Thursday, January 5, 2012

“F as in Fat”: Where Did All the Blueberries Go?

According to a report from July 2011 entitled: “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future”, Indiana citizens have developed a nasty food addiction along with an aversion to exercise.   The study found that the number of obese Hoosiers shot up for the second year in a row making Indiana the 15th fattest state in the nation.  Now, for anyone who knows me, I was born and raised in the Cross Roads state.  Not only am I a bona fide Hoosier, but I study Indiana history as well.  (Yeah, that’s how sick I am)  Thus, one might ask: Have I noticed this trend?  Well, the truth is: No, not until recently.  Of course, I conceded that Hoosiers enjoyed more than their far share of All You Can Eat Buffets and, I’ll admit, I have mad skills when it comes to frying a green tomato, but these matters never seemed, to my mind, reason for much concern until September of 2010, when I attended Plymouth, Indiana’s annual Blueberry Festival.  That day my innocence was lost.  Like Neo, I knew I was living in the Matrix.
Each September Plymouth, Indiana holds their Annual Blueberry Festival.  (FYI, hands down my favorite fruit)  Since moving to South Bend in August of 2007, I had hoped to attend this celebration of blueberry goodness.  The city’s website promised hot air balloons, parades, a blueberry mascot, and all sorts of fanciful blueberry dishes.  Three years went by, each presenting another obstacle which prevented my attendance but then, finally, miracle of miracles, everything fell into place in September 2010. 
Why you might ask?  Why was 2010 different?  One word: GUILT!  That particular fall, I was waiting tables at Villa Macri’s Italian Restaurant, teaching online courses, and working on my dissertation.  This combination left me exhausted and pathetic.   The sort of dog tired that makes one's friends wince and wish for a simpler time when you more fun and less bitchy.  Thus, when I texted my friend, Maggie, at the end of a lunch shift saying:
“The blueberry festival is going on.  Remember the one you SAID you’d go with me?  Please, please, please, please can we go?  I’ll pay for gas.”  (I’m SHAMELESS)
She, like a good friend, replied: “Oh, alright.” (Years of friendship have acclimated her to my antics but she remains dutiful and kind nonetheless)
Overwrought with excitement, I sped through my list of closing side work, cut corners, rolled only half the silverware required, flew out the door and over to Maggie’s.  Within a hour of my guilt laden text, we set out on the 30 mile trip to Plymouth on a Sunday afternoon. 
As we drove, Maggie paused and looked at me with the common sense I lack and finally informed me: “Jenni, I’m fairly certain blueberries are out of season.  That doesn’t bode well for a festival.”
With the blind faith of a four year old, I assured my partner in crime: “Maggie, the website SAID there are blueberries EVERYWHERE.  We’ll be rolling in blueberries.  We’ll take home buckets of fresh blueberries.  I’m sure of it.  I BELIEVE in Plymouth's blueberries so I have been fasting since last night.  Now I can spend my entire daily caloric intake on nothing but blueberry deliciousness.  O ye of little faith.  If you don’t believe, soon you’ll see.”
She nodded, obviously, humoring me, but, thus, is the nature our friendship.
Thirty odd minutes later, we arrived in Plymouth, promptly refused to pay for parking, snaked down side-street, dropped off her car, and walked toward our blueberry prize.  When we arrived, I was stunned.  Unfortunately, Maggie’s prediction proved correct.  There were no blueberries.  I swear not a single one.  I saw deep fried veggies, hamburgers encased in doughnuts, cotton candy, funnel cakes (no blueberry topping available), and other fatty foods, but no blueberries.  I was left to conclude that, around the 1970s, the once vigorous and healthy people of Plymouth discovered Fry Daddies and subsequently decided that everything from cucumbers to cake ought to be soaked in grease.  To cap off my disappointment, every other person from the surrounding counties seemed to be in Plymouth and they all were dead set on doing nothing but eating the deep fried offerings.   Forget buying anything, we could barely walk more than a few yards in any given direction without running into an impassable wall of bloated bodies.  Maggie took this in stride.  I was pissed.
Running on zero calories and not a blueberry in sight, I unleashed my wrath, damning Plymouth and the liars who put content on their website.  Soon the target of my rage shifted to all the Hoosiers standing in lines for fried varieties of cheesecake, mars bars, and pickles.  I became unhinged.  Yelling to no one in particular: "Those are NOT blueberries!!  WHERE ARE MY BLUEBERRIES?  Why isn’t someone doing something about this?  I was PROMISED blueberries."  Maggie, as usual, began steering me toward the exit as I wailed and pointed in frustration, then ushered me into the car, heading us back to South Bend and their crappy version of Indian cuisine.
The pain and disappointment of my fruitless pilgrimage for blueberries still haunts me to this day.
So back to my original question: Have I noticed a problem?  Well, after attending a festival devoted to a delicious and healthy fresh fruit only to discover fresh fruit was no longer on the town’s menu my answer is: Absolutely.  Houston, we have a problem.   My question for the good people of Plymouth remains the same as it did that fateful day in September: Where did all the blueberries go?
*Note: My post is not about judgement.  I have a few pounds to lose myself but maybe Hoosiers should watch Ricky Gervais' theory on obesity: "Nine pie and chips a day?"

**Update: This February Indianapolis will play host to the annual NFL Super Bowl.  In honor of this auspicious occasion, the Indiana Office of Tourism and Development is advertising a limited guide of 46 Super Sandwiches including, but not limited to, a cheeseburger slathered with peanut butter and fried tenderloins.  Organizers believe offering this smorgasbord of artery clogging treats will showcase Hoosier hospitality.  

***Also, kids, I've eaten at West Lafayette's Triple XXX, no matter what you hear, unless you're trashed, I'd suggest avoiding the experience.

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