Des Moines' first farmer's market of the year was on Saturday down on Court Avenue, a huge, festive event with possibly hundreds of stalls, a few bands playing, jam-packed with Iowans enjoying the gorgeous blue-skied weather. I love the farmer's market there generally, but it was particularly nice being there for the energy of the first one of the year. It smelled wonderful and tasted even better. We ran into all sorts of people we know.
That's one of the things I particularly love about being home in Des Moines. Most places I go, I run into people I know. I am still a part of those communities.
The Des Moines Art Center had two shows on that I went through, '30s and '40s regionalism and realism, one in the main gallery, the other in the print corridor. In the main gallery, industrial excitement gave way to depression-era drought. In the print corridor, the softer, gentler lines of American portrayals of people and places contrasted with the sharper, discordant images from contemporaneous European works.
I do love brunch and miss our Toronto brunch traditions. On Sunday, M, J, and I went to the Drake Diner to eat (Pumpkin pancakes! Hickory-smoked bacon!) before doing a quick tour around the East Village and the West Glen shopping center.
Brunch wasn't the only food highlight of the trip. The only place I count on going back to is Mustard's, a comfort-food barbecue place with killer sugar biscuits. Now that's how ribs should be done: meaty, flavorful, tender on the bone, easy to eat. Our trip to Dos Rios was the one that C. requested, vicariously appreciated their superb, made-tableside-to-order guacamole. My mother cooked for us as well, old favorites, rice pudding, rhubarb crisp, and new, in asparagus risotto.
I went back out to visit La Quercia, the exceptionally good Iowa producer of Italian-style prosciutto. Their work is used by high-end restaurants and delis scattered across the country, and their plant has at least doubled inside since I last saw it a year-and-a-half ago. Their largest room, which emulated the summer that prosciutto cures through, was like a cave of wonders, racks upon racks of golden-red-brown prosciutto, pancetta, and other confections. Their business is growing well, which is good news.
There were minor things to mar all the good though: my sister's allergies were bad. I cut my hand badly while closing a door. It's a particularly good thing that the cut doesn't hurt so much now: it's placed such that it was very painful to shake hands with anyone for a few days!
Then, on Tuesday, we drove cross-country, through the early plowing of rolling Iowa fields, across the width of the Mississippi, past Illinois ethanol plants in the middle of nowhere, through the unkempt toll road of Indiana, pinchpoint as highways skirt Lake Michigan, and on into the barer trees and stark spring blossoms of Michigan.
And so, I'm here in Kalamazoo.