Friday, July 4, 2008

Small Town Gastronomical Survival 101

Introducing yourself to the local diet is one of the novelties of living in a small town. Dining on hand-breaded tenderloins, huge & tender steaks, maid-rites, and an occasional BBQ are sinful indulgences for someone used to dining on sushi, Vietnamese spring rolls and Pho, and steamed veggies and octopus (for breakfast!).

Standard Hannibal fare is cheap and plentiful. Here’s a sampling:

• Huge platter size tenderloin sandwiches - $4 at the Becky Thatcher Restaurant

• 8-oz prime rib with stuffed potato, salad and eat & peel shrimp - $11 during early-bird hours at Lula Belle’s. Website:

• Two Maid-Rites, onion rings and a root beer - $7.50 at the Mark Twain Family Restaurant (formerly the Mark Twain Dinette). Website:

After awhile, the novelty wears off and this former urbanite is swinging-from-the chandelier crazy for her native diet. This happens to all of us transplanted urbanites, so these tips are to be shared with other second-lifers like yourself:

1) The Post Office Is Your Best Friend.
Do your normal dry-goods shopping locally (if on urban soil) or online (eBay, if not) and ship your specialty teas, asian noodles, seaweed, wasabi, and any other such goodies to yourself. Make sure a good neighbor intercepts these things for you, as lonely packages tend to walk off within a day of sitting at your doorstep. Send enough for yourself and your neighbor who no doubt experiences the same withdraw symptoms as you.

Some of my favorite things...


Penn Cove Mussels

Specialty Teas

Rishi is absolutely the best tea brand out there. Other great brands are Mighty Leaf and Taylors of Harrogate.

2) Consider Building a Mini Greenhouse or Growing/Drying Your Own Herbs.
I’ve yet to encounter a bulk bin in any Hannibal grocer. I know these things don’t exist ever since the day I frantically left my house in search of dried lavender for my tea. I discovered every grocer in town and upon asking, locals looked at me like the lavender freak I was – I just had to have my fix.

3) Invest in Reusable Ice Packs and a High-Performance Travel Cooler.
If you stay in your midwest small town for extended periods of time, you will crave those perishables which simply don’t exist there (at least not with the quality of freshness you are used to). In my case, this includes salmon steaks, dungeness crab, and octopus. You can usually take these items with you on an airplane with no problem (call and ask the airline if you have reservations about these items’ admittance). If you need to use real dry ice (available at most metropolitan grocers), just label the package or whatever “dry ice”. It is best to freeze perishables for about 3-4 days before your trip. Here's an important tool for toting salmon from Seattle to Hannibal:

Technic Ice. This lasts much longer than dry ice, is reusable, and does not leave a mess. Available on eBay for $3.99.

Oh yes, remember that your neighbors would much appreciate a nicely cooked salmon steak, so make sure you bring enough. You probably could care less about sharing with your neighbor(s) within your metropolitan turf. You likely don't even know them, but things are definitely different in a much smaller town.

4) Learn to Bake If You Love Artisian Bread.

5) Frequent Your Small Town Farmer’s Market Whenever You Get a Chance.
Why is it lettuce in the heartland is served yellow and of no other variety than iceberg? Or worse, hydroponically grown and fossil-fuel trucked to the small town local grocer? I mean, I’m in America’s bread-basket! Farmer’s Market to the rescue… I purchase a variety of the fresh stuff for a mere $2.00 per large baggie. Good news – salad dressing at most grocers will be about 1/2 the price of what you’d pay in a large metropolitan area.

This should be enough to get you started. Do these things before you become known as the wild-eyed, lavender freak in your small town.

No comments: