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On An Edible History of Humanity—Or How Food Has Influenced Our History

Just twenty years after humans cease to exist, our vegetable gardens will have reverted back to “unpalatable wild strains.” So envisions Alan Weisman in The World Without Us, a reminder that the history of food has run in parallel to human development. Put another way by Tom Standage, “The story of the adoption of agriculture is the tale of how ancient engineers developed powerful new tools that made civilization itself possible. In the process, mankind changed plants, and those plants in turn transformed mankind.” This course is the focus of An Edible History of Humanity, his account of how food has influenced world history. Read more

Dear California: Keep Your Fairgrounds!

California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has released a list of state properties that might be for sale in this time of unprecendented budget crisis. On that list are a couple of fairgrounds, including the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Southern California.

The Ventura County Fairgrounds is actually California’s 31st Agricultural District, and operates under the oversight of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. You can visit that website to learn more about our Fairs and Expositions; they represent a great underutilized resource in California. Read more

Eating from the Slow Food Ark of Taste: Tepary Beans

During a recent visit to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, a bag of tepary beans at the Rancho Gordo stand called out to me as I struggled to make a few choices from their incredible variety of offerings. I knew that they were an ancient bean associated with Native Americans and so I bought a pound. The variety I purchased are small and pale green in color. The photo shows them along with a kidney bean and black bean for scale. Read more

What they ate on the way to the California gold fields

When news of the discovery of gold in California spread around the world, thousands flocked to the West to try to strike it rich. In 1849 alone, 42,000 people traveled overland, 1,500 took a route across Panama, 6,000 Mexicans came north, 41,000 took the long sea route around Cape Horn. A sleepy little village in 1848, over the next few years San Francisco exploded in population and wealth, becoming the capital of the West. Read more