Great Michigan Food Experiment: The Sequel

Great Michigan Food Experiment: The Sequel

Annnd . . . round two.

You may have read my previous food-tasting post, a review of the ultimate “Michigan Smorgasbord.” I had a lot of fun trying some of Michigan’s best-known food products for the first time, but have to admit that the junk food feast (hello, Better Made and Faygo) left me recuperating from too much of a good thing.

And yet, I’m back. Ready to take on yet another food challenge, but with a bit of a twist. This time around, I challenged myself to 24 hours of eating nothing but Michigan-made, -grown, or -owned foods. That’s right—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—nothing but the mitten in my kitchen. Piece of (Michigan-made) cake, right?

I got the idea from a random grocery run to Busch’s Fresh Food Market. Needing a couple of things after work one day, I noticed the store on my drive home and stopped by. Inside, I was surprised and delighted to see product tags marked with various labels—organic, gluten-free, and Michigan-made, among others. Figuring half of my local food-finding battle had been won, I assembled a day of meals based solely on the little, blue labels that denoted mitten-made foods. And boy, there were way more than I ever imagined.

Meal number one—breakfast. Did you know that Special K is a Michigan product? Me, neither. Technically, the cereal is owned by the Kellogg Company, a beloved U.S. brand that’s headquartered in Battle Creek. Fortunately, Special K is one of my favorite breakfast choices, so I was pleased to find a familiar back-up option after restricting my usual (non-Michigan) off-brand oatmeal for the day.

On to lunch. A sandwich lover by nature, I decided to build my afternoon meal around some Dearborn Brand ham. How had I never eaten this stuff? I’d seen the commercials during Christmas time, I’d memorized the little Dearborn-logo-guy’s face, and now, I’ve tried the stuff—so I know it’s delicious, too.

As I spoke with the deli attendant at Busch’s, I quickly learned that Michigan makes just about every component you really need for a sandwich. To complement the ham, I stocked up on Flatout flatbreads from Saline, Farm Country Amish white cheddar from Lakeview, and Brownwood Farms’ award-winning, Famous Kream mustard to top it off. I even bought a Michigan-grown tomato, despite the fact that I already had about three other tomatoes of unknown origin waiting in the refrigerator at home. My lunch and afternoon snack options were rounded off with Garden Fresh sweet onion salsa and chips, a Michigan-grown peach, and—get this—a cherry-chocolate-chip Kashi bar (another Kellogg-owned treat).

Picking up a bag of Aunt Mid’s baby gold potatoes and some Michigan corn on the way out, I vowed to return to the store the next day to purchase some fresh fish for dinner. My itinerary, however, ended up needing some adjustments. But more on that in a minute.

The next morning, I got up early to plan out my meals for the day. Pour some Special K into a bowl, and—what? Where’s this gallon of milk from—Arkansas? I could have cheated and used what I had in the fridge, but my awesome husband made a quick run to the convenience store for a half gallon of Guernsey. Of course, the Guernsey ended up tasting much better than the box-store brand failure I had on hand.

Lunch went smoothly—delicious wrap, delicious fruit, delicious chips and salsa that could comfortably take on an authentic Mexican restaurant’s recipe. The only thing left to do was prepare my trout dinner, so back to the market I went.

“Good luck . . . good luck . . .” was the snide response I received upon asking for Michigan trout at Busch’s. Long story short, the fish case had signs for Michigan trout, but the Michigan trout did not actually exist. Apparently, the fish market around here is lacking despite a big, recreational trend toward freshwater fishing. The guy at the fish counter smiled in a way that was only amusing to him, but did refer me to Better Health, which is known for their local, grass-fed beef. So, I took my seafood blinders off and put my carnivore goggles on.

Fortunately, the people at Better Health were able to solve my Michigan meat dilemma. I left with a big steak from Four Seasons Farms, an Upper Peninsula-based operation that raises grass-fed, hormone-free beef. Now, because I’m more of a poultry-eater, I’m no sirloin connoisseur—but with some feedback from my husband, I gathered that this cut of beef was denser, fresher, and closer to roast beef than the chewy stuff I’m used to (and not usually a fan of). Cook it up in a skillet, add some fried potatoes and corn on the cob, and voila—not too shabby a meal.

Finally, after a long day of planning, errands, and cooking, I decided to wind down with a hot cup of Busch’s Mackinac Island Fudge coffee. While mild in flavor, this light roast carried a heavenly chocolate aroma. Leaning back into my living room sofa, I warmed my hands on my coffee mug, propped my legs on the table, and grabbed a small handful of honey-roasted peanuts from the dish beside me.

Daggone it.

I ate three peanuts before I realized what was happening—I was eating a snack I’d bought in an Ohio candy store a few days earlier.

So close to not breaking the rules, I tell you. So close.

Maybe I’ll do better next time. After all, I’m becoming somewhat of a pro at this whole “eat Michigan” thing. Still a newbie, yes… but I’m sure trying.

– By Jennifer Bowman, Contributing Writer