Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I'm going to start here:

because these are the only ingredients in our Iowa meal that did not come from within about an hour's drive of our house.

Iowa gets a lot of attention as the home of industrial agriculture. We have the dubious distinction of being the largest producer of corn, soy, laying hens and hogs. Michael Pollan, while visiting our fair city, called Iowa a "food desert." I take issue with that, because the seemingly endless rows of corn and beans exist alongside an ever expanding system of food production. Real food, that doesn't require processing and that people can eat as soon as it's harvested.

Our meal highlights only a small portion of that real food. This meal was remarkably easy to source and prepare. None of these are strange, specialty foods, they're available in abundance this time of year. It was a feast of grilled pork chops, tomato and mozzarella salad, rosemary roasted potatoes, fresh organic micro-greens, and sliced apples.

Tomatoes from Friendly Farm, Iowa City IA

Our usual procedure with this project has been to think of foods that are culturally relevant to each particular state. Meals introduced by immigrants, for example, or those traditional to the native people of the area. This meal is based on geography, but it also reflects some of Iowa's heritage and incorporates some of the products for which the state is known.

The pork chops came from our favorite local pork producer, Dennis Rehberg from Walker Iowa. His Hampshire hogs are an heirloom breed valued for their tender, marbled meat. In addition, his genetics (the line of hogs that he has bred for nearly 30 years) are some of the last available. No one in the state, possibly in the country, has this particular line of hogs. We like bone-in chops, which we rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before grilling. Marc used a new brand of charcoal, which was hotter than he expected, giving them a nice, dark char.

The rosemary potatoes have become a standard dish around here. Simply cut potatoes into wedges, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped fresh rosemary and roast at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes, tossing once half way through. They are consistently crisp outside and tender inside.

Lucy took charge of the tomato salad, one of her favorite dishes. She sliced the tomatoes, picked and sliced the basil and added fresh mozzarella cheese curds, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

We didn't have to drink water, either (believe me!). Iowa now boasts many excellent local beverage options!

We were all happy to eat this meal, in part because we would get to brag about our state to all of you! Here are the producers:

Pork: Dennis Rehberg; Walker, IA
Tomatoes: Friendly Farm; Iowa City, IA
Mozzarella curds: Acoustic Farms; Springville, IA
Basil: Our garden
Potatoes: Oak Hill Acres; Atalissa, IA
Rosemary: Grinnell Heritage Farm; Grinnell, IA
Micro-Greens: Organic Greens; Kalona, IA
Apples and Cider: Wilson's Apple Orchard; Iowa City, IA
Pale Ale: Peace Tree Brewing Company; Knoxville, IA
White Wine: Cedar Ridge Winery; Cedar Rapids, IA
Rye Whiskey: Templeton Rye; Templeton, IA

Iowa, You Make Me Smile!

Next Stop: Virginia


  1. WHat a fabulous job you did of speaking so well
    about the wonderful state of Iowa.
    Loved ALL the photos.

  2. Just found your blog through beauty that moves...and I am so excited! Can't wait to see what you come up with for Maine...although I am assuming lobster and steamers, since that seems to be the norm for this state. Loving all the pictures and new options for meals!

  3. Thanks, Heather! We are cautiously excited about Maine--never having cooked a lobster, I welcome any advice!

  4. wanted to say too-'hats off
    for all the local products used!