Connecting the dots and sharing the stories as local tour curator guides
Food matters here and brings people together.
Joan Mathison, founder of Adventures with a Locavore, explains, “a Locavore is a person who embraces sustainability by making a commitment to eat locally grown organic food as often as possible for their own health, as well as the health of their community.” She is a pastry chef, a history geek and a community development professional certified in sustainability and started this social enterprise to make a difference.
Here’s how food matters in Saint Paul: small urban farmers enrich the soil of vacant lots to grow organic fruit and vegetables for their neighbors, restoring and protecting the environment for future generations. High tech aquaponic farmers have created a new Minnesota growing season—winter—raising fresh organic greens and fish together year-round in the deep waters of 19th century breweries, once abandoned and neighborhood eyesores. All these farmers buy for their needs from other small local businesses that provide jobs and invest their time and dollars in the community.
It must be the sky blue water—or the fertile soil—as a number of James Beard award-winning food writers, educators and media producers, as well as chefs, live, work and cook right here in the Twin Cities. Take a minute to enjoy photographer Mike Hazard’s extraordinary video about a year in the garden with Minnesota Hmong farmers who supply our farmers markets with the fruits of their labor.
The local flavor on our tours includes historic Little Italy, a community of immigrants once living on the river flats and one family, the Cossettas, who for four generations have brought authentic Italian food to Saint Paulites and visitors. And our beloved Mickey’s Diner, one of the first Art Deco dining cars, managed by three generations of the same family and serving locally sourced food 24/7, 365 days a year.
Since 1853, the St. Paul Farmers Market has been introducing citizens to new flavors grown by immigrant farmers, as well as heirloom varieties of meat, poultry and produce. Today, chefs Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant and Sean Sherman, the Sioux Chef, have given us a new appreciation for the native plants, fish and wild animals from the woodlands, prairies, rivers and streams of this place, as well as artisan food products incorporating them as ingredients.
In the 1920s, St. Paul was known as the Paris of the Midwest for its literary and artistic culture, including writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sinclair Lewis. Many of our young artists and writers spent time in Paris studying and working. They returned home inspired and did the best work of their careers. For authentic French food today, we highly recommend Meritage and Maison Darras.
Taste our local flavor on each and every tour.
Joan writes for MNopedia, the online encyclopedia of the Minnesota Historical Society, teaches community education classes and volunteers as a docent at the Minnesota Museum of American Art and tour guide for the annual Jane’s Walk. She is an active member of the Fitzgerald in Saint Paul organization and the Minnesota Society of Architectural Historians.
Video: We Go to the Garden, Mike Hazard, The Center for International Education