Before you want to punch me in the face, let me say that I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek with the title here, okay? I mean, yes, when I lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, I only had to walk a few blocks to get the most delicious tempeh-bacon & vegan-cheese breakfast sandwich, or buy raw almonds in bulk, or fill up a growler of kombucha on tap, or … you get the picture.
But Brooklyn is an anomaly (I mean, heck, even the Polish corner stores sold Vita-Coco and some fresh veggies there). In most parts of D.C., you’ll likely have to head to Whole Foods for this stuff (there, my corner store carried straight Doritos, Little Debbie’s and beer). In downtown Cincinnati, there’s a great little shop that sells vegan Whoopie-Pies and locally-made sauerkraut, but if there are others nearby like it, I’ve never seen them. I certainly wasn’t expecting Lafayette, Indiana to be a weird-health-foods mecca. Of course, I also wasn’t expecting the ‘gourmet’ shop all decorated with pretty plants out front to sell nothing but potato salad and cheese-ball mixes (seriously, did you know there are, like, 157 varieties of cheese-ball mixes?). And my god, would it kill any of the convenience stores to sell an onion or a lime? I know I love to rave about farmer’s markets—which are wonderful, and frequent—but sometimes you can’t perfectly plan ahead. Sometimes, you’d like to be able to grab a loaf of fresh bread, or some cheese, or a few lemons and tomatoes in between farm market days without having to hop on the bus (or in your car, if you’ve got one; I currently don’t) and head out to the Super Target.
That’s what’s weird about this place: I live downtown, which is pretty urban, with all the trappings (art galleries, bars, even a symphony orchestra and housing projects). But aside from one fish market and a small shop selling your standard deli meats and cheeses (neither of which are open late), there’s nowhere to buy fresh food downtown. All of the supermarkets are further out, in suburban strip-mall-sprawl territory. And, like I mentioned, the few stores around here that look like they’d stock, at minimum, some apples, fresh bread or non-Minute-Made rice are loaded with sugar-laden canned foods and Emeril Lagasse steak sauce.
But I’m a ‘when life gives you processed lemon juice, make lemonade’ kind of gal, so to speak. The lack of readily-available foodstuffs I want around here has forced me to take matters into my own hands, literally:
Local supermarkets don’t stock any meat-substitutes aside from frozen Morningstar farms junk? [Yes, we have no seitan, no tempeh, and not even any tofu!] I’ve begun making my own seitan, the easiest of the meat susbtitutes to make at home, more often (instead of just as the occasional novelty). I hope to learn to make tempeh next.
No arugula at the supermarket, either? Well, the stuff grows like weeds anyway, so I might as well plant my own—there’s plenty of room on my sunny front porch.
I’ve yet to see anyone or anywhere around here selling kombucha, so I finally ordered a SCOBY (that’s a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, the living building block of kombucha). I’ve been meaning to learn my own kombucha since living in Brooklyn, but it was always so readily available to purchase that brewing my own kept getting pushed down my to-do list. If any of you kombucha brewers out there have tips for me, do tell! And for those of you who’d like to brew your own but don’t know how to start: Stay tuned; I should be posting about my kombucha-brewing efforts soon.
For reasons I can’t comprehend, the one sushi restaurant that delivers to me doesn’t offer miso soup (one of my favorite things), so I ordered some miso and kombu online; time to make my own …
That’s the other thing: Thank goodness for Amazon.com (or for the Internet in general, really); any nonperishables I can’t find around here or make, I simply order online. The first few weeks here, my boyfriend laughed at the steady stream of Amazon boxes that kept arriving. But our kitchen is now nicely stocked with raw cacao nibs, carob powder, miso, pitted organic dates, chia seeds, raw buckwheat groats, gomazio, etc. (if that list of items re-made you want to punch me, fair enough).
So I’ve had to order a little more online than I have in the past. And I’ve had to make—or will have to learn to make—more stuff myself. The time I save via the former can make up for the time spent on the latter, I suppose. And maybe someday soon, I’ll get good enough at a homemade item or two to start selling at the farmer’s market. Or even at that weird gourmet shop—I’ll bet some bottles of locally-brewed kombucha would look real nice there amongst the cheese ball mixes.
Photo: Greenpoint Gazette