Stranger in a strange land

Wonderful trip, gorgeous landscape, and generally friendly people. But man, it is rather sad to be a vegetarian in Kansas City. We were welcomed warmly, but we’re coming home a little low on protein…

When we went out to dinner, the waitstaff were very polite when they told me that, no, they didn’t have a meatless burger option and yes, the chili has meat (this ain’t the West where they put beans in chili, either—this is straight up chili the way God intended…meat and spices) , and sure they can make the salad without turkey and ham, but who would want that, and yes the sauces were all dairy, why wouldn’t they be, and yes the soups all used beef stock or chicken stock, how else do you make soup? (The Japanese restaurant acros the way didn’t have tofu or edamame, so it wasn’t just our choice of restaurant; it was a whole different planet.) So I had my really tasty plain garden salad with a side of sauerkraut (jarred, but good) and grilled onions (burnt, but yummy), and Peanut had a side of cheese (which he announced loudly was “pretend cheese” because all they had was American cheese [and btw, is that the best face we have to put forward as  Americans? Really?  And the cholesterol-lovers insanity that is an “American breakfast”? Can’t we claim something a little tastier and healthier as our food ambassador? American wild rice or something? San Francisco has been battling the Rice a Roni bit for years (since the SF treat is artisan chocolate and sourdough), and the French aren’t exactly pleased with the fries and toast thing (pan perdue isn’t really from France, and pomme frites aren’t native, either), so I guess we can suck it up and claim processed oil as our signature cheese. But you can’t make me  eat it.]

As expected, at the  markets, there was no hummus section or organic foods. Saw that coming 1,000 miles away. We came prepared with whole food bars and almonds and dried fruit. But I was surprised that there was no plain yogurt or at least yogurt without gelatin, and no dairy or egg products  produced without hormones or antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet.

There was great popcorn and plenty of bread. And rolls. And crackers, if we were willing to waver from our self-imposed ban on hydrogenated oils (which we did, because principles are fine and good when you have choices, but of course I’m gonna eat the jello-whipped-cream-pistachio-pineapple-marshmallow goodness because gelatin may come from cows but it doesn’t have a face and I can pretend for one weekend that I didn’t know it was in there). I ate potatoes but Peanut won’t, so he had a ton of cake. And his first chocolate milk. And as many Odwalla smoothies as we could cram in our hotel fridge. (Hey, Iowa and Missouri: really nice work, there, on offering the hotel fridge and microwave standard. Made life much easier. Thank you. You totally rock compared with the nickel and diming coastal hotels that have a fridge stocked with stuff that they charge you to *move* let alone eat or drink, and no microwave at any cost.)

So when we get home we’re going to have hummus and tofu and plain organic yogurt and organic produce and beans and rice until we’re green at the gills. But for now we’re really happy to have seen family. It was an easy, fun trip, and we were lucky to have it.

[And to keep having it, now that we’re waiting at the Kansas City airport for weather in SF to clear before they’ll board us…looks like lunch may be more bread and crackers.]

Iowa homecoming

I haven’t been to Iowa since I was a year old. And it’s beautiful here. But it doesn’t feel like home.

A recent comment from a reader in Oregon noted that said reader was thinking of moving back to the midwest. I don’t know, man. I’ve lived a lot of places, and San Francisco is home for me because I’ve spent more time there than anywhere else. But also because I have a thing for major Universities, the ocean, theater, symphonies, and 24-hour days.  So I’m probably staying somewhere between The Pacific Northwest and Northern California. Iowa and Missouri are (mostly) gorgeous, but things close earlier than I can handle. And I don’t fit here. There is no soy for my coffee, nor is there nonfat milk. Nor is there coffee. There’s coffee flavored water. And that’s okay, but it doesn’t feel like home. There is no organic section in the market (although Kansas City had three frozen entrees from Kashi, all of which I purchased) and there is no recycing anywhere, let alone in public places. We’re eating popcorn and hormone-antibiotic-pesticide yogurt for breakfast because the word vegetarian makes people projectile vomit out here…understandable, but it doesn’t feel like home.
There is a reason I couldn’t find parks. Because everything is a park. Our hotel, the only thing for miles and miles, is lakeside, and we awoke to a window full of vast expanses of thick-trunked trees, distant views of barns and silos, the sound of canadian geese, and a steady breeze lapping the muddy water across the front of slowly trolling boats. But radio stations play country and Jesus only. In KC we found alternative rock, classical, NPR, rap, elevator music, classic rock, and 80s nostalgia stations. Iowa border switched to just steel guitar and the Lord.
For those who have lost their corn, Iowa and Nebraska may be the way to go. I could handle the winters, I think, since I’ve spent time in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Boston. But unless I’m in Chicago, I don’t see the Midwest in my future any time soon. I don’t need skyscrapers. I need cafes full of writers, indie music, and stellar theater.
Good luck deciding. Peanut LOVES it here. He’d move with ya.

I don’t mean to judge, but…

I’m trying to plan our big family trip to Iowa this week (not a word; not a single word) and finding it a bit, um, challenging.

Between the town where we’re staying and the town where we need to be for Spouse’s cousin’s graduation, there is one park. Three hamlets, and one park. Now, I know that when the countryside is beautiful and people spend a lot of time outside, they don’t need designated parks and playgrounds and mini golf and whatnot. But I can’t bring a tricycle on the airplane (TSA regulations against liquids are loosening, but they’re cracking down on carried-on, three-wheeled  vehicles because the pilots are totally done with little people ramming the cockpit doors after a long ride down the center aisle [oh, wait, that’s me], and I don’t want to pay $25 both ways to check it). I don’t see just wandering the street(s) of a small town working out for my particular three year old. Maybe yours would tolerate five days of aimless sightseeing in towns where the population is smaller than Spouse and my ages added together, but mine won’t.

Maybe I underestimate his attention span, or our collective interest in Iowan architecture, but still. He’s awake and in need of activity (else he is a self-starter on the whole ‘breaking stuff in wild bursts of unguided energy” front) approximately 12 hours a day (meals and calm time take up at least 3 of his waking hours, for a grand total of “go to freaking sleep!”).

I did find a state wildlife area reasonably close, though the only online information (which was damned hard to find) involves how to not get shot at in a wildlife area. Um, maybe we’ll stick to walking the street (that’s not a typo) in the three nearest towns…