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Highland Store is rooted in tradition and healthful foods

Thu, Dec 24th, 2009
Posted in Health & Wellness

The clichéd "spot in the road" is the location of the Highland Store. One could readily whiz up County Road #10 and not notice it at all. Don't miss it though. It is well worth squealing the brakes to stop for breakfast or lunch.

The building dates to 1894 and has no pretentious updates. It served as a General Store, likely one of the first and last in the county, for decades. Vicki Starks bought it two years ago with a vision and a passion for healthy living, rooted in the food folks consume. She will tell you she means this to be more than a cafe, it is a Food Ministry. Not to worry, no sermons about fat and salt are served there. Just, simple, glorious, good food.

The main room has wooden slat walls, ceiling and floor. When Vicki bought it, there were holes in the floor that could consume a medium sized adult. Through local word of mouth and pure serendipity, she was contacted by a family who lost much of their house in the Rushford flood, and had floorboards intact that matched perfectly. The floor is now stable and shines with a patina of wood, long walked upon and happy for the footsteps to come. Plants line the walls and drape from the ceiling, absorbing light from the old windows and heat from the new corn burning stove. While Vicki talks and works, she scoops local corn from a large garbage can into the burner and the heat is welcome and delicious.

Speaking of delicious, her menu is a delight of organic and homemade choices. Whole wheat pancakes for breakfast and multigrain breads all day long. Traditional and healthful foods as an alternative to the Fast Food Nation are more than satisfying.

Lunch salads are piled high with produce from her garden in the back and local foods that she barters for. She does not simply drive around with an "eat local" bumper sticker. She means it. Groceries that must be purchased, come from co-ops in the region. You'll not see a corporate food truck unloading food at her back door; you may well know who grew much of it.

She has a small, but dedicated staff to bring this philosophy to the table. Her mother, Sharyn Taylor, lives across the street and cooks the delights. Her friend, Iris Cady, serves tables with a warm smile and endless concern that you are satisfied.

The tables are pure nostalgia to anyone over 40. All are chrome and formica wonders from the 40's and 50's. The tables and chair sets are complete matches that Vicki searched the Midwest to find. She found they are available on line but at outrageous prices so she hunted Iowa and Illinois for the right ones, at the right price. To those of us who grew up with them, poking holes in the vinyl chair cushions, who knew how precious well preserved ones would be? One expects Mom to show up with toast and a kiss on the head.

Vicki came from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with an adolescent daughter whom she home schooled until she was 14. She now goes to R-P Middle school and is thriving there. Her adult son lives in Florida.

Vicki is serious as a Seventh Day Adventist and holds Bible study in the store on Wednesday evenings. She is closed on Saturday, the Sabbath.

At lunchtime the tables will be full of local men, farmers talking about corn harvest and planting and groups of women, laughing and enjoying an afternoon with friends. All are eating tasty and healthful foods grown by Vicki and their own neighbors.

In the back is an understated "boutique" with raw honey, grape seed oil, natural anti oxidents, health supplements, books and information about healthy eating. In the spring of 2010 it will expand to include local art and pottery.

The Highland Store will be host to a Health Seminar in January and the second five-day Smoking Cessation Clinic will be held sometime this winter. Exact dates and details for these events will be posted in local papers.

Holiday breakfasts and lunches can be planned for groups. Call ahead so they can prepare your choice of meals and take yourself and your friends back in time during this nostalgic season.

Winter in Minnesota is long and often dark, but eating homemade soup near a corn stove can make the most of it.

We can all go for supper and load up on nachos and pizza if we aren't ready to get healthy yet. However, visiting the Highland Store will offer an experience, a great meal, and give our poor bodies a break in the most pleasant way. No New Age lectures, no sermons about bulging waistlines or death by French fries. Just a chance to experience a moment back in time, and hopefully, a moment of dietary contemplation. Or, just an unselfconscious place to pause for some good food.

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