beef choices, I found shrimp (now why would I order shrimp at a country-crossroad café in Kansas?), tilapia (why on Earth should I choose a mushy, aquacultured, freshwater African fish that I used to see at the pet store?) and chicken-fried steak. The seasoned breading and thoughts of fork-tender, mechanically tenderized, white-gravy-sopped mouthfuls of that last entry called to me.