Recent Articles About Kitchen Table Talks

Gut Feelings: A Discussion about the Microbes You Can’t Live Without

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 – 6:00pm to 8:00pm

Whether you like it or not, there are ten times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. Come learn about the unseen yet indispensable world of microorganisms as we trace them from soil to food to gut. What role do these tiny creatures play in your health, and in soil health? How are gut microbes affected by what you eat? Why have fermented foods long been important to traditional cultures?  Read more

What Does “Artisanal” Mean, Anyway?

Last December, the New York Times offered a list of words for the dumpster, tired and worn-out terms ready for retirement in 2014. Topping the list was “artisan,” a term used in the marketing of products ranging from small-batch pickles and preserves to Tostitos tortilla chips and Starbucks sandwiches.

Regardless of mainstream attempts to co-opt the label, a truly artisanal food movement—based in craft, community, tradition, and innovation—is alive and kicking. For these businesses, growth is not something to take lightly; it’s a delicate dance between staying true to one’s values while adapting to new economies of scale. Read more

Scaling Up Artisanal Food: How Big Is Too Big?

America has a growing appetite for handcrafted gourmet food products. With this high demand, small-scale food producers often wrestle with questions of growth. How big can they get while remaining true to their values and maintaining the quality of their product? Has the word “artisanal” lost its meaning in the marketplace? How can one identify responsible small businesses that use authentic ingredients and value craft and transparency?

Join CUESA, Kitchen Table Talks, and the Good Food Awards at the Ferry Building for a panel discussion on Monday, January 20, from 6 – 8 pm with three successful artisan food producers who have found their way in the expanding market. The panel will be followed by a reception with refreshments generously provided by Bi-Rite Market. Read more

Food, Farms, and Fracking in California

Jim Leap, an organic farmer in Aromas, California, had his first introduction to fracking a year ago when a bunch of large trucks showed up at his property and workers started putting out data loggers. When he asked what was they were doing, he was told that they were mapping earthquake faults. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: The Shifting Paradigm of Work in the Food System

Labor is embedded in every aspect of the food system, from those working in the fields, to restaurant workers, even to those baking their own bread at home. So why is labor so often left out of the discussion on local, sustainable food systems? Many organizations are now trying to change this paradigm, from new ways to organize and protest current practices to food businesses which take into account the quality of life of their employees.

These new approaches to achieve social justice in the food system and how they are a reflection of the changing dynamic of work in society will be the focus of the next Kitchen Table Talks event in San Francisco. Specifically we’ll look at national organizing around farm and restaurant labor and local efforts to create a good food economy. And we will ask the question, “Why do we all have to work, anyway?”

Panelists will include Chris Carlsson, historian and author of Nowtopia; Mariela Cedeño, Senior Manager, Social Enterprise & Communications at Mandela Marketplace; and Kay Cuajunco of the Student/Farmworker Alliance. Read more

Lessons from the Front Line: Building a Local Grain Economy

A couple of weeks ago, a farmer, a baker and a community grains maker gathered at Oliveto in Oakland, CA to give the Kitchen Table Talks audience the low down on local grains.  Doug Mosel of The Mendocino Grain Project, Craig Pondsford of Pondsford’s Place Bakery & Innovation Center and Bob Klein of Community Grains taught us about the industrial grain economy, the local alternatives and the current barriers to expansion.  Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: Building a Regional Grain Economy

To buy local fruits, vegetables, and meat, we do not have to look much further than a nearby farmers market or community supported agriculture share. But to buy wheat flour, we have traditionally spent our dollars outside of the farmers market to find the product we use during all seasons. For a large part, the underlying reason lies in the industrialization of wheat production, which started in the 1880s with the advent of the steam roller mill. This large-scale mill turned out a cheap shelf-stable flour which essentially crippled regional grain markets. But as we begin to realize the detrimental economic and nutritional effects of the transformation of wheat to a commodity crop, regional grain economies are beginning to regrow across the country. Over the past five years, the necessary infrastructure has been put into place to process and sell grains at a smaller scale and keep profits within local communities.

Read more

Cottage Food: A Step Towards a Law

“All food businesses start in a home kitchen,” said Shakirah Simley at a recent Kitchen Table Talks in San Francisco. Her statement is a simple reflection on the ethos driving the recent cottage food legislation in California. Abuzz among the craft food community for months, the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) passed the Assembly Committee on Health on April 17th in a unanimous vote of support by all 15 committee members.

With widespread support by almost 60 organizations and businesses who have already written letters to the California legislature, including Bay Area institutions La Cocina, Garden for the Environment and Rainbow Grocery, the legislation was the subject of the Kitchen Table Talks discussion at 18 Reasons, co-hosted by SPUR. Richard Lee, the Director of Environmental Health Regulatory Programs at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Christina Oatfield, Food Policy Director at the Sustainable Economies Law Center–which introduced the bill–joined Simley in discussing the implications of the legislation on California’s growing number of food entrepreneurs. Read more

Cottage Food Laws: Selling Food from a Home Kitchen

Food entrepreneurs in California cannot currently sell products to the public that they’ve cooked in a home kitchen.  The recently proposed California Homemade Food Act, or “cottage food” law, introduced last month in the California legislature would change that.  The reform would allow individuals, like their counterparts in 31 other states, to sell “non-potentially hazardous foods” produced in home kitchens directly to consumers.

The proposed legislation, backed by the Sustainable Economies Law Center, would open up the market for aspiring food entrepreneurs looking to test the market, establish a customer base and incubate their business without the high overhead costs of renting commercial kitchen space. Especially with the current lack of appropriate commercial kitchens and the increasing number of passionate food crafters looking to enter the industry, this legislation would be welcomed by aspiring picklers and bakers alike.

Alongside the excitement from the craft food community, exists concerns from established food businesses who have made the investment in commercial spaces. In addition, despite the restrictions on permitted food products and sanitation regulations, there exists further concerns from public health officials who worry about the safety of foods produced in a home kitchen. And so the legislative discussion continues.

Please join us to discuss the proposed “cottage food law” from both the small business and public health perspectives at the next Kitchen Table Talks at 18 Reasons, in association with SPUR. Read more