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Country Living

August 5, 2013

I was born in Boston, spent my early childhood in Brooklyn, and lived in Miami through high school. College was in Philadelphia and after a brief stint back in Miami, I moved out to San Francisco to find my fortune (well, Berkeley, but close enough).

It’s safe to say I’m a city boy.

But I have to tell you, this country thing is growing on me. And where I am right now, is definitely the country. I’m surrounded by cornfields. Windows have no curtains. Doors have no locks. Mostly because there is nobody around.

The first time I came to the farm, we arrived close to midnight after making the cross country flight from California and then taking the long three hour drive from the nearest airport. My girlfriend (who would later became Mrs. Fussy) was eager to introduce me to her pet goat. So she yelled, “Lizzy! LIZZY!”

“Aren’t you going to wake the neighbors?” I asked.
She said, “Oh no, out here nobody can hear you.”

Let me tell you, it’s not nearly so terrifying anymore.

There are now a handful of things I look forward to doing every time we come to the farm. Yes, they all have to do with food. But dammit, food is important.

Outside of Altoona is a great little meat market that makes its own kielbasa and its own sauerkraut. They also grind all of their meat, make some incredible hot dogs, and delicious bacon. They get their meat from local producers, and that means a lot to me. It may not be my ideal happy meat, but the quality is leaps and bounds above the stuff that’s available from the regional grocery chains. We eat more meat on the farm than I do in a typical month. And I try to make sure that most of it comes from here.

There is a produce market near the meat store. But the better one is closer to Bedford, which is a town about 30 minutes south of Altoona. It’s a haul, but they sell homegrown tomatoes and super fresh sweet corn during the summer. They too make their own sauerkraut, which is very good. It’s a bit firmer and less fermented than Holland Bros. It’s the kind I prefer on hot dogs, while the other I like best with pork roasts.

The Meadow’s frozen custard is close by to both places. This dense, eggy frozen treat would run circles around soft serve if it weren’t so darn heavy. Instead it just sits there silently and looks smug and superior, raising one eyebrow at the mention of regular ice cream. I haven’t had my Meadow’s fix yet this trip, and let me tell you, I’m not a happy camper about that.

I did however make a stop at The Cow, which is a landmark seasonal soft serve joint in these parts. Young Master Fussy enjoys their strawberry milkshakes. For me, I always get the ice cream soda. Specifically, the one with chocolate soda and vanilla ice cream. I love that combination. The killer is that in many places, these simple concoctions of seltzer, syrup and soft serve can cost an arm and a leg. Here in the country, it’s a buck eighty. I can’t pass that up.

Within the last couple of years I also discovered the local natural foods store. That too is outside of Bedford. And not only do they have local eggs and danger milk, but they also have some tasty raw milk cheeses. Somehow on this visit Mrs. Fussy convinced me to do without the cheese. To be fair, I have been trying to eat healthy. It’s important when you are spending a month on the road followed by a trip to Paris. I’m saving all of my calories for French butter and bread.

Someone locally must make some butter, but in all honestly, I have yet to really start looking in earnest. The same goes for bread. There was a good bakery in Bedford a few years ago, but sadly it closed up shop. I’m sure there’s some somewhere. I just need to look harder.

After picking up those gorgeous tomatoes, it became apparent that we needed to find some equally gorgeous olive oil. Amazingly, there’s a gourmet Italian market in Bedford. And there Mrs. Fussy and I were offered an olive oil tasting. We didn’t select any bottle from the tasting. Some were quite good, but we weren’t willing to fork out $35 to dress our small handful of tomatoes. But there was a small 100ml bottle of a grassy and fruity olive oil from Sicily for $8 that really hit the spot.

When all of the hunting and gathering was done, we got a call from one of the neighbors. They had heard we were in town and know we love eggs, so they offered to bring over a few from their well loved flock of chickens. Dinner that night was a lovely feast of poached eggs that were truly farm fresh, with homegrown tomatoes, great olive oil, and some Pennsylvania grown sweet summer stone fruit.

Today, I’ll be saying goodbye to the farm for the better part of two weeks. I’m already on my way back to New York. Next stop, Long Island. We’ll have a night in Great Neck and then it’s off to the place where all city boys go when they are trying to escape the city, East Hampton.

But dammit, I’m going to do it like a townie.

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