The small agricultural community of Hanford, Washington is home to a very unique tourist attraction: a decommissioned nuclear production complex. This complex, including the first large-scale nuclear reactor, the B Reactor, was rapidly built during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project. Plutonium produced here was used in Fat Man, the second nuclear bomb detonated over Japan which ended the war.
Visitors can tour the reactor. It’s kind of a logistical nightmare, because it starts at 7:30 am in the morning in an out-of-the-way area and lasts until 11:45, but this is understandable, because, well, it’s a facility of people trying to make a nuclear bomb. You don’t locate these places in well-trafficked metropolises.
This is the only reactor in the world where you can just walk up to it.
This historic American flag only has 48 stars, for the 48 states that were part of the US during World War II. Alaska, the 49th state, joined the Union in 1959.
The tour begins with presentations from knowledgeable docents. After that, there’s an hour of free time for exploring the facility.
Many informative posters, newspapers, and signs cover the walls. As a food blogger, I was especially interested in – and shocked – by these numbers about how much food was eaten by the workers each day. 272,000 pounds of processed meat eaten a week, 40,000 pounds of lettuce eaten each meal, 1,000 pounds of coffee a day.
More dining pictures are available here.
These numbers were even more surprising to me considering the rationing during World War II. There being 40,000 people all working towards one product spoke to the involvement and scale of the Manhattan Project.
“Hanford was the largest voting precinct in the United States” the food facts poster says. The population density was artificial. Workers were relocated to isolated Hanford en masse, while the previous residents, including Native Americans, were moved out. Most of these workers didn’t really know what they were doing, but knew that their work was super important. Because it was that vital to the war effort, the motivations had to be classified.
After leaving Hanford, I had lunch in Toppenish, Washington, a town known for its dozens of large murals.
Toppenish is located on a reservation of the Yakama Nation. While there were Native Americans in the artwork, I couldn’t find a place serving Native American food. Toppenish is very small and, besides the murals, very ugly. Many buildings are shuttered, falling apart, or both.
The only restaurants in town seemed to be Mexican restaurants so I went to the closest one, the generically-named Taqueria Mexicana.
The restaurant was filled with Spanish-speakers the entire time I was there so I knew it would be good.
Lime, jalapeno peppers, and chopped onions were thoughtfully provided for the table. The two plates above (one a shredded beef chimichanga plate, one a taco/enchilada/tamale combo) were great but ultimately unremarkable, because Mexican food is good in general and every Mexican restaurant serves those things.
The interesting part was the beef soup, a clear brothy soup which reminded me of Chinese soups. It included chayote, a South American fruit that is used as a culinary vegetable in China as well. I appreciated this being on the menu as a lighter nutritious option for when you’re tired of the fatty/carby staples of Mexican food.
Another nice touch was the bowl of local plums by the cash register. Way better than those green peppermints no one’s been excited to eat since Laura Ingalls was around.
105 S Alder St, Toppenish, WA 98948