Winter weather has finally arrived. It’s just a few inches of snow, but the wind is vicious and it’s cold and our blood has grown thin here in Central IL with our above-average temperatures this winter thus far. The timing of this blizzardette was also bad for me, personally, given that I was out of town driving a car that wasn’t mine, but I performed some complicated calculations and left at the right time and white-knuckled it home. There weren’t many other cars on the road, which was oddly comforting. I felt safest of all when the car or truck in front of me disappeared into the whiteout and I couldn’t see anyone behind me. I always cursed when a truck would suddenly appear in the rear-view mirror.
I was just past Decatur when I heard this In My Backyard segment. Even though it aired 3 months ago, I hadn’t heard it in its entirety, and even then I had only heard it through computer speakers. I kind of liked it, but Dave’s right – the writing needs to be tightened up. I have two stories in the hopper for February already – one about making cheese and another about what your farmers are doing now. Hint: Their feet are not up. In farming, there is no off-season.
My friend Dan made chocolate – superior bean-to-bar chocolate – in Urbana, IL under the moniker Flatlander Chocolate. (I didn’t realize the website was still live, and… well, damn.)
Anyway, he was a young guy and a super-idealist and felt really strong feelings about community and food that basically led to him to put his brilliant future in computer science on hold (he was a rising star as a grad student at the U of I) in favor of refining his chocolate and bringing it to a wider audience. In July 2010, he introduced his hazelnut chocolate spread to the world via Urbana’s Market at the Square, where it was received with wild enthusiasm. I bought a jar the first day it was offered – feeling lucky to do so – and it was gone within the week. Dan brought some more to the 5th Annual B-K Dessert potluck, but that was gone immediately. It was obvious he was onto something.
Dan died suddenly in late July 2010. We found out on a Tuesday, and when Saturday rolled around but he didn’t roll in to the Market, it was rough. I had cried a lot during the week, but held it together at the Market until a mutual friend brought me one of the last jars of Dan’s hazelnut chocolate heaven-in-a-jar. It still sits in my fridge. I can’t bring myself to open it, because then it would be gone and then what?
I know. He’d probably hate that.
Anyway. An organization exists to bring people in our community together around food, which is something Dan talked about all the time, to all of his many friends. After several months of regrouping and working out the basics of what we want to do, we’re finally moving forward. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, you could follow the Flatlander Food Foundry on Facebook. Or – if you have an organization where you live whose aims are similar, could you let me know in comments? It can be a community kitchen or just a bunch of people getting together to eat and talk and try new things or an underground dinner club or.. whatever.