Hubs and I aren’t very formal people. So, we had a large yard party with a very short “ceremony.” The ceremony was really just our family friend saying a few words and my husband and I saying a few words. I think it lasted 10 minutes. Nobody really wants to sit through much more than that anyway. And, let’s be honest, I don’t want to stand up there for much longer. The real fun was having a friend of mine and his step mom sing, a kick ass bluegrass band from Charlottesville, Virginia, beautiful local wildflowers, lots and lots of local brews (St. George’s and Williamsburg Alewerks), and of course the food. We had local soft shell crabs and clams, pork BBQ made from local pigs, local strawberries on the dessert bar along with carrot cake and pound cake from a local bakery (The Carrot Tree), potato chips from Virginia’s own Route 11, and massive amounts of quinoa salad, pasta salad, and cole slaw. It was to die for. I didn’t eat nearly enough of the salads and never even made it to the seafood. But I heard oooohs and ahhhs and mmmmms all around.
Finding Food in Our New Home
So, here I am post-grad, post wedding, and post move, out in the wilderness of the wild Eastern Shore of Virginia (The Shore). (Okay, I actually live in a very cute little town–population 1,263. I’m pretty sure my high school was about that size.) I’ve been here a few weeks now and have spent much of that settling into the house and learning to navigate the food terrain. Living in Blacksburg, VA and Seattle, WA has made me a bit spoiled. In those places, not only is it not hard to get food, it’s not hard to get good food. The grocery store in Blacksburg had a decent sized organic produce and natural foods section (and reasonably priced). There were two natural foods stores in town and one international foods store. All three of these sold fresh, local, organic produce and bulk items. And there was a farmers’ market every Wednesday and Saturday. Additionally, all of this is within walking, biking, busing, or a very short (10 minutes or less) drive. I miss that.
Here the grocery store options are Food Lion and Walmart. If you aren’t familiar with Food Lion, it’s solidly bourgeoisie. The produce section is often lacking, our store might have prepackaged organic spinach but otherwise no organic produce to speak of. The packaged organic and natural foods are outrageously priced and the selection is limited. Even the conventionally grown produce is minimal compared to what I have become used to. However, they do have organic yogurt, corn tortilla chips, and one brand of veggie burgers. And I have been purchasing conventional cherries at Food Lion (I can’t resist them!).
Walmart. Need I say much more? I’ll admit my bias against Walmart. I dislike the place. In fact, it makes me anxious to even be in the store. But, I know Walmart has a following and many feel they have no other option. Nevertheless, despite Walmart’s proclamations that they offer local and/or organic produce, the one here does a shoddy job. I have not seen local produce in this Walmart (a relatively new store) and the organic is of poor quality and higher priced than I’ve ever seen anywhere. I mean, $3 for a tiny, shriveled organic cucumber, seriously?
Needless to say, after these first attempts at navigating the food terrain in my new town, I was disappointed. Fortunately, my Mother in law told us about the farmers’ market, which just started this season; a natural foods store in town; and a place called Quail Cove. Since the farmers’ market is only on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. until noon, we braved the natural food store here in town first. My expectations were a little too high. While the store offers some local produce, it mostly has a limited selection of natural prepackaged items. In Blacksburg, the natural food store was meant to replace the grocery store, meaning you could feasibly do all your shopping there. Here, the natural store is more of a novelty. If you need a very specific item, you may want to shop there. But overall, it’s not really meant for grocery shopping.
Thankfully, Saturday came around, bringing the market. We happen to live very close to town, so we rode our bicycles across the bridge to the market. It was a pretty perfect morning for a bike ride and a market. That morning, the market had two substantial farm stands, fresh seafood, pasture raised chickens, baked items, and even some crafts. Hubs happens to know one of the farmers. So, we stopped at his tailgate first. We got fresh, organic herbs and beets. We then moseyed over to the other farm and found greens (also fresh and organic). Additionally, to our delight, this farm has a community supported agriculture (CSA) program! CSA is when members purchase a share in the season’s bounty and in return receive weekly installments of the harvest. Farmers spread their financial risk by placing some of it on the members and members get involved in their food system, try new kinds of produce, meet the farmer, visit the farm, and often wind up with more than enough fresh produce. Although we were late beginning the season, we purchased a CSA share from Mattawoman Creek Farms. We received our first share last week (kholrabi, celery, beets, lettuce, two kinds of cabbage, bunching onions, and a tomato). In addition, because we started the season late (they don’t adjust prices for latecomers), they sent us a seasonal box to help us make up for the weeks we have missed. We were swimming in greens!
Finally, we decided to take a field trip to Quail Cove. Quail Cove is a farm and natural food store. They grow, sell, and distribute natural and organic food. I say we took a field trip because it’s a 40 minute drive south (or down the road if you live on the Shore). Quail Cove is much more like the natural food stores I’m used to. They sell bulk (but already bagged) beans, flour, dried fruit, nuts, rice, etc. They have produce and packaged goods. They sell meat, cheese, tea, and snack items. They even sell 25 lb. bags of carrots (YES!). Unfortunately, it’s a much more significant trip and will have to happen more sparingly.
We have also planted our own tomatoes, jalapenos, peppers, and added herbs to the herb garden my Mother in law started for us. It took us a few weeks but we are finally figuring out where to get high quality food. The most essential factor in navigating the food terrain was asking the locals. We were lucky enough to have family already here. But we also talked to the vendors at the market. It’s not going to be as easy as we are used to. We’ll have to adjust to longer travel times and eating more in season. But at least for the growing season, we’ve got it figured out.
However, the next question is: What do we do about winter?