This article first appeared in the June, 2008 issue of Nougat Magazine.
My first meal in Germany took place in the home of my beloved German older "sister," whom I had not seen since I was two. Within minutes after I met her husband and family on a November Sunday afternoon, we all sat down to enjoy homemade German apple cake, whipped cream, coffee and warm conversation. I asked questions about the fine apple cake. My friend spoke of the wonders of Kentucky's bacon and corn on the cob, tastes she cherished while on our farm.
During a month in Germany, I ate countless new foods, starting every day with a new selection of fresh bread, butter, cheeses and sausages my friends bought half a block from their house. From the crisp hot waffles sold on Düsseldorf streets to the poppy seed cake in an ornate Munich tea room, the vivid tastes of Germany thrilled me.
Now I would like for my community to return the favor and use local flavors to dazzle the global taste buds of our guests at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010. With good planning and hard work, we can serve our guests outstanding Kentucky food, instead of something "American" from a refrigerated truck.
The Games take place during the peak of harvest season: September 25 ' October 10, 2010. Sweet fall corn, tomatoes, green beans, kale and other greens, peppers, and squashes will be ready, along with superb local apples, freshly made sorghum, pumpkins, and grapes. Wild persimmons, black walnuts and hickory nuts may be ready for eating. Fine organic pastured beef, pork, chicken, turkeys, lamb, and goats will be available. We could offer rabbit, venison, squab, quail, pheasant, fish and shrimp from Kentucky land and waters. We can serve excellent organic cheeses and unparalleled eggs. With some policy changes and quick ramping up, we might even offer fresh organic milk, butter, eggs, and cream from Kentucky dairies.
When I visited a food festival about an hour from Lexington earlier this spring, a few dozen food vendors sold an amazing array of non-local food: funnel cakes, Polish sausage, pizza, burgers and dogs, soft drinks, and ice cream, all trucked in from somewhere else and cooked, from the smell, in Ancient Grease. By contrast, with planning, and with cooperation among growers, processors, and vendors, the food carts at the World Equestrian Games ' and at Kentucky's rich array of local festivals ' could offer superior Kentucky burgers and sausages on Kentucky buns, Kentucky ice cream, Kentucky pizza, and Kentucky sorghum suckers, candied apples, fried and baked sweets.
A bit later this spring I went to the Kentucky Horse Park for a meeting just after the final day of the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event. In the middle of the massive cleanup, I saw a line of vendor carts, each touting the same commercial lemonade drink. I imagined these carts transformed in two years to offer Kentucky blackberry and raspberry fizz, Kentucky apple juice, Kentucky spring water, Kentucky peach sodas, Kentucky grape-ade, even Kentucky celery and cucumber coolers. Stella's Kentucky Deli at 143 Jefferson Street has been making and offering Kentucky sodas for some time now, and they taste delicious. They taste like our land.
We want to send our guests home with a clear and specific array of exquisite Kentucky tastes to last them a lifetime. We want them to be ambassadors for the wonders of Kentucky, returning often themselves, and sending friends, children, and students here from now on. If they eat great Kentucky food here, they will be our friends for life.
A lot needs to happen quickly if we are to grow and process enough Kentucky food to supply even a portion of the meals, snacks, and drinks our worldly-wise guests will need in two years. Farmers need contracts. Processing and distribution wrinkles need to be ironed out. It will be challenging, and it will be exhilarating.
We can plow effort and money into making more Kentucky farms, processors, and distributors successful, or we can ship it away to the mega-agri-food-corp shareholders and executives. I hope and trust we Kentuckians have better taste than that.