We purposed on our recent trip to purchase as much “local” food as possible and steer away from the massive corporate every-thing-tastes-the-same-no-matter-what-city food establishments. On our 2,700 mile round trip we found many wonderful local places from which we were able to enjoy good food and local culture which made the trip much more enjoyable, not to mention educational, than if we were to eat at all the familiar chain restaurants.
Since we avoided all fast food, I did buy food from the grocery store for many of our breakfast and lunch meals. It was not only cheaper, but obviously a whole lot healthier and helped maintain some sort of consistency with the children. Their diet wasn’t all of the sudden upset and they were not indulged with the latest, “greatest” fast foods.
Here are some highlights from our little experiment:
While some restaurants were of no concern, several had me wondering. Kenya’s was just such a place. It was the only thing opened in a small town of 1,000 people. We pulled up to check the menu and found they had hamburgers, BLT’s and grilled cheese sandwiches that would do for us. The scantily clad woman with the 5 sizes too small Hooter’s shirt was nice enough, however, the aesthetics of the place quickly changed when a small child runs through the kitchen following the wholesome looking grandma and grandpa, who were working in the back. Grandma checks on us making sure we have everything. It was obviously a family run business that served great sandwiches even if it did look a bit concerning at first.
Susie’s Kountry Kitchen in small town Glenwood, Arkansas, proved to be a typical everyone-knows-everyone happening place. Not only does Susie serve up some old fashion food, her restaurant is decorated with wall to wall, for sale, art from local artists. As usual, when we enter a place, all eyes turn our way to count the number of little ones tagging along. One of the local artists came over to us and said he and his wife raised 6 children and couldn’t say enough about what a blessing they are to him today. This artsy fellow gave us two of his drawings. Never mind, we would have never bought a picture of Gandalf, we accepted his gracious gift and marveled at his talent.
However, our biggest, most favored find of the entire trip was the small Lake Shore Cafe. On one side of the cafe spread a wide open cotton field and on the other side of the cafe, the mighty Mississippi river. It was a great little place!
We had the best southern food we have ever tasted: Pink-eye peas, creamed spinach, catfish, ribs, fried green tomatoes, corn bread, sweet potato fries, sweet tea and for dessert, let’s not forget the most wonderful…..bread pudding with whisky sauce. It was absolutely amazing!
When we break away from the wheel of “the way things are”; meaning eating fast food when you travel because it is easy, you find a world of culture and experience awaits. One glaring fault of the mass produced food chains is that they obliterate any sense of local culture specific to that community. One McDonalds in Maine is the same as the McDonalds in Texas. Likewise the chain duplicates itself so every city looks and tastes the same. The curse of modern industrialism: obliteration of unique culture.
We found that the small towns in Arkansas, those that have managed to stay afloat amidst mass corporatization, had a wealth of educational experience. We saw local communities that had loads of pecan trees, cotton fields, hardwoods, with all sorts of agricultural potential, however just minutes down the road the landscape was polluted with a massive, smoking industrial factory. Granted, unfortunately we rely on the factories as Americans, however, I couldn’t help but wonder how healthy our communities would be if we returned to the idea of local culture and local economy over corporate industrialism.
We saw similar landscapes in Texas. Lots of Lone Star State pride, art and culture, but heading into the big metroplex chaos, the people, landscape and businesses became a mush pot of chaotic, busy industrialism that leaves that slower paced community way behind in the exhaust fumes. Even the church is affected by this mass corporatization, fast-paced, buzz lifestyle. We saw churches touting, “30 Minute Worship Services here!” and you-pick type church services, “Traditional Services at 9:45am” and “Contemporary Services at 11:15”.
Even with all the experiences on our trip, we were overjoyed to return home having learned a great deal from our trip. There is something so incredibly refreshing about being able to see far and wide and relish God’s absolutely beautiful creation and enjoy the peace and serenity that simplicity offers. To put it simply, “There is absolutely no place like home!”