Monday, July 18, 2011

Food Revolution Road Trip11 Day 4: Not a Veggie in Sight

Where we are: Rapid City, South Dakota

Plan for the day: Gold panning! It's Fourth of July!

Food Revolution Challenge: stealth breakfast moves and portion sizes

Hotel breakfast bars are interesting places. Firstly, I notice that most of them have Yoplait yogurt. In fact, many of the grocery stores we went to carried just Yoplait and a tiny smattering of other brands. Why is that? Here at home, there is a huge variety of kinds of yogurt from a pile of different brands. Is it a yogurt monopoly?

Secondly, there's always pastries, danishes, and cupcakes posing as muffins, massive all white bagels, and usually there's some kind of pseudo egg product as well. At the Howard Johnson, they also offer waffles, hot pockets, some fruit, and hard boiled eggs. We decide to begin practicing breakfast bar stealth moves. Probably bringing our own cereal in the box last year was too obvious (and resulted in some reactions from other diners), so this time Kevin arrives with a bowl of his own cereal poured from our box in the room. I have brought my own bread and just slip it in the toaster. Don't get me wrong-the hotel bread is okay, but I find it's not substantial enough to hold up to my sunflower butter. Usually it goes soggy.

Then, as we eat, we watch.

(Warning: I'm going to describe what I observed fellow diners eating for breakfast. The following isn't criticism. If you are sensitive to this type of thing and my description might offend you, skip ahead.)

A woman near me sits down with two large plates overflowing with food. At first I think perhaps she has gotten breakfast for a companion, but I'm wrong. Heaped on her plate is a waffle with five pats of butter and a paper cup she earlier filled with syrup. On the other plate is two slices of toast, 2 hard boiled eggs, fruit, and yogurt. She proceeds to eat it all. A teenager at another table makes a giant waffle sandwich from stacking two large waffles with cheese and processed ham he brought with him. A preschooler gnaws on a plain bagel the size of her face. Another takes huge bites from a 500 calorie chocolate muffin. Beside us, a couple have hot pockets and waffles with 4 pats of butter each, drenched in syrup.

"Mom, how much is 52 ounces?" Kevin pokes me gently. "I saw it on a sign at the gas station. Something about getting a 52 ounce pop for $1.19."

"It's about a liter and a half," I take a bite of toast thoughtfully. "8 ounces is one cup. So that means it's about 6 cups."

"That is GROSS," Kevin shakes his head. "Nobody needs THAT amount of pop. People wouldn't even drink that much water in one sitting."

"I think," I choose my words carefully, after surveying the room, "People have lost all sense of what a normal portion size IS."

We see it everywhere, from the breakfast bars to gas stations, restaurants and fast food menus. It's not even so much the food that shocks us anymore, we are used to that. It's the amount. Didn't we see signs somewhere that in America, one in six people don't have enough to eat?

I really don't understand. At all. The unbalance is unsettling.

Once breakfast is over, we head out to Custer, where we visit some friends and they send us out to a mining claim so Kevin and John can pan for gold.

Checking out the claim, gold, gold panning, Custer, South Dakota

Checking out the claim to be sure we're in the right place.

I'm not really prepared-it's hot and buggy, not to mention also slightly boring to be sitting around while John and Kevin are digging in the mud. They, on the other hand, are as happy as a pig in..well...mud.

Gold panning, South Dakota, Custer

Got any gold yet?

Is there gold in there?, gold, gold panning, South Dakota, Rapid City

Finally, I bail on the guys and hike back to the car for a bottle of water and some chick pea salad I whipped up in the hotel room. (recipe over here!) Soon John and Kevin join me, flushed from the sun and hungry.

Chick pea salad for lunch, chick peas, salad, lunch, healthy

Tip: bring some single serving sized plastic containers shaped like bowls with you. They are invaluable when making your own lunches. This salad was made with a can of chick peas, a can of tuna, handful of cherry tomatoes, a bit of green onion, some shredded carrot, then 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar shaken in a jar and poured over top, tossing with a bit of salt and pepper.

We shop in the afternoon at JC Penny's before calling it a day and heading to the Firehouse restaurant for dinner. Here is where I notice it again-most of the menu is lots of meat, served in giant sized portions. There are few vegetarian options. Earlier that morning in the local newspaper, someone was lamenting that dried chick peas should be the rarest legume on Earth the way people looked at them when they asked if stores carried them at all.

It's going to be a long couple of days eating in South Dakota.

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