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California Chefs Join Together to Fight Fracking

Chez Pannise chefs Alice Waters and Jerome Waag yesterday launched a chefs’ petition urging their colleagues to take a stand against fracking in California. Working in collaboration with Food & Water Watch, founding member of Californians Against Fracking, the chefs are concerned about the threat fracking poses to the world-renown food and wine grown, served and sold in California. The petition includes a letter calling on Governor Brown to place a moratorium on fracking now. Read more

Awards Season 2013…Not Just Movies!

It’s hard to believe, but this year marks the third annual Good Food Awards, in which American food producers are celebrated and recognized for their work towards responsibly crafted and delicious edibles. The 2013 finalists in nine categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections (new addition!), pickles, preserves and spirits were announced at the end of November, and will gather at a gala awards ceremony coming up at the Ferry Building in San Francisco on January 18th. The following day, all of the winners will present their goods at a bustling Marketplace, an exclusive chance for the public to access this bevy of products in one place. Read more

Nikki Henderson: On the Frontlines of Edible Education

People seem to have an insatiable appetite for food matters right now. Case in point: the public tickets for Edible Education 101 at UC Berkeley were snapped up in 12 minutes on Monday, according to a tweet from Alice Waters, who played a key role in bringing the curriculum to the university.

The 13-week course, co-taught by J-school professor and The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan, and Nikki Henderson, the executive director of People’s Grocery, a food justice organization in West Oakland, will examine the rise and future of the food movement. Student enrollment for the one-semester course also filled within minutes after it was listed online, as Berkeleyside reported earlier this month.

Why such interest? The class offers undergrads, grad students, and regular folk a chance to critique current food systems and dissect food politics with Pollan, Henderson, and Waters, as well as a slew of other big names in the food movement, including Marion Nestle and Eric Schlosser. The course kicks off with a lecture by Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini on August 30th. The class also coincides with the 40th anniversary celebration of Chez Panisse restaurant. Read more

Elitism is Dead: The New Debate for the Good Food Movement

On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, farmer, poet and food movement hero Wendell Berry, physicist and seed-saving advocate Vandana Shiva, nutritionist and professor Marion Nestle, and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales were among the speakers at The Future of Food, a conference put on by the Washington Post at Georgetown University.

The media was quick to focus on the comments by Prince Charles, who has been farming land on his Highgrove Estate for 26 years and selling produce under the name Duchy Originals, the profits of which are given to charities. But though the Prince gave a thorough and informed 45-minute speech about soil loss, the importance of biodiversity, and a critique of U.S. agriculture policy (you can read the whole speech here), some media and online comments focused on the perceived hypocrisy of the Prince as an environmentalist with a huge carbon footprint, and the old fall-back of detractors of the food movement: Elitism. Read more

Celebrating Goodness at the Good Food Awards

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

Study on School Gardens Brings Fresh Results

These days, we hear more and more about our food system in crisis: contamination, obesity, poor distribution, and environmental devastation.  To combat some of these issues, the school garden is a growing trend that aims to teach our kids a more direct connection to their food and eating habits.  It’s actually not a new concept.  During World War I and II, motivated by scarcity and national security issues, schools  became major suppliers of fresh produce.  Our government began the U.S. School Garden Army, promoting fruit and vegetable production, consumption, and health.  But now the format has entered modern times, up against modern ailments and a larger population.

It is one thing to plant a few sunflowers with Kindergarteners and another to install, maintain, and implement nutrition, cooking, and ecological curriculum that ensure a lasting impact on the students.  It’s not as easy as just planting some tomatoes and hoping our kids will get the message. We’ve all encountered a neglected schoolyard, tangled weeds and scorched earth, with evidence of good intention but stunted momentum.  To really hit home on the important seed to fork lessons a school garden can deliver, it takes tons of work, planning, thought, and consistency…a home garden times one hundred or more.  The hurdles involved are also great, from our national policies, to funding, to actual space available within our country’s concrete landscapes. Read more

Getting from Delicious to the Dirt, A Review of A Taste for Civilization

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. Well, I’m guilty. When I first glanced at Janet A. Flammang’s The Taste for Civilization, I was simultaneously smitten by the lovely image of a few leaves of arugula caught on a fork, roots and soil still clinging to the slender green leaves, and daunted by the subtitle: “Food, Politics and Civil Society”. Having been engaged in just those three topics for the past several years in a number of capacities—as a teacher, farmer, garden program designer, national program advocate and traveler, to name a few—I had a hard time imagining how one slim volume would tackle, much less try to build a cohesive argument while engaging with, the entire complex web of our food system. I turned the page and began reading, and almost immediately I saw that I had in fact, for once, correctly judged a book by its cover. Read more

Who Are We Talking To? A Personal Reflection on the Business of Slow Food

I was amazed when I opened my New York Times yesterday, after a busy Sunday working at the café. The first face I saw when I pull the paper out of its blue plastic wrapper was that of Alice Waters, gracing the cover of the Sunday Business section. The superb accompanying article by Andrew Martin raises the question of whether the sustainable food movement is ready for the visibility it is getting these days. Read more

Alice Waters Playing Pol Pot? Ruth Reichl Responds to Inaugural Dinner Bashing

Alice Waters is taking a lot of heat in blogger land of late. From The Feedbag’s question “Has the locavore taliban finally been checked?” to NPR’s Monkey See blogger Todd Kliman noting Alice’s “inflexible brand of gastronomical correctness” to Anthony Bourdain’s equating her with the Khmer Rouge (I mean, can you see Alice carrying an 8.5 pound AK 47 when she couldn’t even do the Heimlich maneuver on Joan Nathan?) Alice is getting shredded in the Cuisinart of the Anti-Politically Correct. Read more

Dining Commons Opens at King School in Berkeley

The new Dining Commons at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California – feeding students since August – opened its doors to the community on Saturday to show off the latest phase of a revolutionary approach to school lunch. For the first time, several hundred parents, teachers, local food activists and assorted politicians – including Mayor Tom Bates, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier and Congresswoman Barbara Lee – could sit together in this extraordinary new building and share an ordinary school lunch: lentil soup, grilled chicken with roasted root vegetables, green salad and bread, fresh fruit. They paid $100 apiece for the privilege (the proceeds going to support the program). Students pay anywhere from 40 cents to $3.50 for a comparable meal (depending on family income). Read more