Eating locally while on travel may seem like a crazy idea to some, but it is doable. Sometimes "travel brain" says that McD's or fast food are a must to keep down costs, or for convenience. There maybe a lack of knowledge of what restaurants or local food sources are in the area. Believe me, one recent biz travel I had (heading towards Alabama), I went to McDs (1st time in 2007, and can I say I am still addicted to the fries) because we were in a rush, and it was the place we stopped off the highway.
Luckily, most of my biz travel in the past 2 months has been to Sandusky, OH. I love Sandusky, I love the work I do there, and I love all the sources of local food I can get there. During all my trips there recently, I did not take a computer, all the local food sourcing was done by keeping my eyes open for real farm stands (not after market), speaking to the local co-workers, and by fliers, calendars and maps I found at the visitor's center located on Milan Rd. I also got a hotel room with a microwave, coffee maker (for hot water) and fridge, and a breakfast room with paper plates and plastic ware. I also brought with me a handful of quart sized freezer bags. With these three instruments and plastic tools, it is possible to eat locally, and cook in the room. I admit, most of my local food I ate was raw, but don't under estimate the power of the microwave and hot water.
Sandusky, OH has a lot of small farmer farm stands and it also has a vibrant Farmers Market that has been around, in its current formation, for about 25 years. This market is open through the end of October, and has all the local, local organic, and fresh picked foods. If you find yourself in Sandusky during the summer and through the end of October, the Farmers Market is located on the corner of Hancock and Market, just east of the ferry dock is. It is quite spectacular to shop at this market because it is only located a couple blocks from the edge of Lake Erie, and it is a pleasant walk to the water.
One farmer was selling eggs from his poultry including duck, chicken and goose eggs. It was not a "big goose egg" for me to shop at the market. Eggs are a great protein source, and can be cooked in the microwave. Scrambled is best, or else the yolk could explode. The best way is to scramble the eggs with a little milk, salt and pepper (taken from the breakfast room) and microwave, stirring every 30 sec - minute until done. Slice up a little local cheese on top, and you got a breakfast a-go-go. The other way to cook an egg in a hotel room is to put a whole egg, shell and all, into the coffee maker container, and make hot water and let the egg stand for about 15- 20 minutes in the hot water.
At the market, there was a young woman farmer with a baby in a baby sling over her shoulder. This woman had medium length brown hair and a very nice smile. Her mother, her baby's grandma was there to. They set up there farm booth with their lovely flowers around the table, and her produce was displayed in lovely baskets. I forget her name, but she really reminded me of Nancy VanWinkle of Bramble Hill Farms
from Nashville, TN. Nancy is one of the founders of my local Whites Creek Farmers Market. Nancy brought her wild flowers to sell, and she always had a lovely display of her produce. Nancy is a young woman with little kids that come with her. Sometimes Nancy has her baby in a baby sling, and the baby is sleeping away, undisturbed by the people asking the price of a tomato. While in Sandusky, it felt very homey to see people who seem so familiar to me, yet I have never met.
Another farmer selling produce, was selling locally grown popcorn in two varieties. It was great to learn about many varieties of corn that are produced for feed, human eating, popcorn and fuel. I was so lucky to come across the popcorn. The yellow popcorn has a thick skin, and pops up really big with a nice light yellow buttery color. The white popcorn is smaller, thin skinned and pops up white and smaller. I only bought the yellow kind, but I am kicking myself because I should have purchased both kinds, and all of the bags. My "travel brain" said minimize on purchases because you gotta carry this stuff around, so I only bought one bag.
When I was in undergrad, out in Amherst, MA, the head of my department was Jefferson Koonce. Jeff was former air force pilot, Tulane and Univ of Illinois alum, and compassionate and excellent mentoring engineering professor. He also was a local farmer, and he grew mostly for himself and his family. Nearing graduation, Jeff and his wife has some of us over for dinner, and I noticed a bunch of dried corn cobs on his kitchen counter. He explained it was his popcorn, and his family loves to snack on the popcorn he grew. I asked how to cook up the popcorn, and Jeff said to put the kernels in a pan, or put the whole cob in a paper bag in the microwave. Jeff threw one of the cobs in a paper bag and into his microwave to let us try his popcorn. It was fantastic and fun. Thanks Jeff Koonce, I will always remember your farm and your popcorn.
So, I admit, I do love eating popcorn. Never met a kernel I didn't like. During my eat local experiment, I had to put my jar of popcorn aside because I don't know where the corn came from. Well, so lucky me during my trip to Sandusky to have popcorn grown less than 20 miles from my hotel, I got to have a nightly snack of popcorn. I got a paper bag from the store (and used it every night) and tossed a handful of the kernels into the bag and microwaved those puppies up to a fluffy crunchy goodness. Yup, there was no di-ethyl mega-death stuff (like those pre-packed kinds) floating off my popcorn because it was all natural corn in a bag. Ah, the fluffy and crunchy goodness in my life again. Can travel snacking get any better than this?
Besides eating Sandusky farmers market goodies, I went to the local dairy and bought my milk for all the days I was there. It tastes really good, and it is much cheaper than buying the industrial generic milk at the Safeway or Krogers. Gasoline cost to truck the milk as made milk prices rise, but not at this local dairy because all their milk comes from cows within 50 miles of this processing plant. This milk is so good, that I have been making it the only milk I drink when I am up in Sandusky.
These trips to Sandusky were really stretching my creativity in eating locally. The fruits and veggies were so fresh, they beckoned to be eating raw. The eggs and milk were so fresh, that they beckoned to be eaten everyday. With Sandusky as my 1st "eat locally while on travel" experiment, I am certain that the next time I am on travel, I will plan on trying to incorporate local foods into my travel diet. I think though, the next trip will have to have some planning, like doing an internet search before I go.
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