At first glance, Fairfield looks like your basic small town Iowa community. With a modest population of 9500, its quaint town square has an area for sitting and enjoying a picnic, and it’s surrounded by little shops and restaurants. What comes next is a surprise. In addition to the stores selling crafts and gift items, there are also massage centers and ayurvedic stores, a slew of vegetarian restaurants, and a health food store. No doubt this is in large part because Fairfield is home to Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, which has a focus on holistic health.
My husband and I were traveling through Fairfield on our way to the American Gothic house in nearby Eldon, Iowa. A craving for pizza was on my mind, and I’d heard good things about Revelations, a bookstore, coffee shop, and restaurant on Main Street. Revelations has several rooms filled with used books, long tables for lingering with friends over coffee, and gift items to sell. Food and coffee is ordered at the counter adjacent to their big brick oven for pizza-making.
I was looking over the menu and wavering between customizing my own pizza or sticking to the menu and ordering the one vegan pizza they have listed, Wilted Spinach. Admittedly, the name doesn’t make it sound particularly appetizing. Leaning towards choosing my own toppings, I asked the lady behind the counter if they put cheese in their pesto. That’s when a customer next to me told me assuredly that they did. I turned to look at him and noticed he was wearing a “Powered by tofu” t-shirt. “Go with the Wilted Spinach. It’s the best.” He picked up his to-go box and away he went. I always trust people in vegan novelty shirts, and so I said confidently, “I’ll take the Wilted Spinach.”
When our pizza arrived, it looked unlike any pizza I’d ever before seen. It was topped with spinach, carrots, and caramelized onions. Instead of traditional marinara or pesto, at its base layer it’s topped with a flavorful ginger sauce. The pizza has an Asian bent, and the fire-roasted organic crust, hot out of their own brick oven, was the perfect backdrop for the flavors. Each bite was a surprise of the unexpected– like Fairfield itself, I suppose. The moist and smoky spinach enveloped in the warm ginger sauce took the mundane and spun it on its head. I have to say, it was so unusual and one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. I also enjoyed a cup of their soup of the day, which was the vegan Asian Vegetable. It had large chunks of vegetables with hints of ginger.
We took a quick walk around the block and peeked into a few stores selling artwork, spices, and kitchen goods, and then pointed the car towards Eldon, Iowa. About a half an hour later we arrived at the little house that was the backdrop for Grant Wood’s American Gothic. The modest house is adjacent to a small visitor’s center with a little museum inside, noting the history of the house, its appearances in other media, and a full set of costumes. There’s no entry fee to the center (but donations are accepted), and they offer costumes and props that replicate those shown in the painting in sizes from baby through adult. (Check out photos of several visitors here. Even some canines got involved!) It’s free to use the costumes, and one of the people working there will happily snap a photo.
Seeing the house in person was kind of like seeing a celebrity in Los Angeles. After witnessing it many times over the years in the oft-printed painting and parodies aplenty, there it was in person looking just like it looks on the page. (Or maybe it was like when I saw Sylvester Stallone… Smaller than I thought it would be.) It was really neat to see it in real life and take the opportunity to do some mugging of my own for the camera – or I suppose in the case of this picture, some glowering.
It doesn’t take long to see everything at the American Gothic house and there’s not much else to do in Eldon. So after a half an hour or so, we were off, back on the highway, and ready for whatever the next adventure would bring.