Green Chile Ice Cream and Other Joys of Local Diversity

Every place on this planet has something that makes it unique.

It might be a local food dish like green chile ice cream. It might be a rock formation in the shape of a camel. It might be a battle that was fought there, or an eccentric person who lived there. It might be the smell of the wind at night, or a plant species to be found nowhere else on Earth.

But that uniqueness is there, waiting to be discovered, if we go in search of it. And I’ve come to believe that the search for it not only feeds the muse, it enriches our lives.

It also helps to support a local uniqueness from going extinct.

About a year ago I started to make a conscious effort to find stores that were locally owned that either had locally made or grown things, or else had a unique passion for something (like the English tearoom experience).

I still planned to shop at big box stores (and I still do), but I wanted to go find what my fellow New Mexicans were up to. Also, have you ever noticed how in a big box store you can be anywhere in the U.S. and they’re all the same, except for a few items and the tourist knickknacks in the checkout lanes? Predictability is their strength, but it means that diversity is gone. Bland and boring are in.

It wasn’t until I went searching outside the big box experience that I discovered a local farmer’s food co-op that is bringing me melons and tomatoes the like of which I have not tasted since my grandfather’s garden.

And a funky locally owned furniture store that has an egg-shaped chair straight out of a 1960s James Bond movie.

And an English-style tearoom considered one of the top five in the country. The owners say that it is the support of their local community, not tourists, that keeps them in business.

And locally owned restaurants that put the big chains to shame in flavor and pricing. Restaurants with stuff like chile relleno sushi, and green chile ice cream.

I didn’t find everything overnight. I just decided that each month I’d keep my eyes open for one new thing to go try out in my hometown. I’d get clues about things to try out by reading the local magazines and papers. Coffee shops often have the free papers that list local events and do interviews with locals.

The more I dig, the more quirky stuff I find. It’s the sort of fodder an artist’s muse loves to munch on. But I’ve also noticed I feel more connected to my community and I’m helping to provide money to pay for jobs here in town.

It doesn’t have to be big box chains or local stores. One can do both kinds of stores. But if one is doing only big box chains, one is missing out on some truly wonderful stuff hidden out there.

One just has to go looking for it.

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