In 2004, when I was contemplating moving to Iowa from the Washington D.C. area, one of the things I worried most about was losing access to interesting dining and cooking experiences.
“Is there Vietnamese food?” I asked the person who I planned to follow out to the Midwest. “Because if there’s no Vietnamese food, I’m not coming.”
He dutifully sent me a few web links to the names and addresses of Vietnamese restaurants within 50 miles of Iowa City. I grudgingly agreed to move, but made sure to get a solid dose of Bun Cha Gio, Ga xa and Pho before getting on the plane.
I’ve now lived in Iowa City for more than two years, and, for all my pre-Iowa yapping, haven’t even made it to a Vietnamese restaurant out here. Instead, I’ve feasted on American prosciutto from Norwalk, Iowa; amazing salsa from Wellman, Iowa; and single source honey from Watertown, Minnesota.
Sure, I gnaw on sweet corn like nobody’s business in the summer, but I’ve also discovered Iowa farmers grow Muscatine melons, which might be the sweetest melons I’ve ever tasted.
I find a wealth of the local food products through Edible Iowa River Valley, a quarterly magazine that examines just what makes eating in Iowa so interesting. (Full disclosure: I’m a contributor to the magazine, but was already a subscriber before I started writing for them!)
The latest issue just hit the streets in Eastern Iowa, and it’s a great resource for local food products and places to find them throughout the region. This is the magazine’s fifth issue, and Publisher Wendy Wasserman and Editor Kurt Michael Friese have managed to weave together an impressive tapestry of stories about the region. The Des Moines Register even profiled Wendy today and talked a little further about the magazine and its goals.
In this issue, you’ll find stories about Fort Madison’s Lost Duck Brewery, a cover story about Iowa’s expanding taste for goats, and, my contribution this time around, a story about locally-grown chestnuts, just in time for all that roasting-over-an-open-fire business.
Genie Gratto also blogs at The Inadvertent Gardener.