Monday, June 15, 2009

& So It Begins Again...

I've got the blues. Allow me to elaborate...

Several months ago now, we experienced a tortilla chip crisis.

It's a rare breed of chip that is organic, locally-sourced & also delicious, yet the Whole Grain Milling Co. chips possess all of these qualities. In fact, these may be some of the best corn chips you will ever eat besides those you make fresh at home or find in a good Mexican restaurant. Better than the national brands, hands down. To suggest otherwise in certain circles risks choosing pistols or cutlasses at dawn, & by "certain circles" I mean me. They're that good.

Those who followed this blog last summer may be aware that the sacred coupling of chip & homemade salsa could be considered the backbone of our Eat Local diets. Fact is, eating local (even at the minimum level) requires quite a bit of cooking from scratch. I love to cook, but I often found myself at a lack for time or energy to whip up a meal. Local salsa fresca can be made in large batches & makes for a great, refreshing "filler" meal for those times when you're starving but can't be bothered to touch the stove. Or do any more damn dishes afterwards. I'm sure I'm not the only Challenger to have eaten salsa on a daily basis. Chips & Salsa are the bedrock, the staff of life, the trump card... & the inside joke.

So imagine the dismay when word came down the pike that Whole Grain Milling was discontinuing their fabulous chips! Besides the simple fact that they are awesome, their local status (although complicated by shipping to & from the chip factory) made them indispensable. I mean, we could learn how to make our own masa harina corn flour & produce our own local chips but that would pretty much negate the purpose. A vital convenience would become a massive inconvenience, & feast would become famine. Was all lost?

Our final shipment sold out in a matter of days. Shoppers & Staff were witnessed buying 3 or 4 bags at a time. I myself bought my last 2 bags of blues with the resolute intention of holding them back until the start of the Eat Local season... & ate them all within about a week- Suffice it to say that you do not want to be the other person in the lifeboat. Weeks of hand-wringing & hangdog expressions followed (Really. Seriously. Marketeers are indeed food dorks!) Letter writing & petition campaigns were considered. Dark times indeed.

Then, one day, the yellow chips returned to our shelves, like gifts from mysterious & capricious corn chip gods. I happen to much prefer the blue corn variety, but I was still happy that I'd at least have something to dip in my salsa. Soon afterwards, I was walking through the chip section & saw... the blue chips!

I let out a (manly) squeal. Literal tears of joy fogged my vision. I'm pretty sure I hugged somebody. The woman shopping next to me looked briefly alarmed & startled, but regained her Minnesotan composure. A ship on the horizon, a plane in the sky... Salvation!

You may think I'm being hyperbolic, inflating a mundane experience to pad a blog entry. But this is how deeply meaningful eating locally has come to be for me. It's almost scary. I hope that newcomers to the Challenge can experience the same excitement as they become more interwoven with the local food fabric. Minus the grocery aisle freakouts. No, I honestly hope you have those, too.

Basic Local Salsa
(hydroponic tomato, green garlic, fresh cayenne pepper & cilantro)
served with Blue Corn Chips

So, yeah. Long story short, I made my first batch of local salsa, tonight. Having the blues never felt so good.


Al said...

I'm with you. Whole Grain Milling is the best chip I've ever had. Hands down. I too was distraught when they left the shelves. I didn't quite yelp when they returned, but I was happy. Just bought three bags of the yellows a couple days ago for a party I'm having tonight. Looking to spread the gospel of Whole Grain Milling.

Never tried the blues though. I'll have to get on that.

nano said...

Sounds like quite a party!

Is that like a bag per guest? ;-)

But seriously, the Blues should not be slept on...