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Local Food Company "Relishes" National Exposure on Parks and Recreation

Companies usually pay big bucks for TV product placements, but not Cara Dafforn. Her local food company, U-Relish, which makes healthy, just-add-water meals for the crock pot, was recently featured on the hit TV show Parks and Recreation.

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When the show’s producers decided to stage an indoor farmer’s market scene, Dafforn saw an opportunity. By rebranding her “Garlic Paprika Chickpea” flavor as “Pawnee Chickpea” she successfully managed to get her product plugged on the show for free.

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“Through a little bit of luck, a little bit of karma, and the help of Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard and the Parks Department here, we created the Pawnee Chickpea. The Pawnee Chickpea was named simply to honor the people and Parks and Rec. It rhymed, and it gave us the opportunity to showcase an Indiana area,” says Dafforn.

When word of the Parks and Recreation appearance reached Kroger executives, the grocer decided to offer the Pawnee Chickpea flavor for sale via special displays at its Olio Road in Fishers, Indiana. The product is also sold in Bloomington and Southport.

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“These concepts are based on the Dutch oven from the Civil War, where women put these in in the morning. They’re dried beans that they needed for the harsh winters. And they give you an opportunity to take the day off,” she says.

For anyone unfamiliar with the “Dutch oven” concept, it dates back to the 18th century, when the thick-walled cast iron pots produced in the Netherlands, quickly made their way into England, and later into the American colonies. These Dutch ovens were incredibly popular for their versatility, since they could be used for boiling, baking, stews, frying, roasting, etc.

Though all U-Relish meals are vegetarian, they become a complete protein when eaten with rice. They can also be augmented with any type of meat. U-Relish is located in the Indianapolis City Market in downtown Indianapolis.