Last week I brought you on a journey to Roanoke, Virginia, where the food culture is not so vegan friendly, and this week, we’re off to Spring Grove, Minnesota, a tiny Norwegian settlement in the Southeast corner of Minnesota boasting a population of 1,200 people… a modern-day village that I am proud to call my hometown. Not unlike Virginia, most restaurants in Minnesota are meat and dairy forward, and finding delicious vegan options, especially in my hometown, is nearly impossible. For the longest time, my grandparents couldn’t grasp the concept of veganism and had no idea what I ate to survive — they have since come around, and are now trying to adopt a more vegetable forward diet. Thankfully, Spring Grove is a farming community, so fresh produce is abundant in the summertime.
In terms of food, the thing I look forward to most when visiting home is drinking a Black Cherry soda from Spring Grove Soda Pop Company — I never drink soda, but I allow myself to have one during my trips home. The company was founded in 1895 by pharmacist G.G Ristey, who served soda from a soda jerk counter that was a staple of his pharmacy. To meet customer requests of having soda that they could bring home, Ristey and his brother-in-law purchased bottling equipment and began producing soda that was sold at local venues. The company has changed owners throughout the years, but the original recipes have gone unchanged, and the company continues to produce nine, pure cane sugar, old-fashioned sodas, to an expanding market of consumers, a network spidering far outside of Spring Grove. The soda is rich, nearly syrupy in consistency, but so delicious. For me, it’s a taste of childhood.
Outside of soda, when home, I cook many of my own meals, in part due to the lack of vegan food, but mostly because I love to create in the kitchen. Thankfully, my mom is a heath food junkie, and frequents a food coop near her office in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a beautiful 45 minute drive through the bluffs from my hometown, so she always stocks the pantry and refrigerator with beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables before I arrive home. The sweetest and most thoughtful mom, she always requests that I send her a grocery list a few days before I fly home to insure that I have everything that I need to create in the kitchen. The food coop also has a plethora of vegan options at their cafe, so when in a bind, or when I don’t feel like cooking, my mom stocks up on cafe items as well, my favorite being a toasted almond and quinoa salad with supremed orange segments and spring peas. They also sell Dandies marshmallows, a vegan marshmallow, at the coop, so I’m able to enjoy a s’more at the fire, using Endangered Species vegan dark chocolate of course!