Making Locality a Priority: Turnips and Greens Risotto


“I suppose my generation is farther removed from food production than any other, just one more step down the path of the American food industry. More than our parents, we rely on foods that come out of shiny wrappers instead of peels or skins. It still surprises a girl like me, who actually lives on a real farm with real animals and stuff growing out of the ground, that so many young adults couldn’t guess where their food comes from, or when it’s in season where they live,” Camille Kingsolver, “Taking Local on the Road” from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Earlier this year, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a book that describes Kingsolver’s family’s endeavor to keep a small farm in Virginia, complete with chickens and turkeys, and to eat only foods grown in their county for a year. The book is filled with some trials, but mostly successes from Kingsolver’s family’s year in local eating. The book is also littered with colorful and informative essays from Kingsolver’s then-teenage daughter Camille. Continue reading

A slice of pecan pie.

PieLab: A Big Taste for a Small Town

What draws people to a restaurant?  Looks?  Taste?  History?  When it comes to a restaurant like PieLab, all three of those categories are not only sufficiently met, but go beyond expectations.  Other reviews found on the internet glow with praise, so it’s not surprising that mine will be doing the same thing.

My experience began with the hour-long trip from Tuscaloosa to Greensboro, where PieLab is located. The highway between the two cities was lined with cozy homes and trees that had just begun to change colors, despite it being late October.  I drove over rolling hills while the sun shone brightly overhead.  When I pulled into the small downtown area of the city, it was quiet, though cars filled the parking spaces on the street and a few people could be seen roaming the sidewalks, going about their business.

img_8729Looking at the exterior, you notice that it is a crisp, clean white, proudly displaying the restaurant’s name in a bold, black font. It makes a large statement for the small town that PieLab is located in.  Windows allow you to peer inside before you go in, and inside you can see employees behind the open kitchen’s counter, working on food orders with a sense of diligence, but not one of urgency.  It’s simple and sweet to watch from the outside, but even the outside of the restaurant invites you to come inside.  Written on the window panes on both sides of the door is this humble phrase “Pie & Conversation, Optimism & Inspiration.”  But then the restaurant takes it one step further on their invitation for you, and tells you a little bit about their story, right on their front door.  The idea began on a napkin by a group that calls themselves “Project M” somewhere in Belfast, Maine.  Then it became a pop-up shop in Greensboro, Alabama turned restaurant, job-training center, and community space, all within the confines of an abandoned pool hall.  The restaurant’s mission is the final few sentences on the door.  They read, “PieLab strives to be an open and inclusive environment where all voices of the community can be heard.  So welcome.  Welcome to our pie shop, our community and our story.”  It’s a powerful welcome, and that’s just from standing on the outside. Continue reading