It’s hard times right now. Looking around, from city to small town, there are empty buildings everywhere. For lease signs loom in windows, brand new office buildings stand deserted and never used. It all seems like such a waste of resources and energy and a sad reminder of the pace our economy has slowed to. In the face of this hardship, ideas such as The Greenhouse Project in Central Wisconsin offer respite. A group of passionate people, working on a volunteer basis towards providing “opportunities for participation, education, cooperation, and action to support a local food economy in Central Wisconsin” have banded together and successfully started renovations on a dilapidated 38,000 square foot property in downtown Stevens Point. The vision is to create a self-sustaining, multi-faceted production and education center, where rural farming techniques can coalesce with a thriving urban community ready to learn about them. Read more
I have been officially inducted into a club. Instead of membership fees, shmancy pants events, and exclusivity, this club is promoting an age-old practice of bartering. The Staple Luck Club is the brainchild of my friend, chef, and food consultant Gabriel Cole. He has been tinkering with the concept for years–knowingly and subconsciously–via random food projects, backyard duck tending, and foraging enthusiasm.
“The initial inspiration was hanging out with friends who love food and always swapping homemade edibles with people,” Cole explains. “Someone would bring me jam and I’d give them granola. A friend often brings me lettuce for my ducks, so I give her some red wine vinegar I make, etc. The idea behind [the club] is to foster community, stay low on the food chain, and save money by bartering. I also read a great book called Nowtopia which talks a lot about new forms of commerce.”
For members, the pure and simple concept is enticing: Make a bunch of one type of thing (ideally using quality, local ingredients when possible), and bring it to a monthly gathering where everyone else attending has done the same. Then swap-shop, trading your item for other items that catch your eye or appetite. Read more
Two weeks ago I ate over 40 different kinds of pickles. Aside from the lacto fermented bloat that any human belly undoubtedly suffers after sampling that many pickled products, the experience was memorable and delicious. How, you may ask, did I get myself into such a situation? It’s the second annual Good Food Awards, of course.
The Seedling Projects‘ Good Food Awards celebrate a desire to taste delicious food products that are produced in socially and environmentally responsible ways. The idea brings to light the nation’s standouts in a variety of edible categories. Since last year’s successful breakout, which awarded 71 entries in seven categories, the stakes have grown. The 2011-2012 categories, expanded to eight total, are: Beer, Charcuterie, Cheese, Chocolate, Coffee, Pickles, Preserves, and Spirits. I was honored to be a part of the process as a pickle judge.
I’d like to introduce you to CC; he’s 19 years old and he’s a new friend of mine. About a month ago, my fiancé and I opened a little coffee shop in an old gas station in Santa Cruz, California. Our friend, Fran Grayson, came to us with a vision of collaborating on the idea and now she parks her food truck on-site. Together, we are The Truck Stop and Filling Station. We strive to promote good, honest, and quality food and drink. This is where CC comes in.
I think we can all agree that the sedative power of television provides escape; much like any number of self-numbing tools we may choose to consume one way or another. I fully admit to administering a daily dose of TV at the end of a long day, just enough to blur the mind space and glaze the eyes until I drag myself to bed a short hour or two later. I’m not very proud of it, I know there are countless more productive things I could be doing during that time. But the whole seduction is just that…television takes away the need to be productive. It is a glossy, other world of fantasy, adventure, and illusion. Why else do we find ourselves saturated in this “reality” TV culture? The lives of others takes us outside of our own, an episode of someone’s experience gives us respite from the banality of our day to day. Sometimes, however, there are occasions when some genuine truth seeps in. And if we can discipline our channel surfing thumbs to the right place, the content that sneaks into our brains can actually present some positive, constructive, and educational information.
Real Food Real Kitchens is a new PBS cooking show that is just that: Real. Far from the patina falseness of Rachel Ray’s shiny kitchen set, this show portrays actual homes and documents a person making a family recipe. It is at once a look at community, at culture, at health, and at food. And, in a time when we are so far removed from all of these things in this country, it is a welcome change from the usual Food Network lineup. Read more
Here in the Good Food Movement, we often find ourselves amidst others with similar backgrounds and interests. It can feel like a bubble, hard to remember the wider reality of what it is we are fighting for and against. We can also get sidetracked into singular mentalities simply due to the complex, multi-layered issues that surround our current food system. It’s important to broaden our scope once and awhile, to expose ourselves to perhaps the very opposite of what we immerse ourselves in on a day-to-day basis.
One example is Focus Agriculture, put on by the Agri-Culture organization, a non-profit offshoot of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. This unique “first-in-the-nation” educational program targets business professionals and community leaders, providing a thorough and in-depth look at the multi-faceted arena that is agriculture. Read more
The life of a farmer is hardly mundane. There is constant work, little time off, and yet the seemingly homebody, non-lucrative career choice certainly isn’t short on hustle and bustle. As someone who is by no means a farmer, more a macro-gardener who tries to make some extra income from our one-acre excess, I am doubly impressed with Lynda Hopkins’ The Wisdom of the Radish. Her ability to balance life’s components makes her head first dive into the hardships of organic farming particularly triumphant especially since she has written a book to prove it. Read more
By now we have all most certainly heard of or participated in the 150-mile diet, or any number of variations that might go along with its particular radius. There are entire communities, towns, and restaurants that have taken the challenge or continue to do so on a day-to-day basis. There’s even a magazine that does it.
Sunset Magazine started their James Beard Award winning blog after realizing that their city block of headquarters was prime for experimentation. They already had a test garden onsite, including several fruit trees, and decided to walk the walk and talk the talk of the booming Locavore movement here in Northern California. Read more
If a women’s place is in the kitchen, then why do men get celebrity chef status?
This age-old question, although archaic, still has some validity when you take a moment to study the statistics on which gender tends to hold more power in the culinary arena. Of course, we can acknowledge and celebrate the legions of legendary women who have risen to the top of the food world, but we should also not forget to keep asking ourselves if things are truly equal.
This holds true in beverage circles as well. The list of iconic winemakers, distillers and brew masters heavily tilts to male. So where are the ladies? Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing is helping to turn the tide. Opened in 2005 by wife and husband Emily Thomas and Chad Brill (she actually taught him how to brew), they are all organic, integral to the local community, and work to promote beer education through a myriad of events throughout the year. The second annual Strong Women Brew Day took place on a rainy weekend during SF Beer Week, and the turnout was heartening despite the downpour. Strong women gathered to learn about, taste and craft the next batch of the brewery’s Belgian Wit. In between hauling canfuls of mash, forklift trips and temperature checks, owner and brewer Emily Thomas ducked inside to talk with me about women and beer. Read more
Here we are again, right at the starting gate of awards season, and the designer gowns, flash bulbs and red carpets are adding a bit of bling to the dark winter Hollywood nights. Further up the coast in San Francisco, this year unveiled a truly unique, Bay Area-style awards ceremony dedicated not to glamour and celebrity but to pure, just, and delicious food. Read more