what’s so good about being home?

fresh-baked cranberry and Ida Red apple pie

Okay, so I’m not much of a food stylist or food photographer. However, I wanted to post an image that represents one of the good things about being back home — being able to cook in my own kitchen. Don’t get me wrong — I very much enjoyed cooking over a campstove or a camp fire in my “kitchen” under the redwoods, or high above the crashing surf of the Pacific — but there’s also something nice about being home and able to bake a pie with locally grown fruit. It’s also nice being able to go to my favourite whole food store and find the things that I’m looking for, instead of having to improvise using whatever I can find in a general store somewhere in the back country where it seems that the locals must live on prefab meals with names such as cup-o-junk or some such thing. In fact, I actually have a bit of a horror story that I should share — and maybe this is a good time for it. In the interest of doing no harm to local economies and all, let’s leave the name of the town and the store out of this.

During our wanderings, my friend and I found ourselves out in the boonies somewhere, short on vegetables after making the grave mistake of not seizing the opportunity to fill the cooler at the last general store with a good produce section. Arriving at this unnamed town, we paid a visit to the local general store. Sure, at cursory glance, it seemed well-stocked, but with about 40 varieties of sugar-coated cereals, every kind of “helper” to boil up with hamburger, and most every prefab noodle, rice, stuffing, or potato dish that one could dream of,. . . but when we went searching for the produce section, we found nothing apart from a few wizzled onions in a bin. I swiftly proclaimed, “Surely the denizens of this region must consume something more than dehydrated potato flakes!” I was soon proven right, in a manner of speaking, when my friend discovered an old-fashioned wooden cooler with glass doors and big chrome handles that looked more like they belonged on the doors of a ’58 Chevrolet. Please note that I use the term “cooler” rather loosely as it was more like a food locker and did not seem the least bit cool.

Being the chief cook and bottle-washer on our odyssey, I perused through the offerings which consisted of a couple of dozen wrinkled carrots, some punky red bell peppers with green stems going to mush, and a little bag of broccoli that looked fairly fresh…or at least somewhat crispy, but smelled *very* weird. My friend sniffed at the broccoli, then snorted and raised his eyebrows in obvious disdain,… but I thought, “What the heck, stir-frying should probably kill off any unfriendly organisms that have grown in this uncoolest of coolers.”

How wrong could I be?

Apparently, it would seem — very.

The smell of the cooking broccoli soon drove my friend out the door of the little housekeeping unit where we were staying. I have to admit that I too wished to flee, but largely due to embarrassment and stubbornness, I convinced myself that the noxious odor would subside once the broccoli started to cook.

No such luck. No… if anything, the… stench…(let’s not mince words).. just intensified as it mingled with the wizzled onions, wrinkled carrots, and soggy bell peppers. If there is such a thing as a culinary horror story, it was occurring right before my eyes and nose in that dark little galley kitchen that evening. To say I was appalled at what I had created would be putting things mildly indeed. It felt like I had, as in some tale from The Mabinogian, produced something akin to a pot of boiling zombie demons. Girding my loins with culinary pride, I rather bravely (or some might say, stupidly), served myself up a small bowl of stir-fried mess to “go first” to see if I would die — this before considering offering it to my friend.

It wasn’t good… but while it wasn’t exactly “outright bad” either, it certainly wasn’t anything that I would place before a good friend. To his credit, my friend actually overcame his revulsion to the reek of tainted broccoli and came back into the room to tentatively sample a bite. In retrospect, I believe this may have been his misguided but valiant attempt to gauge whether I might survive the night or require transport to the nearest hospital to have my stomach pumped. His advice after sampling the broccoli was, “I wouldn’t eat that.”

I took his advice and didn’t finish my bowl. We went hungry that night — or rather, we dined on some Lay’s potato chips (a prudent purchase along with the rancid vegetables). I believe we also split a couple of Clif Bars (Note to self: When traveling in the back country of anywhere, always pack a half-dozen Clif Bars. You never know when you will *need* them).

Admittedly, the above situation was a most uncommon occurrence throughout most of our wanderings. Truly, in even the smallest of towns, we discovered that one might stumble upon some kind and wonderful soul who maintains an outpost of sanity where one can stock up on tofu, organic yogurt and fresh produce. They may be few and far between, but they exist — and when we weary, vegetable-deprived travelers come upon them, we should take a moment to salute them for their tenacity in hanging on at the edges of the culinary wilderness.

So, yes, indeed, I have reason to celebrate being back home in my own kitchen, especially after having paid a visit to the local whole food store to re-provision the house with edibles. All is right with my world.

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9 Responses to “what’s so good about being home?”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    I have a bit of an obsession about food. I could never eat a vegetable that smelled bad. I already think most of the food that’s in the grocery store is barely nutritious, and some of it is actually tainted and truly dangerous. I don’t know how people survive on that stuff, but in some ways I think it explains why most people don’t think very clearly. Their bodies are full, but really starved for nutrition.

    Your apple pie looks delicious.

  2. burning silo Says:

    Robin – I must say that I have much the same obsession as I’m positively fastidious about my food. I like to know where it comes from, where and how fruit and vegetables have been grown, etc… On our recent trip, I actually found myself feeling in an increasingly gloomy mood when we ended up in a region where it seemed difficult to find fresh produce. However, when at one point we did come across a small general store that was admirably stocked with good food, I felt like shrieking “Eureka!” My mood brightened considerably after a good meal of fresh vegetables.

  3. LauraH Says:

    Were there no frozen veggies even for your stir-fry?

    I have a friend who lives in Wyoming somewhere and claims that she can never find fresh produce. She grows what she can during the short season where she is, but beyond that she says nothing is available. I thought she must be exaggerating, but I guess not!

    Leads me to think that I take for granted how much is readily available where I live. I buy a lot of produce for myself and my rabbits, so know which markets have the freshest and nicest selection.

    One thing I don’t understand are those folks that buy prepackaged salad greens from California when there is beautiful crisp romaine, green leaf, etc from local farms?

  4. burning silo Says:

    Laura – The frozen food section was just as scary as the rest of the store – goodies like egg-o waffles, pizza pockets, and meat pies. Not much for vegetarians — and one of us not eating anything with eggs to boot. I suspect that your friend in Wyoming is giving you a pretty fair picture of what it may be like in her area. I have to say that I was a little surprised at how difficult it was to get fresh vegetables in one of the areas where we spent some time. If I had have realized how things would be, I definitely would have planned our provisions differently. However, as mentioned, even in such areas, you sometimes strike it lucky with a certain town. I have to say I have much greater appreciation for stores that go the extra mile and manage to keep a good stock of fresh vegetables, good yogurt, etc… in places where this probably isn’t the norm. We have some really good fresh produce and whole food stores in our home area, so I too take such things for granted. No more! (-:

  5. Borneo Breezes Says:

    I went looking to find why a blog was called burning silo and loved the story. Wanted a picture! Great post

  6. Lynne Says:

    I think your beautiful apple pie picture would make a perfect cook book cover! I’d love a slice with my coffee!!

  7. burning silo Says:

    BB — I may eventually find a photo of the burning silo. I had several, but can’t remember where they are. If I ever locate one, I’ll be sure to post it somewhere on my blog.

    Lynne — Thanks! That particular pie is our favourite. Everyone who has tried it while visiting says it’s the best pie they’ve ever had… but maybe they’re just saying that to be nice! (-:

  8. Wayne Says:

    I do like a good apple pie (I like blackberry pies too). I haven’t made one in years, although I always enjoyed the preparation.

    The brocolli nightmare story. Was it a sulfur smell?

  9. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – I love blackberry pies too, and had some incredible blackberry turnovers (more like big weird looking tarts) from a neat little bakery while out west. The blackberries grow like mad all over in many places where we were. I’d probably be out picking them and making pies if I lived there.
    Maybe it’s time to make a pie? I always bake a couple of cranberry and Ida Red apple pies at this time of the year when I can get apples at the local orchard.
    Let’s see… the smell of the broccoli… what was it like? I’m not sure if it was a sulfur smell — might have been — but not quite the usual “strong broccoli smell” that I’m accustomed to. Actually, it wasn’t like a broccoli-gone-bad smell either, so it was puzzling. Very strong odor though… enough to cause one to flee (unless they have no olfactory sense, that is!) (-: