*Please Be Warned* I run the risk of offending some of you with this post, but if I do, at least I have will have your attention, and perhaps you will be able to help me.
In precisely 14 days, as my boyfriend was so sweet to point out to me tonight, I will be traveling into the deep recesses of America --with my mother-- to none other than Fort Smith, Arkansas. Having visited this place many times over my lifetime, along with a number of the other states that have banded together through their efforts to house the most obese, unhealthy, close-minded populations, I collectively refer to this little collaboration as the armpit of America.
Now before you go getting all upset with me about this overgeneralization, please know that I am currently in a state of crisis (as you'll see if you continue reading), and as such I cannot minimize my judgment on the South at this point in time. And while I am well aware that there are many beautiful places in all of the abovementioned states, I personally have not been lucky enough to see those parts. Unless it is has a buffet-style eatery, a flea-market or an antique-row, it's not likely that it was one of the stops for my family growing up. Also, each of my relatives, with the exception of those of us lucky enough to be born in CO, is from the likes of Oklahoma, Georga, Nebraska and Arkansas, so I feel like I have enough of it in me to have license to dislike the South.
So many factors in this equation add up to a bad time... I don't think there's time enough in one blog post to cover it all.
I like to regard myself as someone who is capable of seeing something positive in everything, and because I'm a firm believer that a bad attitude begets a bad time, I'm trying my hardest to think more optimistically about this trip than not. But I'm coming up short.
First, there's the fact that I'm making this journey with my mother. Don't get me wrong, I love that lady an awful lot. But we are two VERY different people --in pretty much every imagniable way, with the exception of our habitual mannerisms, and a genetic endowment of unfortunately defined "jowels" (Isn't that what those lines on the sides of your mouth and nose that make your face look fat are called?). She's a smoker, an unhealthy eater, and thinks exercise means walking to the mailbox. She's set in her ways and opinionated -ok so we might be similar in that respect as well. But when she expresses her "opinions" she has no regard for anyone around her, which has proved to be utterly mortifying for me on many an occasion. I'm glad to be able to spend some time with her, but a week is pushing it for us.
Secondly, this adventure is highly inconvenient for me. I just returned from a vacation when she asked me to accompany her, meaning I'm taking extra time off of work, when I really have no time to be taking off, and am low on funds as it is (from aforementioned vacation). None the less, I can't stand the thought of her traveling alone, so I of course, agreed to go with.
I'm sure it must've been a couple of minutes after I agreed to go on the trip that the thought of the third major problem hit me... What am I going to eat while we're there? Ok, so I know I just wrote a whole blog post about how irritating it is when non-veg peeps constantly ask me about where I get my protein, when really it's so easy, blah blah blah -so it may be somewhat hypocritical when I say this, but Where the heck do I get food in the epitome of the bacon-belt?!
Recognizing that I was probably stereotyping our neighbors to the South, and acknowledging that, from what I remember, Fort Smith seemed slightly less hick-ish than other places I've visited, I immediately conducted a google-maps search for food/groceries/grocery-stores/healthy food/alternative food/vegetarian, etc. etc. The good news is that I don't feel like such a stereotyper now because my bleak opinion of the South (in terms of food options) was completely on target according to my brief internet searching.
Panic has officially set in, as my impending adventure in the land of pork-rinds and pickled pigs' feet grows nearer. I did locate the closet Whole Foods- which will be only a short drive of 168 miles should I become desperate enough. Can I drive that far if I'm hallucinating from hunger though? Thinking maybe Google just isn't too fond of the South either, I quickly checked both my Healthy-Food-Nearby and Urban Spoon Apps with the Fort Smith location, and guess what? Nada. Not a vegetarian-friendly restaurant to be found. Well, not a single restaurant, to be specific. This place isn't even on the map as far as these widely used apps are concerned. Not surprisingly, because these are the people who ask if you still eat chicken when you tell them your'e vegetarian.
It may seem obvious to you that I could just visit a grocery store and prepare my own meals. Voila! Problem solved, right? Wrong. The people we're staying with in Arkansas (a sweet, elderly couple not unlike family, whose house was incidentally the destination of nearly every childhood vacation I ever took) don't cook. At all. The closest thing to cooking that this gal has done in the past 60 years is pushing down the lever on the toaster. In fact, I'm quite sure that she's not used the oven in as many years, and wouldn't even know if it worked. Additionally, folks who NEVER cook, don't have cause to keep such useless items as cookware, cooking utinsils, etc. around the house to collect dust. So that was a lovely thought you had there, but I'm even out of luck in that way!
During my investigation, I did discover what is termed a "health-foods-store" a couple of towns over, so there is some hope. I have a suspicion, however, that it may be a store carrying only items I would need to prepare... posing a bit of a problem.
I did express concern to my mom about this whole eating situation, and much to her credit, she is trying to be more supportive of my "lifestyle". Being from the South herself, I think this i huge. She tried to be encouraging by saying, "Don't worry, we'll find you things to eat. They mostly like to eat Chinese. You can eat Chinese."
Well this is true. I can eat Chinese... It might be a carrot and a zucchini that I have to specially request they cook separately and then feel skeptical of the whole time I'm eating it, but I can eat Chinese. My other go-to is chips and salsa. I'm usually pretty confident about chips and salsa, and I know this is defintiely an option while we're there, as our elderly friends do enjoy a good chimichanga. But one cannot live on chips and salsa alone (and a carrot).
So here's my plan thus far:
#1. Check a bag. (I NEVER check luggage... not even on a 15 day international trip...) Of food. Yes, of just food. Now who's gonna be the crazy lady at the airport? This girl. I woudn't even be opposed to ditching most of my personal items in lieu of food to avoid checking luggage, but something tells me the TSA wouldn't be permissive of a week's worth of food in my carry-on, even if i did somehow manage to keep each item below 3 ounces...
"Ma'am, I know there's nothing on the sign, but 4 cans of beans separated into 3 oz. containers is simply not permitted."
Besides, I'd never be able to squeeze enough sustenance for a week into a quart-sized ziplock. Perhaps my checked suitcase stuffed full of dried fruits and nuts, cereal, aseptically-packaged almond milk (don't want to risk relying on the Piggly Wiggly to carry this), raw-revolution bars and homemade quinoa/flax/coconut/oat survival muffins will give the baggage handlers something to chuckle about if they catch a glimpse of it going through the xray machine... I just hope my "comforts of home" don't put my bag over the weight limit! Question: Do they even xray checked luggage?
#2. Plan a road trip to Whole Foods. I'm pretty sure I'll welcome the opportunity to get away anyway, and with unlimited miles on the rental car, why not? Maybe I'll rock it road-trip-style, with cold-packs and everything, on my renegade mission to retrieve the food of "my people." I'll definitely visit the little health foods store in the nearby town, but I think I kind of like the idea of a solo adventure slightly based on survival. Ok, not really survival... unless referring to the survival of my sanity.
I suppose this little post is mostly just me venting...and panicing... and venting... but I'm also hoping my veg-friends out there (meaning you) might be able to help me out! Any advice? Keep in mind that everyone I'll have the pleasure of sharing meals with think I'm just an idealistic, granola-crunching-hippie, which is not necessarily inaccurate, but it's fair to say I will be alone on my quest for healthy food.
Well, wish me luck! Or leave me some suggestions of healthy places in Fort Smith, Arkansas where a girl can snag some vegan goodness (I'm still not entirely convinced that google didn't just omit something wonderful). For now, I'm off to start packing my pantry into my luggage!