So... Let's talk food.
I'm not going to bother more than mentioning whoopie pies, shoofly pie, or pretzels. They're here; they're all right. This is more about some lesser-known regional foods, and a few other things that may only be tangentially food-related.
First of all... Saturday, we went out on ed/rec. For the uninitiated, that's "Educational/Recreational outing." The volunteers have a set per person budget, and we take turns organizing an outing once a month. It can be strictly for fun (apparently a ball game in summer is traditional) or it can have an educational component as well (museum visit or what have you). This month, it was my turn to organize, so I turned to that trusty repository of all knowledge and wisdom, the interwebs. On Saturday, we visited a local Christmas tree farm's "Gift of Lights" drive-through show, plus gift shop and Santa barn, and then went out for chocolate fondue. (You knew I'd get to food eventually, right?)
The Christmas lights show was interesting, and delightfully cheesy. It was made up of wire-frame figures with lights attached. From a distance, you only saw the lights, not the frame. Some of the figures were animated - there were reindeer leaping over the road, dogs playing baseball, a large mammal dancing in a tutu, and of course a flying sleigh or two. A number of figures were set up so that they were reflected in the pond, which was a lovely effect. There was a section of fairly closely-spaced light strings that made a squared arch over the road, kind of like a covered bridge.
It seemed pretty obvious to me that this show has been going for several years, as the bulbs are large incandescent types, the colors don't all match, and a few of the figures weren't lit at all. There were also a couple that I just couldn't figure out. For example, what kind of tutu-clad mammal was dancing for us: a bear? a hippo? an elephant? And that white shape - could that have been a reclining walrus, and if so, why was there a reclining walrus in a Christmas light show? All told, I quite enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the model train setup and the displays in Santa's barn as well.
As for the chocolate fondue, well, there's a restaurant in the vicinity of the tree farm called Cafe Chocolate, which is run by a delightful and outgoing lady who is passionate about people and chocolate. The cafe buys local and fair trade, and donates what would be its advertising budget to charity. Equally important, the chocolate fondue was dark and delicious, easily the best chocolate we've had since we got here. As it turns out, the lady has Canadian roots and MCC connnections, and she flattered me by outrageously underestimating my age. I'm hoping we'll find other times and reasons to go back.
Ordinarily, we volunteer-types would be eating lunch Monday-Friday in the dining hall, as a part of our benefits. However, the dining hall will be closed for much of the month for one reason or another, so we're responsible for our own lunches. (We get a pleasant boost in our food allowance to cover it, so I'm not complaining.) With this in mind, we shopped at the Green Dragon a few weeks ago, and bought half a stick of Pennsylvania Dutch bologna. This is not your Maple Leaf cold cut, friends. It's dry cured, so more like summer sausage, but it has a noticeable sweetness to it. It's also smaller than your usual bologna - more like 3" diameter instead of 5". (I'm sorry for the imperial measures, but that's what's on the ruler at my desk.) Along with the swiss cheese we picked up at a local discount store, it makes for a lovely sandwich, especially with a little sweet hot mustard.
Speaking of cheese... sometimes cheese is expensive, and sometimes it's hard to find anything but "American cheese" - I'm sure you all know what I mean - or the pre-shredded stuff. But we are discovering places where there is good cheese to be had, for a good price. The previously-mentioned discount store - all right, let's name names, because we thoroughly enjoy shopping there - Glenwood Foods, has a shifting array of stock, and we can often get mozzarella fresca there (fabulous on pizzas), and the aforementioned swiss cheese. We've also found smoked cheddar there for a steal. We've found aged cheddar for reasonable prices here and there, and some seriously smoked cheddar at the Green Dragon. We've also lucked into bargains on smoked Gouda and blue cheese. (Before you make that "ew, blue cheese" face at me, let me just say that you need to try my sweetie's garlic & blue cheese mashed potatoes. Really, You do.)
One last thing about food before I go: remember I mentioned the boost to our food allowance for this month? It came in perfect time for us to take advantage of the local market's annual meat sale. $1.99/lb for lean ground beef; 1.89 for boneless skinless chicken breasts; .89 for chicken leg quarters; 2.99 or something like that for pork tenderloin. Bear in mind that for these prices, you must buy a 10-lb or so package, but still... (For those who wish the per kg or per 100g prices: 1.99/lb= 4.38/kg or 0.44/100g; 1.89= 4.16/kg; .89=1.96/kg.) We bought a package each of ground beef, chicken breasts, chicken legs, and tenderloin, as well as a frozen turkey breast. Our freezer is well-stocked with protein, and we're thinking of visiting a seafood market in Lancaster to pick up something extra-special for Christmas. Jumbo shrimp, anyone?
Sadly (yes, I know I said "one last thing." Deal with it), mandarin oranges are not available locally, except peeled and canned in syrup. Clementines are to be had, but they don't smell quite the same or taste quite the same. I'm going to miss them almost as much as I miss farmer sausage.