Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Paranoia Strikes Deep in the Heartland

Crossing the Mississippi felt like a milestone, particularly since the landscape flattened into western farmland almost immediately and the road began to stretch out in front of us perfectly straight for hundreds of miles. We put the pedal to the floor, watched the amber waves of grain roll by, and fantasized about joining the ranks of rosy-cheeked farm families who live in big white houses surrounded by even bigger red barns.

But our drive through America's heartland was also disheartening. At the edge of every cornfield we passed, signs indicating which patented, genetically-engineered strain of maize was under cultivation reminded us that this iconic farmland also helps constitute the ever-growing industrial food complex. Those of our devoted readers who know us personally have already tired of our endless strains about, you know, eating “food, not too much, mostly plants,” as per Michael Pollan. Two years ago, upon returning from our travels abroad, we pledged in this space to endeavor to seek sustenance that was local, organical, and seasonally available. In Connecticut, that means eating a great many parsnips (Tam's favorite!), but it also meant delighting in getting to know the farmers at New Haven's City Seed Famers Market in Wooster Square and trying new ways of preparing their wares. Without dwelling on the myriad infuriating ways in which so much of America's food is - quite literally - manufactured, we can attest to the great pleasure to be had in seeking out sustainable and ethical food sources and connecting with a local food economy. So, with many a regretful sigh and a disapproving shake of the fist, we abandoned our pastoral fantasies of presiding over acres of tasseled corn. (Other daydreams about chucking the rat race to produce small-batch foie gras/goat's cheese/ farmhouse ale in a stunning rural setting remain intact.)

Thankfully, a pair of detours afforded relief from our pangs of self-righteousness. The first of these was the Jeffers Petroglyphs, where flat red rocks bear the faint traces of drawings scratched into the granite five thousand years ago. After a great deal of squinting, peering and gesticulating, we got the hang of it and began to point out turtles, arrows and thunderbirds with no trouble at all to the other baffled investigators surrounding the rocks.

The next stop was at the Pipestone National Monument, a quarry considered sacred by American Indians who used the red stone found there for carving peace pipes. We watched an expert drill holes into the stone in preparation for its new role and Tam contemplated purchasing one to go with his totem pole, before deciding that right now, acquiring a couch for our new love nest takes precedence. Plus, the car was jammed with provisions for our first camp dinner - potatoes, rainbow carrots and onions mixed with a little diced salami, roasted in the embers of our campfire and flavored ever-so-slightly with pine smoke.

More pictures of our exciting adventures are available here:


Casey Cichowicz said...

Nice! I finished Omnivore's Dilemma this weekend, and in a way it raised more questions than it answered. But yeah, Big Engineered Corn has to go! Nice pics... drive safely!

d said...

Wow, that looks like home to me. Your trip looks like so much fun and I love your explorations! It's a travesty that Leiney's got bought out. :(