When we visited Ann Arbor a weekend or so ago, we stayed with my friend’s in-laws, who have lived there for at least 30 years. We wanted to send them a thank you package, but what do you get for the Michigan fans who have everything, and easy access to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s besides?
We tossed around several ideas. A gift card to a gardening catalog? (They tended an ambitious, impressive backyard garden.) A favorite cookbook like Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health? (They lovingly prepared lots of delicious and nutritious foods from their garden.) Mugs? Tea? Holiday treats? We finally settled on a few local, healthy products that we hope will be new, different, and fun in their kitchen.
First up was a pecan butter recommended to me at Manna Grocery here in town. Its only ingredients are pecans, honey, cinnamon, and salt; I love that doesn’t have refined sugar or preservatives. It is completely delicious; my husband and I have eaten spoonfuls of this straight out of the container. The little jar of spread has a neat pro-social aspect too: it is connected with Pie Lab, the eatery in Greensboro that serves several different sweet and savory pies daily and is a central space for community conversation and interaction. The Pecans! project benefits Youthbuild, which helps teens get their GEDs, serve their communities, and acquire valuable work experience.
The helpful Manna employee also pointed me toward two brands of coffee roasted in the Birmingham area: Primavera and Higher Ground. I chose a Higher Ground medium roast whose proceeds benefit the Jones Valley Urban Farm. Jones Valley is a non-profit in Birmingham that grows organic produce and flowers on 3 acres of vacant downtown property, and educates the community about sustainable agriculture and nutrition.
Lastly, we chose a jar of Wickles at Publix. Located in Dadeville, the company uses a 70-year-old family recipe to create slightly spicy pickles, relish, pickled okra, and peppers. We chose the okra for our hosts, because what is more uniquely Southern than okra? I am very enthusiastic about Wickles. I do not particularly like spicy foods, pickles, or okra, but I have been known to eat Wickled okra after Wickled okra out of the jar with my fingers. They are just that crisp, snappy, and flavorful.
One piece of football stationery and several plastic ziploc bags, styrofoam peanuts, pieces of bubble wrap, and sheets of (University of Michigan-colored) tissue paper later, the box was ready to mail. I shipped it on Wednesday the 23rd in a priority flat rate box, hoping it might arrive, unbroken, in time for the big Michigan-Ohio State game Thanksgiving weekend. Fingers crossed!