The wait to the barbecue truck is endless. People with kids and prams and dogs and chairs and sheets and big appetites have been arriving at the drinking hole much before afternoon. By the time we get there, the line is a long friendly serpent. It barely inches forward. It’s a first for me, this mid-west barbecue fare. We taste each others selection of the locally brewed beer and ale- on- the- tap while waiting out our turn. I’m no expert at all, but I find them all flat, tasteless and watered-down.
There’s an easy comradeship among the waiting hungry masses. It’s evening and the cornfields are blazing for miles all across where we stand. Someone points out prairie grass to me. Ames High Prairie is one of the only areas in the state that tallgrass prairie remnants are found in the middle of a city.
By the time our turn comes, a lot of names from the menu have been struck off. Sold out. The steaks are too rare for my taste, but there’s more than ample choice. I don’t know it yet but D’s meat-loaf will make up for it.
We drive back home through corn and soy fields. Their endless expanse reminds me of the khet in Punjab and Haryana, before they began to turn into ugly concrete.
We leave for Field Day early morning. It’s raining and I wonder how the owners of the farm will take todays guests for the farm tour. In the meantime, we keep missing our turn at the tiny pretty town called Jewel and go around in circles the next twenty minutes. There’s no one to ask for directions because there’s no one to be seen in the town. Finally we hit the track that leads us there. It’s a beautiful drive, longer than it was supposed to be.
The Field Tour is led by a young couple who share their experiments and new farming techniques with the thirty of us visitors. Everyone except me is a farmer, or is deeply involved in farming, one way or the other.
It takes me some time to realize that the couple specialize in artisan Cheese Farming and that they do it from scratch- a complete science of its own- the quality of their cows, pastures, grass, soil, trees, etc. Both of them hold a Masters and a Doctorate in AgroScience. When I ask them why they chose this difficult path, giving up working for an organization, they tell me they are following their passion.
It comes up somewhere that this eighty acre farmland belongs to an uncle and they pay him a monthly rent. It doesn’t seem an easy life to me.
As our motley group troops after them listening to them sharing their experiments and answering questions from other farmers, we come to why the farm got its name: In the late 1800’s, settlers were allotted land to clear and own randomly, without them seeing it. One such family travelled hundreds of miles to find out that the land allotted to them is actually a lake. Since that was final and that’s all the had, they spent the next few years pumping all that the water out. Shells and remains of water creatures still come up around Lost Lake Fa massive pot-luck that follows a visit to the artisan Cheese Factory, I’m asked questions about Indian grains and Indian flat-breads. Everyone seems to have eaten one kind or another.
The radio show that follows a few days later where I’m invited to be a guest, Lonna, the host, asks me how my kitchen is different from D’s. I talk about many things, but forget to mention the biggest one- The scale of everything D cooks is XXXL. Tomato purees, peach purees and sauces, massive sandwiches, grilled peppers, beef meat loaf. . . Everything is in massive quantities.
The radio show is fun. People call in later to say they found it really interesting, my stories around Indian flat breads, masala chai, curd and other milk products engrossing and funny. A visitor in D’s kitchen that evening can recount exactly why I fold parathas in triangles instead of round pies. It seems I’ve been designated the Indian cuisine cultural ambassador in these parts of Iowa!
Indian friends who know that the kitchen isn’t my favorite room in the house call up post the show and tell me they cant get over that designation, and that they died laughing when they heard it, that the radio show hosts forgot the prefix to that- ‘Most Unlikely To Be’ I tell them I can’t get over it too, but I can live with it- some people have fame thrust upon them.