Sunday, August 22, 2010

Article: Radical Homemaking?

From Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle

Yet another way of labeling the 'trend' away from Velveeta. Dropping out in the 21st century makes news, but more like nontrevercy. However, the author does try to stir it up. She brings on a professor of sustainable design at UC Berkeley, Jessica Carew Kraft. She said, "At the end of the day, after you've recycled gray water into your garden, biked to work and washed a hundred diapers by hand, you've done a lot of good for yourself, but have you really changed the world?" Kraft asks. "Radical homemaking can become too self-righteous." I think if a quarter of us would do a quarter of that, we would be changing the world.

Read the Chronicle Article

Another radical, Robin Johnson Simpson, of Belmont, has an interesting blog Frustrated Farmgirl.

NPR Story about food carts

Nice national story about food carts in different cities (or maybe just Seattle, although this is not disclosed in the story). Charla Bear says a number of new chefs use mobile kitchens as lower risk first ventures before moving into brick-and-mortar establishments.

Mobile food seems all the buzz here lately. My family and I visited this Saturday's street food event sponsored by La Cocina in the Mission. The food was great and the street was packed. It was a dilemma whether to chose a stand for its fare or for how short the line was. We compromised with our stomachs and settled for a pair of kati roles from Kasa Indian Eatery. One was chicken the other vegetarian and both were yummy.

Hear the story

Friday, August 13, 2010

San Francisco Art and Politics

I picked up a free paper called San Francisco Art and Politics at a coffeeshop and found two thought provoking articles in it. One was a short article about a San Francisco newsletter from the 70's called Turnover: The Newsletter of the People's Food System. Five front covers were reproduced as well as an article about food politics by Pam Pierce (author of our food growing bible, The Golden Gate Gardener). The writer mentions that issues can be seen at the History Room of the San Francisco Public Library as well as the Prelinger Library. I can't wait to peruse them.
The other was entitled Stone Soup. In it Ellen Roggermann exposes her thoughts on the loss of communal food sharing and subsequently the social glue that used to provide. The most interesting point she makes is that some place are beginning to revive communal ovens that apparently were fixtures in many European villages and likely still are in other parts of the world.
It begs the question: How much further can we push the idea of community gardens? How about community orchards? Sheep herds? Cheese dairies? Fish farm? Not that this is that novel an idea.
Check out the community chicken coop in How-to Homestead videos website.
And pick up a copy of San Francisco Art and Politics at your local independent bookstore (better yet, get it at Green Arcade, a great newish bookstore specializing in environment/landscape/local history, near the corner of Gough and Market St.)

Turnover cover image from Found SF, Chris Carlson's wikisite of San Francisco history.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Portland, Oregon - a movable feast

My favorite personal discovery during our summer road trip was the

food cart scene in Portland. It is funky delicious, and a whole lot of fun seeking great eats scattered around the city. We had a yummy and filling breakfast at the Waffle Window (if you go, don't forget to get a side of pepper cured bacon) followed by lunch the same day at a Vietnamese cart downtown.

If serendipity in eating is not your thing, you can take out the guess work by visiting virtually at Food Carts Portland
Even if your are not planning a trip soon it is worth a web visit to get a flavor for the variety and liveliness of this scene. Maybe we could import some of this to the Bay Area.

Quote: Planting for the future

Dean Crowford quoting Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills, Charleston, South Carolina -

"He mentioned the Southern tradition of planting a pecan tree not for oneself but for one's grandchildren, since the pecan takes sixty-five years to bear."

Gastronomica, Spring 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Leaping Lamb Farm Stay

My family and I had the great pleasure of traveling to Oregon this summer, running away from the fog, and having four glorious days in this farm near Corvalis. Apart from reducing our standing blood pressure reading by at least 10 points, we got to see some of the inner workings of a hobby farm.

The inside view both inspired and tempered our fantasy of "living the dream" in a farm of our own. The place was beautiful and pastoral, especially as seen through our cabin windows while reclining in a comfortable chair, and from the perspective of our unhurried vacation mode. At some point however, I realized that what looked to me as a landscape to contemplate looked like an endless check list of chores to our farm hosts. For them there seemed to be a relentless pace, a rhythm to each day, that needed tending to without fail. I was never under the illusion that farming would be easy work but it was nonetheless sobering to realize the constancy required.

Our hosts, Scottie and Greg, were very friendly and invited us to join in for the most pleasureable of the tasks. The kids most enjoyed ringing a small cow bell on a string to bring in the sheep, the horses, and a donkey named Paco.

We wandered about the farm at our leisure. It was wonderful and I highly recommend this farm stay especially for families with kids. We hope to return a number of times while the kids are young.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book: Twain's Feast

This wonderful summer read is a quest by Berkeley-based author, Andrew Beahrs. While Twain was on an extensive tour of Europe he had a terrible bout of home sickness. He expressed this by denigrating the food he was served throughout the continent and by creating an imaginary American menu, the feast referred to in the title (he included the list in his "A Tramp Abroad", 1880).

What is amazing about this recounting is that more than a century later, Twain's Feast should strike such a relevant chord. Most of the items he fondly desires are rooted in a specific place and would have been eaten only fresh and in season. It reminds us that we are not so much inventing a new way of sourcing our food - rooted, fresh, and limited in geography - but returning to what was. It is a view to a time before freight trains and refrigeration homogenized our American palate.

It is also a reminder that food was one of the most important way in which place was distinguished. Not mussels, but San Francisco mussels steamed in their shell. Not just bacon, but Virginia bacon, broiled. Twain was not just day-dreaming of taste but also the flavor of a place.

It may seem obvious to say that this connection between place and food must in part be driving our impulse to local food. In choosing to eat a more rooted cuisine we are helping to distinguish our city, town, village, etc. I, for one, celebrate this renaissance of difference.

Taking off from this idea Beahrs dives into an investigation of a select few items from Twain's menu. It has been quite a treat to go along for the ride.