Posted by Rob Eshman
I’m trying to wrap my head around Slow Food’s Terra Madre 2010 and Salone del Gusto conferences that drew to a close in Turin, Italy tonight. I came not knowing what to expect—I just had a sense this was the place to be for someone who cares about these issues.
What I take away, bottom line, is that the people at Terra Madre, the activists around the world involved in the Slow Food movement, are engaged in what is the next major social movement of our lifetimes.
It’s happening right before our eyes, but it’s easy to miss. Why? Unless there’s police with batons and protesters in the streets, the press doesn’t cover social movements, and we don’t see them. But this is a big, radical—I mean that in a good way—movement, a grass roots one, and if it succeeds the fundamental structures of our society will change, from the way corporations do business, to the laws that govern food and land rights, to the very taste of the stuff we put in our mouths.
I’m convinced that, even taking into account the law of unintended consequences, these changes will repair so much that is broken in the world: our environment, hunger, obesity, human rights, animal welfare, the taste of our food.
That’s because by focusing on food, the movement has found perhaps the most powerful lever for changing so much that is wrong in society. The production, distribution and consumption of food touches on every aspect of our lives, from topsoil maintenance to gender roles. (I believe it ultimately touches on the vitality of our own souls as well, but Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini is clearly more comfortable with the overtly political).
“Food was always a part of social movements,” author Raj Patel told the crowd at tonight’s closing ceremony. “Now it has moved to the center.”
A lot, then, is at stake. So, will it succeed?
I think that depends on how the movement answers four questions—they are the four that after these days of talking, listening, interviewing, eating (a lot of eating, just…a…lot) and drinking (ditto), I still never got clear answers to.
1. What does it want?
The power of food to touch so many aspects of society may also be a weakness of the movement. The six presentations tonight touched on food-related issues from the disappearance of small farms to the lack of plant and animal diversity, from corporate control of seed stock and GMOs, to hunger among the world’s women and children, to fast food and obesity and the need for school gardens. Yes, yes and yes. But like any business, like any person, success depends on focus. You pursue a wide ranging agenda and you may very well end up doing a little about a lot of things, but not enough about any one.
2. How will it declare victory?
Call me a shallow American, but when I join a cause, I want to win. The Civil Rights Movement culminated in the Voting Rights Act. That was the trophy those ativists could point to on their wall. How will Slow Food know when it’s won? I asked Josh Viertel, the president of Slow Food USA, this question, and he gave me what amounted to a lot of good things: when there’s more school gardens in America than McDonalds. When the majority of Americans have access to good, healthy local food. I think he mentioned something about people sitting and eating together—I’ll check that when I write up his interview. But the end result is no end result. If you can’t give people some Thing to aim for, to aspire to, will they walk off the field as the goal posts keep moving back.
3. Who will lead it?
Great movements produce great leaders. I left this conference having met severeal of them, from 17 year old Sam Levin, who started a school garden as a high school project at 15 and is just a ridiculously poised and powerful speaker. I actually think Carlo Petrini appropriated his line about the power of snails, the Slow Food symbol. “Politicians don’t know anything about snails, but snails know about politicians.” Must check my notes on that one.
In any case, Sam’s too young, Josh Viertel, also dynamic, a Harvard and Yale grad who did time as a farmer and shephard, still lacks what the pros call name recognition. Carlo Petrini cannot play a public leadership role in America because, well, he doesn’t speak English. He is also essentially a Comunist academic, and I say that lovingly. He seems ambivalent about donning the mantle of movement leader—slipping in to long, philosophical discourses, and reveling in a certain degree of anarchy. At one point tonight animal rights protesters commanderred the proceedings. Two unfurled a flag in the bleachers with the words, Carne=Morte, while one, dressed in a bloody sheep costume, ran on stage and fell down dead, as a young, shrill woman with a megahone screamed at the audience in Italian. Petrini, sitting not two feet away, sat through it all bemused. At one point he clapped, perhaps applauding the theatricality or the chutzpah of it all. What he didn’t do at that moment was take control. (It’s Italy—no one did).
“Do what you want,” Petrini surged the crowd at the end of his speech, which as you can imagine would only be a rabble-rousing line in a classroom full of third graders.
This is all a good problem, in its way. The movement is full of leaders, of people taking action in their communities. But what the movement lacks is a high profile, visionary, singular leader who will push the agenda, set the tone, take the flack, lead the troops. Funny that a community full of cooks doesn’t realize how important it is to have a chef.
4) What unites the followers?
Clearly the people at the conference are united in their love and admiration for Petrini, and in their hate of the Monsanto corporation. Mention either of those ends of the love/hate spectrum and you get a universal reaction. The middle, though, is a little gray.
The people themselves are different: farmers, food lovers, housewives, academics, activists. And their causes don’t always line up: there are die-hard animal rights activists, hog farmers, social justice workers, etc. When Raj Patel mentioned in one speech that the conference should be in Spanish to address the people who really farm our fields and cook our food, I could sense the crowd divided. When he held up the Black Panthers as a model for changing community through food, you could see tumbleweeds blow past the podium. It was an interesting litmus test of how far Left, for lack of a better word, this bunch will go.
So it’s simple: for this critical, growing movement to really change the world, the right leader needs to focus on the winnable goal, abring the largest numbers of activist along, and spark the public imagination as well.
After four days, I have no idea how or whether that could happen. But I hope it does.
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October 24, 2010 | 2:28 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
Middle East peace might be dead in the water between Jerusalem and Ramallah, but it’s alive and well—and delicious—in Turin, Italy.
Last evening, Oct. 24, five chefs, two Arab Israelis, three Israeli Jews, prepared a five course meal for sixty guests at the Le Meridien Art + Tech Hotel restaurant.
The chefs are part of Chefs for Peace, an Israel-based group of 14 chefs—Jewish, Muslim and Christian—who aim to set an example for peaceful coexistence by coming together in the kitchen and at the table.
“Instead of using our land for conflict, we’re using it to show the great products it produces for all of us,” Chef Nadav Malin told the diners before the meal began. “Instead of showing people how we use knives and fire to kill each other, we show them how we use them to create food.”
The chefs came to Turin as part of the week long Terra Madre conference and Salone del Gusto exhibition, organized every two years by the Slow Food movement.
Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini’s mantra is that eating is an essentially political act. But last night’s dinner carried what was arguably the most overt political symbolism of the entire event. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t, first and foremost, delicious.
The five chefs prepared a first course of traditional Middle Eastern appetizers: humous, tahina, bab ganouj, homemade pita, leben with za’atar, walnuts and chili. To wash it down, they served guests a non-alcoholic tamarind juice and an arak and lemon juice shooter.
Second came fresh grape leaves stuffed with veal in broth with pomegranate syrup, then a filet of sea bream (orata) with lemon salsa and a barley almond pilaf. A orange and rose water granite arrived before the main course: a seared lamb chop with caramelized fig in a wine –hibuscus reduction, along with freekah (a toasted wheat-like grain) and black lentils. Dessert was a millefeuille of halvah and mocha cream, date and halvah cookies, and traditional Arabic coffee flavored with cardomon.
This being Italy, each course was paired with a wine provided by the Castello Banfi vineyards in Montalcino, Tuscany—from a sparkling Alta Langa Cuvee Aurora 2004 to start through a Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino 2005 to wash down the lamb, finishing with the region’s oldest grape, a Moscadello di Montalcino Florus 2008.
For many in the mostly Italian audience, it was the first exposure to Middle Eastern food.
Italians tend to stick to Italian food, one guest explained. “If we eat sushi, we think we’re really being exotic.”
Malin, who is in his third year as a student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences near Turin, took pains to describe the eotic ingredients in fluent Italian. While the chefs used local meat and produce, they packed their own staples from the Holy Land: tahini, Turkish coffee, freekah and za’atar. Tel aviv’s Earth Market, a Slow Food project, contributed the halva and tahini.
In fact, the menu featured a passage in Italian from Leviticus, detailing the seven species of fruits and grains that the Children of Israel would find in the Promised Land. The chefs took pains to make sure all the species were represented in the dishes, reflecting the 2010 Terra Madre theme linking food to territory. “Those are species that existed in our land for thousands of years,” Malin said. “They are the local products of this land.”
Malin, who is 26, said one of his aims in taking on the dinner was to show people “a different side of Israel” than what they see on the news.
It was Malin’s mother, Anat Lev Ari, who co-founded Chefs for Peace in 2001, along with Kevork Alemian, an Armenian Christian Arab from Jerusalem.
At the time, Chef Lev Ari had helped open a small farmer’s market in Jerusalem under the auspices of Slow Food Israel. It was Petrini himself who invited the two to take part in a Slow Food event in Positano, Italy. Originally they were billed as Chefs from the Holy Land. While there, they came up with the idea of Chefs for Peace.
“We wanted to show that we can live and learn and work together,” said Nabil Aho, who is the head chef at the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, the Vatican residence in Jerusalem’s Old City.
“In cooking you use the same ingredients to cook different recipes, but you have the ingredients in common,” Aho said. “We all have something in common.”
The group attracted attention early on, cooking at high profile events in Argentina, Germany, and Israel. Aho said they get along very well.
“We never discuss politics,” he said. “We talk about food. We are friends outside the kitchen too.”
If issues arose, they also came outside the kitchen. Palestinian officials will often refuse to come to events in west Jerusalem, the Jewish part of the city.
“They won’t come in their ‘official’ role,” he corrected himself, with a grin. “But they stop by as friends.”
The chefs were not the only Israelis at the biennial Terra Madre conference, which brings together some 6,000 food lovers and activists from around the world.
There are 18 members in the Israeli delegation, mostly from the most active Slow Food chapters in the Upper Galilee and Tel Aviv, said Malin.
“We hope this conference will kick start interest so we can inspire a chapter in Jerisaem,” he said.
The Slow Food movement, founded in 1986, promotes food that is “good, clean and fair.”
By bringing people around a common goal—delicious, sustainable food— founder Petrini is clearly happy to cross the barriers erected by poltics. At the Terra Madre’s opening ceremony, a representative of the Israel delegation marched in—and sat beside—the Iranian representative.
When the five chefs came out to great the diners, the huge dining room erupted in sustained applause.
“It’s more than good food,” Odeh Abu El-Hawa, the executive chef at the Hotel 7 Arches restaurant in East Jerusalem, said later. “We’re showing how coexistence in possible.”
October 22, 2010 | 11:27 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
If you will it, it is no dream, Herzl said.
And so: Starting this year, people who care about the way their meat is raised, and the ay it tastes, can finally, easily, get natural, humanely-raised Heritage breed kosher turkey in Los Angeles.
KOL Foods, an East coast company that has pioneered the sourcing of good meat, is now shipping their Thanksgiving turkeys West. You’ll need to pre-order (by November 10), and there’s one pick up point in the Pico Robertson area. Basically, it is easier to get pot in this town than a well-raised kosher animal.
You’ll pay a bit more too (the price is TBD). I can detour here and go into a long analysis of why food costs too little, not too much, but that doesn’t ease the stress on your wallet. Suffice it to say that a couple years ago we ate a Heritage kosher breed turkey from Kosher Conscience in New York, and it really was good. (I mean, it was still turkey, so keep your expectations in check).
I’ll update this site to list—happily—any other outlets for humane kosher birds (or beasts) in LA.
Meantime, enjoy the information on the Amish farmer who raises the birds back east. Pardon the expression, but it;‘s almost overkill:
Aaron King, Our Amish Turkey and Duck farmer
Our turkeys are not your normal bird. They are organic-raised on the pastures of Aaron and Roman’s Amish farms in Lancaster Country, PA especially for KOL Foods. While conventional turkeys have such large breasts that they have trouble walking, KOL Foods’ turkeys are reminiscent of a time before industrialization when poultry was free to roam. Our turkeys live turkey lives. Aaron provides them with all the staples: ample food, drink, protection and good old-fashioned freedom. The turkeys live on the farm’s pastureland where a barn provides them with shelter but does not keep them contained. The birds find fresh grass and grubs – in a bird’s eye view: heaven.
Aaron understands their thinking; he also sees his farm as heaven. Aaron started caring for animals on his parents’ dairy farm when he was only three years old. He likes the diversity of raising turkeys, ducks, chickens and guinea fowl because “there’s always something different going on.” He bought his own small poultry farm two and a half years ago after renting land for years. The values that farming instills - responsibility, hard work and delayed gratification - are important lessons that Aaron wants to pass on to his children. Aaron’s wife, Annie, and seven year old son, Emmanuel, tend the egg-laying chickens while their three year old son, Samuel, helps take care of their driving horse Lizzie and their dog Trixy. “On the farm you learn fast that a job done half isn’t worth doing. That’s important for my boys to know.” If the animals on a farm aren’t well cared for, they suffer - something that the boys know is not okay. Out on the small farms of Lancaster County, children care for animals and, in turn, animals teach farm kids about the circle of life.
In the age of industrial meat production, we have forgotten that the health of our bodies isn’t just in what we eat; it is in what what we eat eats. For our turkeys to be healthy for us, they need to eat healthy grass and healthy grubs grown on healthy soils. In a wonderful synergy of nature, not only are pasture-raised turkeys healthy for us and healthy for the earth, they are deliciously rich in flavor. They taste like turkey was meant to taste.
So let’s have a truly special Thanksgiving. Eat consciously. Know your farmer and where your meal comes from and be thankful in bringing them to your table.
October 21, 2010 | 5:26 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
The Tierra Madre 2010 conference started Thursday in Turin, Italy, and I am lucky enough to be here—in Turin—attending.
Some 6000 people from 161 countries attend this massive, biennial conference to discuss a sane, sustainable approach to food, to sample the fruits of that approach, and to create and expand the network of people who care about such things.
What other world event starts with a rpocession of nations that has the announcer saying, “India, Iran, Iraq, Israel…” followed by “Pakistan, Palestina, Syria….”
That’s right: the Slow Food delegates watched the Israeli Star of David flag march right alongside the Iranian one—and then the two delegates sat on the podium just one Iraqi man apart. How did that happen? Without permission and without fanfare, I’m sure. But also because Terra Madre is about a subject that is all about politics, but somehow more important than politics too.
I came to participate and learn, but also as a kind of pilgrimage—here I am around 6000 people who think much like me, in the presence of the man who created the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini. It’s university, restaurant and holy place all in one.
Next to Terra Madre, running simultaneously, is the Salone del Gusto. This takes place in a convention hall that used to be FIAT’s factory— the T stands for Torino. It constitutes several city blocks of building. And inside are booths set up featuring the artisinal, slow foods from around the world presented by the people who make them.
There are thousands of foods, wines, beers and spirits to sample. They are organized by region, not kind of food, to emphasize the links between a territory and its tastes. The majority are from regions of Italy—Tuscany, Calabria, Piedmont—but many booths are from far flung areas: a Scottish beer maker, Polish sausages, South American choclate, African greens, I think I even noticed Kettle Chips from the States.
Most of the producers are small, even mom and pop. One family came with bunchy stalks of red celery they grow. BSome of the producers are huge, but maintain slow food production techniques and ingredients: next to a man who makes his own wild boar pate was a family whose butter cookies I’ve seen at Fairway in New York. Lavazza had a booth with samples of its Fair Trade coffee, and even Ricola was there, giving away cough drops (hey, maybe they really do use Alpine herbs).
Many of the booths offered small samples. A young man held a wooden spoon of green paste in front of me and I licked it down—it was pistachio puree from Sicily. That flavor in pistachio gelato? Imagine it uncut with cream.
That was free. Many more booths sold tastes for between 1 Euro and 20 (if you wanted a flight of rare grappas).
While Terra Madre is invitation-only, the Salone del Gusto is open to all. It too has an educational component—public lectures, dinners, displays—and school children come by the bus loads to learn about a life beyond fast food.
(Italy is full of the crud. I’ve counted four McDonalds on my short tour around Turin. I also notice the snack bars selling premade sandwiches at the fringes of the convention hall do a brisk business with the police, guards, porters and janitors).
By the week’s end, some 30,000 people will have come through the Salone.
I spent two hours grazing. A kind of vertigo set in. There was too much bounty, everywhere I looked there was more to be amazed by. I could have spent five or six hours. I probably will over the next two days. There were so many choices, souch a bounty, I had to force myself to stop and taste, though my city bones were itching to get to the next booth before the crowds pressed in, before the platter of samples disappeared. It may be slow food, but people are in a frenzy to swallow it.
I took out my notebook and let it help me taste: I resolved to write notes on each sample.
Colatura di Alici
This is fish sauce from Sardinia. Fermented sardines, a clear liquid, the descendent of the ancient Roman staple condiment, garum. It is very similar to Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce, milder if anything. I dipped a piece of bread in it as the purveyor, a grandmothrly type with tousled grey hair, watched me curiously, waiting for a reaction. She assumed gringos don’t do fish sauce. “Molto buono,” , I said, and she nodded.
White Artichoke Puree
From the Campania region. Just pure delicate artichokes, Carciofi Bianco di Pertosa—so light green they’re almost white, pureed with salt and olive oil. I was offered no more than a smear on a wooden coffee stirrer, and it was astonishingly potent, a distillation.
Speaking of distillation, a couple booths away was Elisir Amaro al Carciofi Setino, from Lazio. This is a dark (morbido) liquid, 14 percent alcohol, used as a digestive. Again, essence of artichoke, bitter with a sweet finish. I want to drink more.
Also from Campania. The piece I had was grassy and spicy. It tasted of goats milk, and had some red chili added. This is what Boursin must have tasted like 2000 years ago.
I thought: almonds? Been there. So I popped one of the fifty varieties on display in my mouth and came to a full stop. I looked at the one still in my hand. The size of a large peanut. Tiny. I bit down again: it tasted like almond milk. Sweet and fresh, more like a fruit. I was simply amazed. Turns out almonds originated in this valley in Uzbekhistan, and Slow Foods is working with local farmers there to save the growing traditions and the heirloom varieties.
The Ligurian delgation had tables set up where you could order dishes. By then I needed to get off my feet, so I asked for a bowl of soup—annoyed with myself for trying something so familiar. But this wasn’t familiar: it was full of fresh, carefully chosen pas and field beans, in a powerful tomato broth, seasoned with fresh parmagian. It was the best bowl of minestrone I’ve had. And it was in a convention hall.
The Terra Madre conference itself opened at a second, modern convention area, called The Oval, just behind the Fiat factory. To get there you walk through a large courtyard full of booths selling street food from around Italy and the world: egg rolls, kebab, fried olives, piadini, fried whiting, pizza.
But even the Oval isn’t big enough to seat all the delegates at once, so the opening ceremony was held at the same stadium where the 2008 Winter Olympics figure skating took place, the Palasport Olmpico.
It’s like the opening of the Olympics. Every seat is filled. A giant screen shows the speakers and performers on stage. There’s simultaneous translation in 7 languages.
The march of national representatives into the great stadium begins. Except instead of athletes you get men and women who make food. The Sami reindeer herder from Sweden. The Australian aborigine, the Gamo from Ethiopia, the Kamchadal from somewhere in Russia, and the Guaranì Indian from Brazil —many in native dress. Even, as I mentioned, a 30 something Israeli man, parading in beside his Iranian fellow food lover.
The pageant, the musical interludes, all led up to the initial address by the founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini.
I’m interviewing him later this week, so I’ll save the descriptions for then. But suffice it to say he is a powerful, singular presence. He has started a profound international conversation about food, he has created a movement, a body of literature, a kind of cross-border Internationale of people who see food as the lever that can change the world. He did all this, basically, with the power of his ideas and his words.
On stage, his speech is less rabble-rousing and more like a very thoughtful lecture delivered with amped-up passion. He stressed how our current food production, relying on technology and speed to achieve cheap prices, endangers our planet. The answers, he said, are found in the youth of the world, and in appreciating and ensuring the diversity of foods and cultures.
“We have sinned in a terrible way in destroying native communities,” he said. “We must have a dialogue between science and traditional knowledge. The main holders of this knowledge are native peoples, women, farmers and elders. Not only should they be listened to, but should be at the front line for the challenges this world and the crisis present us. Yet these are the people least considered by politicians and media.”
Petrini said salvation lay in three tasks: We must enhance diversity, strengthen reciprocity, and engage in more dialogue and meeting.
In other words, liberte, egalite and fraternite.
There was a certain over-the-top aspect to it all. It was an event that borrowed rhetoric from religion and from revolution, wrapped up in an event that seemed discomfortingly mainstream. The reason people work on farms and in food is so they don’t have to sit on their asses in stadiums and watch people march around with flags.
But—who am I to second guess a movement that is growing by many thousands of members each year. My quibbles are stylistic.
As for substance, Petrini has said that the two principals of Slow Food are pleasure and awareness. He has taken those two words and blown them up, larger than life.
The Salone offers every taste pleasure you can imagine—you experience the pure joy of what a Slow Food approach can mean for you, now. You will eat well. You will be happy. The Terra Madre conference, which really gets underway Friday, itself is less about taste, but more about analysis and intellectual exploration.
At the end of the first day, despite the pomp and frenzy,the overwhelming feeling I had was this: Gratitude.
Gratitude that it is possible for one man with a good idea to manifest it in the world.
Gratitude for the delirious bounty of food at the Salone.
And, as always, gratitude to be alive, healthy and in Italy.
October 7, 2010 | 3:11 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Last night at Vibiana’s, I couldn’t find a place to eat my wild mushroom and goat cheese while holding my glass of Craftsman Octoberfest beer and my notebook and navigating a crowd reveling in some amazing food, wine and brew. So I ducked into what looked like an old wooden phone booth and set everything down on a handy ledge.
A woman paused to look at me. “I haven’t been in one of those in a while,” she said.
That’s when I realized: I wasn’t in a phone booth, I was in a confessional.
Vibiana’s used to be St. Vibiana’s, the first major cathedral in the City of Los Angeles, built in the 1870’s. The Archdiocese decommissioned and deconsecrated it in 1996, then erected the City of Angels Cathedral on Temple Street.
Vibiana’s, after a brutal conservancy fight with the Archdiocese and a $4 million painstaking restoration, became a breathtaking event space.
It was packed last night with hundreds of local chefs, food producers, activists, politicians and food lovers gathered for the “Taste of the LA Foodshed,” a kick off event for Roots of Change’s Network Summit: Healthy Food & Farms by 2030. Healthy food, farms and people is the overarching goal of Roots of Change, a non-profit founded by an energetic food policy cheerleader named Michael Dimock.
Dimock is a former farmer, agribusiness exec and Slow Food leader who recognizes that systemic change in our relationship to food has to come at the policy level. Over the course of a two day summit, ROC will launch its, “California Healthy Food & Agriculture” Platform that lays out for legislators state policies that ensure a healthy and prosperous food and farm economy in California. Last night the focus was on the potential products of wise food policy: great, local, healthy food.
“We all live in the city but we want to eat like we live on the farm,” said Evan Kleiman, the chef/owner of Angeli, host of Good Food on KCRW and a member of LA’s Food Policy Task Force.
Kleiman pointed out that LA is surrounded by fertile farmland and blessed with great weather— the city’s residents deserve to have healthy, local sustainable food.
“The foodshed needs to be tended like the watershed,” sad Dimock. “So everybody in the city can eat good food.”
We pay a steep price for the current system.
According to the ROC report, South Los Angeles has one of the highest poverty rates (30%) , as well as one of the highest obesity rates (35% of adults).
In 2009, one in 10 L.A. County residents received food assistance, according to the report. The problem is not starving –African type hunger, but inadequate nutrition, either out of lack of access to healthy food, or poor education, or both.
“We’re here because we need to have rational food policy in this town,” said LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “We have a high percentage of hungry kids and obese kids.”
Los Angeles tried to do something about this in the 1990s, when it launched its first food policy council. That effort fell apart, while other cities like San Francisco, Portland, and New York made progress.
Judging by the turnout at the conference and the kickoff event, this time the efforts look like they’ll lead somewhere.
Occidental University Professor Bob Gottlieb is a task force member who is the director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College and author of Food Justice, an influential guide to what governments and citizens can do.
I asked him how the awareness, the concern and the renewed interest translate into actual policy, and not just actual committee meetings?
He told me that two immediate policy changes would mandate locally-sourced food procurement policies for the city and school district, and make it possible for low income residents to use EBT cards at farmers markets.
The hall at Vibiana’s was full of groups advocating longer term efforts, too, like community gardens in low income areas, school gardens, hunger relief and food access (The Jewish Federation and the Progressive Jewish Alliance had tables addressing those issues) and fair practices for food workers.
If that’s the medicine, the sugar to take it with were tables staffed by some of the city’s best chef, using over $100,000 of donated produce from local farmers to cook up examples of what sustainable local food could taste like.
It was a grazer’s paradise: Morro Bay oysters with Petty Ranch Meyer Llemon ceviche from the Water Grill. Sonoma County Poultry Liberty Duck Pastrami and Marinated Duck Tongues with Deardoff Family Farms Swiss Chard Jam from Waterloo and City’s Brendan Collins; EVA’s Mark Gold’s Jaime Farm Fall Squash lasagne layered with Tomato Confiture, Bay Leaf and Walnut… wines from Au Bon Climat and San Antonio (in downtown LA)… beer from Craftsman and from Eagle Rock Brewery. Multiply that times a couple dozen and you’ll understand the bounty.
“Michael Dimock is a visionary,” said documentary filmmaker Harry Wiland, one of the hundreds of guests sampling his way through the former church.
That vision was clear last night. Just as the way you and I eat shapes our bodies and souls, so too the way a city eats determines its quality of life. Food is an obvious lever to reshape our city, if only because it is the one thing that ties all of us together on a daily, even hourly basis.
I didn’t ask Dimock this, but I wondered why, of all the possible venues for last night’s event, he chose Vibiana’s. I don’t think it’s all a coincidence. The beautiful spread last night, and the sense of purpose and mission that produced it, as far as I’m concerned, on October 6, 2010, Vibiana’s was recomissioned, and reconsecrated