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Small Towns


GlorifiedRice
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Hi,

Something in a politics chat tonight made me think of the small county of Cameron in Pennsylvania. In 1900 it had 5,460 people living in it. In 2000 it had 5,974, so you see it hasnt gotten much bigger. It has 3 schools which serve the entire county.

I zoomed in on the county seat in Emporium (the largest town) on Google Earth and I could not locate a Grocery Store!

Theres 10 + bars in the county, 5 banks, a Sheetz and a Unimart.

Not even a Walmart or a McDonalds!

No Grocery Stores in the entire county!!!

What do you eat and how do you cook anything in Cameron County or any small out of the way town or place?

Do you have to drive 30 to 40 miles to the next town or county to stock up your freezer?

What is the point of living in the boonies if every steak or chicken you eat has to be thawed and salads have to be eaten the 3 days after each stock up?

I mean Shady Maple (Huge Supermarket) in East Earl, Pa 45 miles away from me near Philly has an awful seafood selection, I can just imagine what its like even further inland.

If you live in a small town how do you eat fresh and yummy?

Do you live out of your freezer and small garden?

Wawa Sizzli FTW!

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Okay, I live in a VERY small town - pop. 200 (yes only 2 zeros) in the eastern wheatbelt area of Western Australia. Actually, I live 50 km further east. The town has a primary school, 2 banks (part time), a hotel "resort" / pub / eatery, bakery, post office, beautician, hairdresser, chemist, a butcher and two stores (and a lot more besides).

Our butcher has his own abattoir, we get fresh poultry, pork, lamb, beef. Frozen fish is also available. There is also a refrigerated vehicle that visits the town (and outlying farms) offering frozen fish, shellfish, lasagne, pizza etc.

The two stores in town offer a reasonable range of foods. One sells cooked chicken and then uses the oven to cook a small range of artisanal type breads. The range of vegetables is adequate but not huge. Salad veges actually last quite well in the fridge (especially if you have a car fridge to get them home). I shop every 7-9 days depending on what other reason I have to go to town.

I have a pigeon pair fridge / freezer. We have a decent sized car fridge and use that to fully stock the freezer. I buy milk in 3 litre bottles and store it in the freezer. We have frozen vegetables on standby, frozen bread, meat etc. Water is in short supply out here, so no vege garden (actually no garden or lawn except for some chives and rosemary).

If there is a particular item I want to buy, often I can ask and the store will get it in. They constantly look for new items and get them in for a trial.

However, if I want a more expensive item on a regular basis eg. a special baby formula, bulk nappies, specialty asian foods etc, then that must wait until I either go to the next biggest town (200km from our town) or to Perth (400km).

This has turned into quite a lengthy post but I hope it gives some idea of how we cope.

Edited by Cadbury (log)
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I live in a small town too, although there are a couple supermarkets and a Wal-Mart in the next town over, about 10mi away--so I may not be in the exact situation you're discussing here. I call my town "the rural edge of suburbia" because it's a little over an hour from Washington, DC--and some people out here actually work downtown every day.

I do a helluva lot more driving than I did when I lived in suburbia (or in the city, although I walked and didn't own a car then). I try hard to combine errands. I sometimes work in a town 30min away sometimes and when I'm there I try to hit every place I might need--a natural foods coop, Costco, ethnic markets. A vehicle with 4WD and lots of capacity is important, as are coolers in the summertime. I have a chest freezer and a second fridge to hold any overflow shopping. (If I relied on the markets here, I'd probably exceed my grocery budget quite a lot.)

Work is a big thing--many of the people out here have jobs in more populated areas, so they stop by the shops out there on the way home from work.

Edited by Malawry (log)
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The definition of rural becomes quickly debateable for exactly the reason that malawry describes above. I don't think fringe communities count because they do have relatively easy access. But "fringe" then can be debated...but I digress, that's not the question at hand.

I live in a town of 12,000 two hours from Las Cruces and three hours from an airport (Tucson or El Paso). Our county is larger than a couple of Northeast US states, but I'm sure smaller than Australian counties.

Being a store owner, I know that we we are an anamoly. Before I opened the store 3 years ago, we had our Albertson's (which is not as stocked as large city versions), our Wal-Mart (which is the small town model-no frills), our Piggly Wiggly/AP/small town chain, and our health food co-op. Not too bad...but then we're bigger than a 200 person town. The fresh meat and seafood selections have always been and continue to be terrible. When my store opened (we are an international and gourmet grocery) the foodies in town went bizerk because now they could get Thai, Indian, real cheeses, good Italian, etc. heck, they could even get argan oil and 25 year balsamico. That's not to toot my own horn, but we're really proud of how we've changed the culture of the town in a postive way.

Before us, if you wanted any of those things, you would listen for which friend was driving "to town" and ask them to make a stop for you. But from the store perspective, here's my observation of small town buying. I'm still figuring out what items people like and dislike. With frequency I'll bring an item in to try out, and it will catch on. It takes a long time but word of mouth spreads and the item eventually sells, but let's say it takes 6 months for me to sell my case of Companion Braised Gluten (for a real example). I think its not worth keeping so I don't re-order. Then the five customers who bought it just can't live without it. So I order another case - but we're in a small town so I can't just order when I want, I need enough items to justify the shipping. So it finally comes in two months later. Those five customers rush in and buy me out in a week. Customer six comes in and we don't have it. Then next time I order two cases...now they sit unsold because everyone bought it before thinking I wouldn't have it again and are well stocked. So it sits on my shelf collecting dust.

This cycle happens all the time. When you live in a small town, you hoard items because you just don't know if they'll be there tomorrow.

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I grew up in a small town in Vermont (Wallingford, population less than 1,000) and we did not have a grocery store. The nearest one was in Rutland, about a 15-20 minute drive for us (longer for the folks who live up in the hills around Wallingford and in some of the even smaller places like Ira and Dorset).

All the meat we ate was frozen before we ate it. Usually, we'd buy 1/2 or 1/4 of a steer in the fall, as well as all of a pig and stow it in the large freezer in the shed. Everyone I knew did this too. A) It was cheaper to buy in large quantities like that, B) you didn't have to go into the "city" to buy food as often, and C) you had a backstock for those times when you were snowed in for days at a time and couldn't possibly get to the store.

My mother had (and still has) an enormous garden (larger than some city lots) and so all summer we'd have fresh vegetables (to this day, I can barely stomach zucchini), none of which came from the store. In the winter, we ate mostly frozen stuff--my family was well-off enough that we could afford to stick our noses up at canned veggies, but that certainly wasn't true of most of our neighbors. My mother thought it was a sin to buy winter tomatoes, the only lettuce available was iceburg, and the only fruits were apples and bananas.

There was a general store in town where you could get milk, eggs, and cold cuts--and canned stuff and chips--but it was understandably expensive for the reasons described by gfron1--hard to predict what stock to have on hand and therefore us patrons paid for the priveledge of buying what stock there was. Tragically, the general store has finally died out in Wallingford (at least, the one I remember has--there's a Cumberland Farms, which is the equivalent of a 7-Eleven, and another small store by the post office, but it's not as good as the place I remember) which is, I think, a cultural loss to the town. My "city" friends used to be amazed that I could walk into the store and take my purchases on credit, with no more than a word--no ID, no signing, no nothing--and that simpler time of trust and community has passed now that there are big box stores in Rutland.

But there was a picturesque element to living in a small town too. The dairy farm down the road (which has also since been lost to progress) would fill gallon jugs with fresh milk if you came by before the milk company arrived. The locker in town had the best locally-processed ham steaks. Neighbors would drop off bags of fresh vegetables and homemade jellies and preserves. A woman in town made doughnuts every Saturday and Sunday and, as a special treat, we'd get a couple dozen every so often, packaged in a plain brown paper sack and fresh from her kitchen. Our neighbors sugared every spring and we'd sit in the sugar shack with the sweet smell of boiling maple syrup, pouring off a little taste in paper cups every so often as it reduced.

I tell everyone now that Denver is a rural as I want to be and I mean it, mostly for the availability of the variety of foodstuffs. When we go back to Vermont these days, it's usually in December, when the garden's been put to bed for the winter and fresh vegetables are few and far between. The reality is that rural living, in my experience, is nothing like the buccolic fantasy perpetuated by TV and movies, especially for the rural poor. But I'm not bitter or anything... :rolleyes:

Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.
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I hadn't even thought about all the folks who volunteer to work at our store just to help out, or to get a discount. Last month we had a woman come in and say our front lawn (yes, we have a front lawn at our store- that's rural) looked neglected and asked if she could plant some mums and bulbs for us. We let her :) Then there was the guy who came by last week. He lives in the mountains - some would call him homeless, but he has a home - the mountains, and he brought us a bunch of mushrooms to sell, eat, whatever - and they were good! When we moved into our new building, customers came by to move our inventory, paint the store, run electric for lighting, etc. These are the joys of small town life.

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Just thought I'd pass along a small tidbit along these lines...

While vacationing in Mexico last year, we were drinking beer in the pool and started talking to the people around us. One couple was from Nunavit and another couple, from the US asked where that was.

It was explained as part of northern Canada.

"Next to Alaska?" they asked.

"Well kinda, but more north."

"NORTH of Alaska?...I didn't know there was a "north of Alaska"... "

I asked the young couple (early 30s) how they cope so far north as in fresh vegetables, meats, etc.

They could buy it in a store, but transport costs make many items prohibitively expensive. They simply go without at times

They do rely heavily on drygoods and cans. And as with the majority of households, they purchase a year's worth of stuff and have it barged in during the summer. This task was undertaken by the lady of the house. She's been doing it for so long, it doesn't really phase her.

I've since tried to imagine the reality of writing a year's worth of a shopping list. Not something I'd look forward to.

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I'm spending the holidays at our family(tree) farm in southern Ark./northern La(pop. 400) There is one small grocery, with shelves of generic stuff , and the restaurant is really the fried chicken at the local gas station, what we do is load up at home with Bentons hams and bacon and his prosciutto, and cousins have loaded the freezer with berries, black eyed peas, okra, etc. and bass, crappie and brim, and now there should be some recent venison,as well a one of my uncles hogs broken down. Who the hell needs a Whole Foods?

Edited by Timh (log)
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Just thought I'd pass along a small tidbit along these lines...

While vacationing in Mexico last year, we were drinking beer in the pool and started talking to the people around us. One couple was from Nunavit and another couple, from the US asked where that was.

It was explained as part of northern Canada.

"Next to Alaska?" they asked.

"Well kinda, but more north."

"NORTH of Alaska?...I didn't know there was a "north of Alaska"... "

I asked the young couple (early 30s) how they cope so far north as in fresh vegetables, meats, etc.

They could buy it in a store, but transport costs make many items prohibitively expensive. They simply go without at times

They do rely heavily on drygoods and cans. And as with the majority of households, they purchase a year's worth of stuff and have it barged in during the summer. This task was undertaken by the lady of the house. She's been doing it for so long, it doesn't really phase her.

I've since tried to imagine the reality of writing a year's worth of a shopping list. Not something I'd look forward to.

That's interesting. I was in Baker Lake in Nunavut just a couple years ago, and had the best kiwis i've ever had. And fresh caribou to boot! I didn't think the prices were too outrageous, but then, incomes for most in Nunavut tend to be pretty low. Sadly the town had a KFC, Domino's and Taco Bell.

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I zoomed in on the county seat in Emporium (the largest town) on Google Earth and I could not locate a Grocery Store!

:biggrin: My ex and his family are all from Emporium - he grew up there. I'll have to ask him...

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I have no empirical evidence to back this up but, based on my casual observation, those who reside in rural areas, including those in small towns, are more likely to have their own vegetable gardens. Modern suburban landscaping often does not factor in an area for growing food and, of course, apartment dwellers or those in cities who own homes with tiny lots have little opportunity to grow much more than herbs. Also, many rural areas have numerous small farmstands where the produce sold on any given day was likely to have been picked that morning. And customers of the local farmstands probably did not have to brave heavy traffic and numerous stoplights to get the just-picked sweet corn or tomatoes.

Now, the winter is another matter...

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I have no empirical evidence to back this up but, based on my casual observation, those who reside in rural areas, including those in small towns, are more likely to have their own vegetable gardens.  Modern suburban landscaping often does not factor in an area for growing food and, of course, apartment dwellers or those in cities who own homes with tiny lots have little opportunity to grow much more than herbs.  Also, many rural areas have numerous small farmstands where the produce sold on any given day was likely to have been picked that morning.  And customers of the local farmstands probably did not have to brave heavy traffic and numerous stoplights to get the just-picked sweet corn or tomatoes.

Now, the winter is another matter...

Which is also why you're more likely to find residents canning food in a small town. My mom grew up in a small Kansas town. Her family canned everything from vegetables to chicken to get them through the winter months.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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We lived in the sticks when I was a kid. My mom canned. We had a root cellar. We bought half a cow and put it in a chest freezer in the garage. There was a milkman who also sold bread. I can't remember how often he came by in his truck. Maybe once a week.

Edited by nibor (log)
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i grew up in a small town - actually an island- of 2100 souls (that was the year round number). we did have a grocery on the island(first was Bohacks then it was an IGA ) and then three small independent stores - Fedi's for meats and some groceries and Zavatto's for meat. during the summer there was also Island Food Market that sold incidentals, sandwiches and baked goods provided by our family primarily to the boaters who tied up at their dock to refuel.

we went off island for "big shops" but mostly we grew our own food in a 1/4 - 1/2 acre garden with our "across the street neighbor" aunt belle and foraged. fresh wild aspargaus in the spring, cress, wild grapes in the fall for jams and jellies, wild blackberries and wineberries we froze. the first animals i hunted with bow and arrow when i was 11 were squirrel and rabbit(i didn't like the noise from mom's 12 gage shotgun). from the time i was able to swim at age 3 i went with the family to fish for flounder, blowfish, weaks and stripers, tautog and we scapped(caught scallops in a net since you could not dredge for them on the Sabbath), dredged for scallops, clammed for quahogs and pissers(hard and soft shelled). mom learned to gun and i cooked my first black ducks at age 7. we had mallard and blacks, canada goose - breast primarily and some venison every year. we would buy pork from the Bartilucci family farm and had a chicken coop we kept layers in until they got too old and became Sunday dinner.

i remember the still room off the kitchen where we kept all the jams, jellies and other preserves and the freezer on the converted porch where we kept the frozen meats after they were butchered. i also remember carefully venturing into the cellar where the furnace was and a few of the legendary "exploding green beans" my grandmother had put up were still on the shelves.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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