DAY ONE - MONDAY
Logic told me to create a weekly menu and a shopping list, generated from a mental picture of what we assumed we could find during a snowy March in Vermont. As a starting point, we decided on fish tacos (crazy, I know), white bean & kale soup, pasta with red sauce and vegetable curry with rice. Easy choices, except for the fish, but river trout is caught regularly in these parts, maybe we can find a frozen one? I started by shopping at a large retailer, Shaw's in Manchester, Vermont. I stepped up to the fish counter and immediately focused on where the fish was from, rather than its family name: Peru, Vietnam, Thailand and a couple items from USA (Pacific Salmon and itsy bitsy, not very appealing grayish shrimp). A woman stepped up and put on her plastic gloves, getting ready to serve me one of her delicacies. She was a bit put off when I first asked from where in the USA came the itsy bitsy grayish shrimp and flatly replied, "the Gulf." Obviously not excited by that answer, I asked her if they carried anything local such as trout? She just looked at me and shook her head, meaning, 'Are you nuts? We live in Vermont!' I asked if she had anything from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine? She shook her head, meaning 'no' without stating a word. So I searched the coolers and frozen aisle for something, ANYTHING local, then defeated, moved onto the 'fresh' meat section to see if I could find a substitute.
Rummaging through the various brands of red and white meats for about 10 minutes, I resigned myself to the fact that I chose the wrong store and left with the non-local items we had decided to purchase and a couple of local surprises like whole-grain tortillas from Canton, MA and pasta sauce from Dell'Amore in Colchester, VT. I also stocked up on apples and apple cider (Dwight Miller Orchards, Dummerston, VT - only 10 miles from our house!) and dairy items from Cabot Creamery (Cabot, VT) and Thomas Dairy (Rutland, VT). I sent a mental thank-you note to all dairy farmers for toughing out the cold winter while caring for our milk-producing goddesses. Not deterred, I drove 12 miles to the closest year-round produce stand (Dutton's in Manchester, VT), which was closed.
I experienced a brief moment of produce panic. How am I going to feed my family for a week without fresh produce? As I drove towards home, I focused on that same evening's dinner menu rather than the week ahead. Looks like we aren't having fish tacos! That was definitely a decision made by an idealist rather than a realist. I brainstormed substitutions for the fish and did a mental inventory of farms close to my homestead that may have frozen meat for sale, since I had already dispelled my carbon emission allotment for the day. HillTop Farm! Why hadn't I thought of this sooner? One mile past my driveway, at the top of White's Hill, Becky, my neighbor and friend, had recently become USDA certified and has fresh pork stored in her freezers. Pulled Pork! Of course! I could push the tacos into our future and get out my slow cooker. It was a sunny day so we'd have plenty of electricity (check back for my next article on raising teens off the grid). We would have to engineer some creative side dishes for our veggie daughter Ivy, but it could work. I pulled over and texted Becky. She texted back immediately and told me she'd take a pork shoulder out of the freezer right away.
Menu for Day One:
Pulled Pork Shoulder - Hill Top Farm, East Dover, VT
Homemade BBQ Sauce - Made on site by yours truly with Rennsli Comfort Catsup
Mashed Potatoes - Maine, already in house
Collard Greens - California, already in house
Fresh Apple Cider - Dwight Miller Orchards, Dummerston, VT
Moist Cornbread - cornmeal & baking products already in house