Fruits and Vegetables, Little House-style

Pardon this brief post--my daughters and I got up at 3:00 a.m. PST to catch our flight out of Minneapolis after a wonderful few days spent in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I'm happy to report the food situation has improved since Laura Ingalls Wilder's day, where everyone in the books is eating beans and cornbread day after day, and the closest thing to fresh produce is the potatoes and turnips Pa plants after locusts devour the wheat crop in On the Banks of Plum Creek. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove had the lovely display of canned fruits and veggies shown above, but I don't remember the Ingalls' ever having such bounty. And, sure enough, after we left the cosmopolitan food delights of Minneapolis (I'm not kidding--foods of every culture, signs for farmers markets/local/organic/sustainable, and so on) both fiber and fresh produce were pretty thin on the ground. The only fresh vegetables I came across were the usual lettuce and shredded carrots that came from a salad bag and the occasional tomato. But even in a tiny town like Springfield there was a new cafe in town that promised local food in season. The apples in the grocery store came from our state, I suspect, and the new asparagus hailed from Peru!

But Minnesota is wonderful farmland, and the farms are everywhere--I'd love to visit again in the summer for a real idea of how the local food movement is spreading. For now, winter was still hanging on, and the landscape was done in muted grays and tans. How spoiled we are in Washington, with our lavish evergreens and plenty of things in bloom and the beginnings of local produce (at least from greenhouses!).

It was interesting to learn that Wilder's youngest sister Grace died of "advanced diabetes." Pa Ingalls succumbed to heart disease at age 66, and oldest daughter Mary of multiple strokes at age 62. Although Laura and her mother made it to pretty advanced ages, it's interesting to note that diet-abetted deaths took plenty of people even before the rise of processed foods. Blame ye olde Midwestern diet, of which I partook heavily: cream pies, breads for breakfast, lunch and dinner, cookies, and starchy vegetables. The other author we visited Minnesota for, Maud Hart Lovelace, stuffs her books full of such goodies, as well as constant cakes and pans of fudge.

Should you ever find yourself in Minnesota, I leave you with the following recommendations, all of which I have personally sampled:

Lund's Market (multiple locations). Great selection of conventional (that Peruvian asparagus!) and organic.

Midtown Global Market. Had roast chicken and bap from the deli. Oh my word.

World Street Kitchen. For casual dining. Imaginative fusion foods, spicy, and tasty.

St. Paul
Izzy's Ice Cream. Each of our scoops came with a malted milk ball on top! My nine-year-old declared it the best ice cream she'd ever had. I know it was the best scoop of Lemon Custard I found.

Rapidan Dam near Mankato
Rapidan Dam Cafe. Talk about hole-in-the-wall! I think the girls and I were the only non-locals and non-longtime-friends in this little joint, but the folks were friendly and the cream pies were scrumptious! Not bad hamburgers, either, and the tomatoes thereon were actually red and ripe, not pink and fake.

But now we're back. Time to recover from vacation. I don't care what we eat tonight, as long as I can get my hands on some vegetables!