From GENE LOGSDON
Out here in the flatland corn forests of the Midwest, we boast that we have the localest food in the country. Some of it never travels farther than 200 feet, the average distance between barn and house.
Souse is one such delicacy. If you don’t know about souse you are a mere fledgling in the world of local foods. If you do know about it, you may refer to it more often as loco food. You can find out about it in cookbooks, but I can save you the time. Souse is the inedible parts of a hog cooked to a gelatinous mass that has the consistency and taste of Vaseline washed in vinegar. If it is not a local food where you live, count your blessings.
Blood pudding is another loco food still made in our county. Some cookbooks have recipes for it but none of them tell the whole story. Frontier farmers eking out a living before giant tractors were discovered in the primeval forests invented this savory dish. It consists of everything in or on a razorback hog that can’t be eaten until one is near starvation. After surviving on the stuff in one’s youth, old timers keep forcing it on younger generations out of loyalty to the past. Younger generations, worried about the future of mankind, have been known to make blood pudding disappear on the way from barn to the kitchen. It goes from barn to doghouse, ten feet away, making it the grand champion of all local foods.
If you are a locavore, be thankful you don’t live in Kentucky. A local dish where my wife grew up is called Kentucky oysters. I don’t know how to say it delicately so I will just say it. Kentucky oysters, or mountain oysters in other states, are pig gonads. My wife insists they are actually not bad.
I myself am glad that I don’t live in California where avocados are local food. To me an avocado tastes something like a wad of cotton that has been immersed in three year old lard for a few days. Californians keep trying to pawn their avocados off on unsuspecting flatlanders in the cornbelt. My mother tried to hide some in a salad once, but I fetched every single slice out before my brother and sisters could be harmed.
Our village of Harpster, Ohio (the inspiration for the fictitious town of Gowler in my novel, The Last of the Husbandmen) is the most local place I know. You can saunter from one end of it to the other faster than a three hundred pound lineman on the Cleveland Browns can run a football field in high gear. It is so local that within my memory it had its own telephone exchange in the front parlor of Miss Fanny’s house which looked out on the road that goes through “town.” Using the telephone was so much more advanced in those days. One merely picked up the receiver and waited for Miss Fanny’s voice.
“I need to talk to Pinky at the store.”
“Oh, he’s not there right now, Gene. Saw him headed west, probably out to his mother’s. Should I ring her up?”
Now that’s local.
A favorite local food in Harpster used to be rattlesnake steak. The Killdeer swamps south of the village abounded in rattlers— still do— but since old Mr. Meincer died, I don’t know of anyone who actually eats them anymore. Back then though, farmers who had bought land there because it was level and black but turned out to be too wet to make much of a crop, had to get by as best they could. That’s why blood pudding is still popular around here. Beats rattlesnake steak. Moonshine was the other local food during Prohibition. Well, it has corn in it so I guess it’s a food.
Our most famous local food however comes out of a village on the other side of the county called Lovell. For years the Lovell Market was the place to buy really good jerky. People drove from all over northern Ohio to get some. It was even written up in newspapers and magazines. Which brings up a philosophical point. If you live in Cleveland but buy your jerky in Lovell two hours away, is that local food in your case? It is a mystery to me why so many people love Lovell’s jerky. It is so stringy and dry that if you are a fast chewer and an adept swallower, you could starve to death on it in less than four days.
All of which leads me to believe that it would be a whole lot more fun to be a locavore in a neighborhood of fine restaurants, like, say, in Paris, France, than in my neck of the woods. But there are some local delicacies even Paris can’t offer. When we really get hungry, we roast a young groundhog.