Since moving home to Chicagoland, our diets have taken some hard hits. Our first month back, we were still trying to find a place to live, let alone shop and cook, so we just did what we had to do to get by and make sure our bellies were full. In other words, a lot of take-out and processed foods.
Once we got settled into the new place, unpacked all of our kitchen tools, and saw the damage the move did to our budget (oy), we got back into the usual swing of things. Or, at least, we tried really hard to.
In Brooklyn, we were members of the (notorious) Park Slope Food Coop and lived near the Flatbush Food Coop. The latter was more of a coop-in-name-only (i.e. really expensive), but it was close and convenient so we did a lot of our shopping there anyway. We relied on the PSFC for our bulk goods (grains, beans, etc.) and most of our produce and what we didn’t get at the PSFC, we tried to pick up at the year-round Cortelyou Greenmarket. In the summer months, we were also members of a CSA, which meant that between June and October we were absolutely drowning in good local organic fruits and vegetables.
In short, we had lots of options for our “weird” way of eating — home cooking, whole foods, organic, mostly local, primarily vegetarian.
Here? Not so much.
We’ve landed in the ‘burbs in an attempt to build our savings back up (living in the second most expensive place in the country the last 7 years certainly didn’t help that), but by setting up house here, we’ve severely limited our food options. We didn’t realize quite how badly until we spent 6 weeks searching for tempeh.
We don’t eat a lot of tempeh, but it’s a good texture to have on hand. We like to toss it in soups, add it to stews, and it’s a central ingredient to our favorite homemade veggie burgers. And once we realized we couldn’t find it, we absolutely had to have it.
Tempeh became our holy grail.
Finding it would mean we could survive the suburbs; not finding it a major blow to our reacclimation.
Over the next couple of weeks, I joked with some East coast friends about it and they responded by teasingly sending me cell phone pics of their stores’ tempeh selections. Multiple stores! Multiple brands and types!
I was so jealous.
We looked in all the local grocery stores without luck. I asked store clerks about it and they looked at me like I had two heads.
“Tempeh? Is that, like… pasta? We have a whole pasta aisle.”
We drove to the next town over and found a grocery store with a pretty respectable “natural” and organic section and still no luck. We started desperately researching online to see if we can just make it ourselves. And then it happened. We went to Trader Joe’s and finally – finally! – they had it in stock!*
It looks like we may survive the suburbs, after all. But just barely.
If you live in a suburban or rural area, how do you find the “weird” foods you crave? If you’re in Chicagoland, do you have any tips or secrets to share? :)
* We’d checked several times before and although they had a label on the shelf for it, they never actually had any and the employees didn’t even seem to know what it was. Sigh. We bought several packs and put them in the freezer, just in case.