I think I can safely say that I’m starting to think of Bloomington as my home. Though I’ve spent the good part of four years here as a college student, I never really felt part of the community back then—because I wasn’t. I spent the holidays at home with my family out West or back East. I rarely ventured off campus. I didn’t think much about local community issues, like where my food comes from or local industry or local history.
Recently, I’ve been trying to educate myself more about these things, and I’m learning more just by way of living here. For example, one of my part-time jobs is at Solution Tree, an educational publishing and professional development firm. The company is located in one of the Showers buildings, which I recently learned were built by the largest furniture maker in the country at the time (1920′s). The Showers Brothers manufactured 60% of furniture in the whole country. The neighborhood we live in, called the Near West Side, was historically the working-class area where furniture factory-workers lived. The area was mostly controlled by the Showers company, and they built schools and created banks to help foster community and support the employees.
Now, I’ll freely admit that I probably should have known this already. But I’m glad to have learned it—I’m trying to learn more and constantly work to better myself. And part of that personal journey, for me, has centered around eating. Food is one of my many passions, and cooking good food is of maximal importance. But eating well means eating and consuming ethically. In a nutshell, that means trying to buy food sourced from small, local farms that have a minimal negative environmental impact.
Anyway, back to home. This Christmas season, Eoban and I decided to spend our holiday in Bloomington. We got our own Christmas tree, and decorated it with ornaments. (Some handmade from old re-shaped vinyl 45′s.)
To celebrate the occasion, we had a 4-course Christmas day meal, with a turkey from Liberty Pastures as the centerpiece. The best part of this turkey was probably the trip we took to meet Jacob, the farm’s owner, and his family. He gave us a personalized tour of the operation and described how he went from being a cop in Los Angeles to a farmer in Bloomington. Liberty is just two years old, and right now they raise chickens, goats, and some turkeys in an environment as natural as possible. It sounds like a challenging situation to be in—but it’s something that Jacob is passionate about.
We got the last turkey he had, a small 8-pounder. Probably a bit tiny for most Thanksgiving dinners but a perfect size for the two of us, and we still have plenty leftover. Here it is before and after roasting.
I’d highly recommend heading to Liberty Pastures if you’re ever looking to buy local meat in Bloomington. Jacob clearly loves having visitors at the farm. He seemed to really enjoy giving us a tour, telling us about the farm, daily life, and his philosophy. And it was comforting to know that our turkey was raised by a family who gave it the best life it could have, while it was around.
Here are a few more photos of the Christmas feast. Alongside the turkey we had roasted garlic mashed potatoes with garlic from the Winter Market.
Brussels sprouts with bacon and pomegranate seeds.
And finally, stuffing with locally baked sesame wheat bread (from the farmers market) that had gone incredibly rock-hard, veggie broth, heavy cream, and our secret ingredient, pureed winter squash. Eoban doesn’t normally like stuffing, but he liked this one!!! That made me feel like a super cook.
Here’s a plate showing off all the food at once.
Eoban took most of these photos, and most of them were taken with my new f2.0 35mm Canon lens. It was his Christmas present to me, and it rocks—I was honestly too hungry to take pictures of the Christmas meal, so I’m glad he recorded our efforts. I think they turned out beautifully.
Eoban and I aren’t sure about how long we’ll live in Bloomington. We know we eventually want to move somewhere bigger and more urban. But for now, I want to make this town my home as much as I can. It’s a good place to live.