It probably won’t surprise you to learn that here in Wasilla, hometown of Teen Abstinence Ambassador Bristol Palin (wish I were joking), there aren’t a lot of people like us. We’re from Boulder, where people hang Tibetan prayer flags in their yards and feed their pets holistic dog food. It might be a little pretentious, but it’s home, and while I won’t publicly admit that we’re guilty of either of those things, I will tell you that Blue Buffalo holistic dog food isn’t sold at our local Pet Zoo.
If I hung prayer flags outside, Wilbur would be over here within minutes with his gun drawn. The words ‘Merica and gad-damned terrorists would be thrown around.
Needless to say, we don’t exactly have a lot of what you’d call friends up here yet. (Wilbur is sort of like a friend, except that I look outside to make sure he’s not waiting to ambush me with questions about our dinner plans and my feelings about “our black president” as I sprint to the car.) I went so far as to invite another grad student and his wife to dinner with us this week, which felt a little like asking them on a date. We both changed twice—to be fair, Kevin’s wardrobe change took place because I wouldn’t let him wear a shirt with a mustard stain—before making the drive to what the locals call Los Anchorage (again, not joking), which seems positively metropolitan compared to Wasilla.
And friends aren’t the only commodity we’re lacking. I’m pretty sure rural Alaska is the only place in the world where you can buy a kayak, get your sofa reupholstered, and pick up a gallon of milk, all under the same roof. (The Fred Meyer is also home to a “high-end” jewelry dealer, should you need to unexpectedly propose marriage while you’re out getting your hunting license renewed.) But, for all the unnecessary crap you can purchase at your local grocer—pull tabs, anyone?—there’s not much to be had for the average locavore.
Unless you know where to look, that is.
I think I’ve mentioned, previously, that my graduate program takes place on a converted dairy farm, where my graduate assistantship payment has, so far, taken the form of organic vegetables. Because our landlord won’t allow us to pay our rent in weekly installments of zucchini, Kevin has been forced to seek employment, and my advisor recommended a local eatery that he thought would be right up our alley.
Good news: Klondike Kev has taken a liking to his new job at Turkey Red, which, in contrast to his previous employer, features no jello wrestling events and prides itself on making all menu items from scratch and with local ingredients. The good vegans of Palmer, Alaska have very few local options, and I’ve even almost started to miss the phrase “gluten free.” (I said almost.) Anyway, Turkey Red is a Palmer Boulderite’s dream come true—they buy many of their ingredients from the Kellogg Farm! They donate their leftovers to the local homeless shelter at the end of the night! The food is delicious!—Kevin came home with a freshly baked chocolate chip almond scone this afternoon, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was a religious experience.
Don’t get me wrong; I came up here looking for adventure. But to say Wasilla has been something of a culture shock would be a profound, poorly armed understatement. So, for now, we’ll have to settle for the few places that remind us of home: Kevin’s workplace, for example, and the Farm. While my co-workers at Louise’s Farm School might trump even me in their Boulderness—check out the staff page, on which I look like a complete and total underachiever compared to the other hippies—I think it’s safe to say we’ve found our teeny, tiny niche in the gigantic, NFA state of Alaska.