The Patriot Diet

"I’m starting to worry that you guys aren’t going to have anything to eat…the blog could be the beginnings of the next great fad diet…The Buy American Diet? The Patriot Diet, perhaps?" --Dennis, son-in-law

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Ok, true confession: Since beginning this project on January 1st (despite having given up my beloved Trader Joe's salads, pizzas, and chocolate, all of which had Dennis worried) I have gained a whopping eight pounds. Turns out America does homegrown food really well. Patriot Diet? I think not.

In my zeal to consume USA products, I have literally stuffed my face with domestic goodies from dawn till dusk. Remember the local donut shop I wrote about? No fair discussing without tasting. Yum. And those Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips? And let's not forget California-grown oranges, strawberries and apples. And I don't think I've mentioned my new nightly staple: fresh-baked Italian Country Bread from Grace Baking Company, a San Francisco Artisan Bakery. My favorite--and Don's--is the Take & Bake Pugliese. Place loaf on a baking sheet in 425 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Serve piping hot with butter, of course. Add a big spring green salad with shredded carrots, fresh sliced mushrooms, vine-ripened tomatoes, organic red onions, and Newman's Own Light Italian (I try). Pure heaven. How about a glass of USA-made wine with that? Napa Valley's Rutherford Hill Merlot, to be specific. More, please.

See what I mean? The things I do for my fellow Americans. But when it comes to buying non-edible Made in USA products, dear Dennis has it right. There's not much out there for Don or me to buy: The Patriot Diet indeed. Yesterday, as a soon-to-be first-ever grandma (yikes!), I scoured Babies 'R Us in search of Made in USA gifts for my daughter's upcoming baby showers: Infant / toddler car-seats, play-yards, super-duper monitors, strap on baby carriers, electronic thermometers. Although all were nicely packaged and looked attractive (and so tempting), all were Made in China. As I left the big box store, I half-expected to see a Chinese flag fluttering in the breeze out front. Sigh.

I left Babies 'R Us feeling like the worst grandma-to-be ever, mentally calculating how old my grandbaby will be by the time my Buy-USA project is over: six months. Still young enough not to realize all the goodies Grandma passed up, right? Babies are so smart though. I hated to take a chance. Parents-to-be Steph and Dennis have been totally supportive, so no worries there. But still…I walked in the house and slumped onto a chair. Don asked if I'd found any good baby gifts.

"No, and I just don't think I can do this anymore," I said. "What difference does it make? The world belongs to China, and nobody else seems to care." When I waver, Don stands strong. When he wavers, I waver too. It's not fair, but there you have it. "Look, things have gotten so out of whack out there. Stick with it. For your Dad." Oh, he would have to pull out the Dad card.

The week before my Dad passed away, Don was out in the shed working on something and came across a hydraulic jack my Dad had given him like 30 years ago. Don brought it to me, in its tattered but original (yes, Made in USA) box. "Gene gave this to me. Showed me how to use it to jack up that room we redid in our old house. Remember that room?" Tears welled up in Don's pale brown eyes. "He taught me so much about how to do stuff…I'm never getting rid of this thing…" Don turned and went back into the shed, holding onto that box as if it contained a sacred relic. I guess in a way it did.

So this year is Don's tribute to my Dad, too. To the guy who taught him how to remodel a room and use an airless paint sprayer, among other things. I'm sure I'll hear about more as time goes on. After a loved one passes away, the remembering comes gradually, I've found. And then there are days, like today, when you forget he's gone and you actually reach for the phone and stop yourself.

Don and I've decided that after the grandbaby is born in April, every time we find something that we'd like to buy but can't because it's Made in China (or anywhere but here), we'll jot down how much it would have cost and send Steph and Dennis a check. Maybe they'd rather put it in a savings account for the baby anyway. They can choose.

Next up: Conversations with owners of two different companies. One owner's been manufacturing baby products at factories in China for over two decades. The other owner's been manufacturing women's pajamas and bathrobes in San Francisco for many years. Both are very successful. Each has a unique take on the hurdles companies face as they bring their products from the factory to the consumer.