Sunday, October 09, 2005

America, are you out there?

I read a lot about the death of American culture and American food and I think some of it is true. The American fascination with homogeneity, big business and inexpensive goods has led to some dismal outcomes. Now, you can go to Paris in Los Vegas, eat a Mcdonald's meal in Sheboygan or Los Angeles that will taste exactly the same, and pay a ridiculously low price for meat that is raised in a factory farm on cheap feed using cheap labor. But I do think that indigenous culture remains, that there is more good food than we think in America, and that if we can just find a way to make some of the good things about American life accessible to average American, we will be on the right track. It's merely a matter of recharting our course.

Yesterday we drove thirty minutes outside of San Francisco down Route 1, oohing and awing at the vistas and the Pacific Ocean. We hiked in the redwoods, breathed in the fresh eucalyptus scented air, and felt miles away from the city. Of course, a day trip is never complete without a food find, and this trip yielded two. A stop at the Phipps Country Store, in Pescadero, yielded pumpkins and a huge selection of dried beans that they grow on the property, big ones, small ones, with names like "Jacob's Cattle" and "Chestnut Runner." Recently Phipps has gotten attention for their heirloom beans, and now they're shipping them all over the country. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the funny farmstand, which sells gummy candy and has cages of iguanas out back. They'll ship their beans and have a website:

We left Phipps with lots of beans and a big bag of salted peanuts in the shell and munched them as we headed further down Pescadero Road into the forest. On the way home we stopped at the San Gregorio General Store (, looking for a cup of coffee and maybe a sweet treat. We walked in to the sounds of a bluegrass trio and were thrilled to find a short wooden bar, a wide selection of cast-iron cookware, and a couple of plastic cake stands filled with cookies. The standouts were the date nut bars, tender pastry enclosing a thick layer of date puree studded with chopped walnuts. I'm going to call for the recipe. In the meantime, I suggest you pay them a visit, preferably on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when you can drink a beer, listen to the music and watch the locals come and go.

Who says American culture and American food is dead and gone? In Pescadero and San Gregorio, the music plays on.

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