Making every bite count

14 January 2008

Organic food... in McConnelsville?

Between ages 6 and 18, I lived in McConnelsville, a small town on the Muskingum River in southeastern Ohio. It's the kind of place where people who have lived there for years are still considered outsiders, where teenagers go cruising and "mudding," where 4-H and FFA members miss school for the entire week of the Morgan County Fair so they can show livestock. At least three factories shut down by the time I was in high school. Unemployment rates are high. My dad and stepmom left as soon as they could, but my mom and stepdad still live there, with my stepdad commuting 90 minutes each way to Columbus.

It's not a bad place, but for a progressive 16-year-old vegetarian, I didn't find much to like in a town where deer hunting was a legitimate reason for skipping class. In the last couple of years, the town has taken some steps toward modernity: there's a Chinese restaurant (my mother called me in Korea to tell me about it), a yoga studio (Sarah teaches there; it just opened) and a health-food store, Jo-Ad Natural Marketplace.

A couple of years ago, Central Market, one of the three grocers in town, closed down. Rumor had it that a Pick and Save was being brought to town, but that never happened. Run by the Allen family for three generations, it was the nicest grocery store of the three: An IGA was the biggest and boasted a large bakery (sheet cakes and the like. No baguettes or anything good), and Kroger was not much bigger than my apartment, and pretty run-down. Central Market was on the town square and hired the cool kids to work there.
After Central Market shut down, the Mennonites moved their natural food store from way out in the middle of nowhere to downtown McConnelsville. In all those years, I'd never visited Jo-Ad's.
All that changed this weekend, and wow, was I missing out. In 1997, silken tofu in an aseptic package was the only variety to be found in any of the grocery stores. Avocados were a rarity, and specialty foods like soy burgers -- yeah, right!
This weekend, I found soy products of every kind (way too late as I don't really eat those anymore), kombucha, organic grains and aisle after aisle of herbal supplements!
I filled up my Get Hip Go Green bag with organic goodies and spent... $20 and some change!! So cheap! Over two pounds of thick-cut oats were just $2.50! Two pounds of organic black beans were $3.40 or so. Wow! I told my mother that I might come home more often now that I know I can get decent food there!
I remember getting vegetarian cookbooks from the library and not being able to find half the ingredients needed. Oh, this place would have been a godsend 10 years ago. Better late than never, and being able to find firm tofu, sesame seeds, good rice, ginger and a few other ingredients meant that my family got a tasty, homemade Korean feast!

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