Homeyer: Road Food

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(Host) Commentator Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and educator who – like many of us – will be doing some traveling
over the holidays. Along the way, he hopes to discover some local, family-owned
restaurants serving local food – instead of relying on chain
restaurants – even if means getting off the highway.

Over the next few weeks many of us will be traveling. Some will, as the
song goes, travel over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s
house – perhaps to share a holiday dinner. Others will take a jet plane
across the country to be with family or friends to wrap up the old year
and ring in the new. But whatever our plans, these days are sure to be
busy ones, and many of us will grab a bite to eat wherever it’s quickest
and easiest. In other words, this is the time of year when "Fast Food"
franchises are a real temptation – and they’re everywhere.

the past 60 years America has been transformed from a society that dined
at family-run restaurants to one that looks at "Fast Food" as normal.
Every interstate highway has hamburger havens, pizza places and fried
chicken joints that produce food that’s exactly the same in every
location. Prices seem cheap and quality is consistent – even if not the
best for our collective cholesterol level.

But I prefer to eat at family-run restaurants that are more likely to serve locally grown food.

believe that food grown locally tastes better, and I know it supports
local farmers. The food giants that produce the bulk of American food
don’t need my support, but neighborhood farmers trying to sell their
eggs and potatoes do.

Oh, you might say, there are no Mom-n-Pop
restaurants on the interstate. And that’s true. But they do exist not
too far from the exits. I know this, because I often get off the
Turnpike when I’m hungry. I like finding old fashioned restaurants and
diners that offer me more choices – and where I can relax and enjoy a
meal instead of wolfing down my food in 10 minutes before racing off
again toward my destination.

Now, I’ll admit that the food may
not be any healthier at a truck stop than it is at a fast-food burger
place. But the people working there tend to be talkative and
interesting. Wait staff often take time to ask about my trip – or tell
me about the pie. Part of the joy of traveling, for me, is learning
about other people, their values and their opinions. And I don’t mind
letting my shoulder muscles relax while listening to a local person
forecast the weather – or tell me where I can walk my dog without
listening to 18 wheelers roaring down the highway.

Besides – I
think it’s safer to break up a 6 or 8-hour drive with an hour away from
the steering wheel. And if I’m running late, I’ll tell my server. Most
places can accommodate a customer in a hurry.

So as I travel
this holiday season, I’ll take a little extra time to explore local food
options along the way. And that just might include a piece of home-made
apple pie.

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