Tampa, Food and Surprises

Last week we visited my sister and her family in Tampa, FL. What a beautiful city! The weather was perfect. It was a nice 85 degrees most of the trip and the humidity hasn’t set in yet. We visited Tampa’s Lowery Park Zoo. This is the best zoo I’ve ever been to. Sadly Linsey and Brian missed out on it this trip. Linsey contracted a stomach virus and they had to leave almost as soon as we entered. She broke our hearts, crying in disappointment and discomfort when she finally decided to throw in the towel and go home. She’d been looking forward to the trip all week. She is finally feeling like herself again, five days later.

Next to the sick kiddos, the hardest part of the trip was finding real food. Luckily Tampa, just like Charlotte, has also been affected by the slow food movement. And thanks to a long growing season, it was no surprise that there were several local, organic, real food restaurants to choose from. Unfortunately many of them were expensive and too upscale for kids (of course) or inconvenient while vacationing and on the road. We shopped at Greenwise (Publix version of Whole Foods) for groceries. We found some grass fed beef there, which we used to make delicious burgers one night, and most of our usual staples. I wish Harris Teeter would open a similar, greener and healthier version of their stores. Maybe they could do it better. I still see things at Whole Foods and Greenwise that shouldn’t be on their shelves – typically in the middle aisles, where there is still too much processed food.

My sister planned a secret girls’ night out for us while we were there. What a surprise! She took me to a cooking store of sorts. They sell cooking supplies, but they also have a kitchen in the back where they have classes and demonstrations (fun!). Everyone was so nice. They had an “instructor” there that was into natural cooking. I so want to be in her class. The owner, our host, was funny and very entertaining and the “bartender” – a sweet, 70-something year old southern belle with bright red hair – carded me. (That’s right! As in asked-for-ID.) We were there for a charity event benefiting a temporary home for kids who are abused, neglected, etc. There was food and wine and shopping for cooking supplies at a 10% discount… yipee! If this store were in Charlotte I would definitely look into cooking classes or demonstrations. In fact there must be something like it here. I’ll be looking into that soon. Thank you so much Heather for a fun, memorable night.

Another surprise (I’m switching gears now) was a full-fledged, small, private farm smack in the middle of Heather’s residential neighborhood. We walked to it – twice. They sell fresh, pastured eggs, raw milk, honey and a few other things. The coolest thing is that you can just walk onto the farm and check it out. The first time we went a little girl that lived next door was our tour guide. There were chickens running around everywhere. The cows were in a small pasture and a few pigs were in a pen (not a good one on any level). We got there at milking time, so the girls (and I) got to watch the entire process – moving the cow into the stall, feeding it hay to keep it calm and happy, cleaning the underside and hooves of the cow and then attaching the pump to the udders. I was hoping they would offer us a taste. I wish I’d asked. I really want to taste the warm milk, fresh from the cow, just as it is described in a book  I recently read Growing a Farmer  by Kurt Timmermeister. It was neat to see the things I had read about in action. I’ve visited farms before, but not since reading this book and not on this small, yet diverse scale. The first time we only went for the orange blossom honey. It was yummy with a light floral taste and a hint of citrus. It’s even slightly orange compared to other honey. (Click here for an interesting article about the farmer, Marion Lambert, and his honey.)

Here a cluck. There a cluck. Everywhere a cluck, cluck.

Later in the week we needed eggs, so we decided to visit again. The girls were so excited and Brian wanted to see the farm as well. This time I brought my camera. We ran into the farmer on this trip, Marion Lambert. He explained in more detail what the cows ate -mostly alfalfa and grain. I wouldn’t exactly call these grass fed, though they are pastured cows. He only has a few acres, not enough to grass feed his small herd. And he doesn’t use organic feed. This is a simple farm. Not the idyllic, perfect one I have in my head. There are only a handful of those. But still, this is a natural farm. One I’d be happy to support if I lived nearby.

Several neighbors help out on the farm. The first time we visited we met a mother and daughter that volunteer and also benefit from the farm. They were walking and feeding a donkey who had some health issues. She mentioned that one of the pigs were hers. Which brings me to one thing on this farm that I would not support. The pigs are not well cared for. (It’s always the poor pigs that are mistreated! Usually the smartest and probably most aware animals on a farm.) There are three or four of them in a small pin, lined with some sort of metal floor along most of the pen. The back side is not lined with metal, and this is the pigs only mud source. There is no shade and no place for them to root – a pigs favorite past time. They looked listless and sad and they were filthy (pigs are surprisingly clean animals). I know that pigs are tough to care for, but it didn’t seem like anyone really cared at all. I wanted to ask about it, but I thought it would be rude to mention it on my first or second visit to the farm. Then again, maybe it wasn’t right after all – to keep quiet and look past the cruelty to the pigs, even though everything else on the farm seemed pretty good – and just to be polite.

It was a good trip (as usual). Visiting family is always fun, but when they live in a beautiful city like Tampa, it’s even better. During the week, when my sister and her husband were working anyway, we also visited Naples for few days. Wow! Great hotel, great location and a beautiful sunset. (More on that in a future post.)

Ballast Point Park in Tampa

Ballast Point Park in Tampa

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About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

2 Responses to Tampa, Food and Surprises

  1. Pingback: Naples and Exploring Natural, Organic Markets and Restaurants « HealthyMamma's Blog

  2. Pingback: Stress Is Natural, Seasonal Affective Disorder Is Too « HealthyMamma's Blog

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