Sunday, March 29, 2009

Documentary: Greenhorns

Check out the trailer of a documentary about new farmers joining in the revolution.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Article: Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?

This past Sunday , the NY Times Business section included a long article about the mainstreaming of the organic and local foods movement. The heart of the argument is that the "revolution" has penetrated even to the top echelon of our government elite. The ebullient mood of many of the movements heavyweights, such as Alice Waters (pictured above), was mentioned several times. Much was made of the posturing among these "pioneers" and some of the leading non-profit lobbies, as they elbow their way to sit at the table with Obama and his administration. But, with all due respect to the godmother of locavoring, a celebrity cat-fight in Washington is quite a boring and unproductive topic.

Given that this article was in the business section I can only assume that its purpose was to gauge the profit potential of a sector now in vogue on Capitol Hill. The author however does paint a candid picture of the situation: while the higher ups are enthusiastic they are handcuffed by a congress that is still in the back pocket of agribusiness. Philosophy talks, money walks.

No matter. As the author also points out, this movement has been steadily chipping away, using a growing purchasing power to force the market. The most optimistic point made in the article is that The Omnivore's Dilemma is now ubiquitous in the halls of congress. Maybe we are in vogue.

Read it at NY Times

Friday, March 20, 2009

Edible Garden at the White House

They did it! Michelle Obama was out there today with a group of elementary school kids preparing some beds for planting. The Obamas, with the help of these same kids, are hoping to grow enough food to supplement the White House kitchen and donate some to a homeless shelter. Read more about it in the White House website and at the NY Times.

Urban Foraging

This recent story in SF Weekly is about Iso Rabins. He forages wild foods in the city. Iso is even launching a subscriber based "Community Supported Forage" box. Much of his foraging is fungal, but he also gathers such common annuals as stinging nettle and miner's lettuce.

It is interesting to note how fringe this ideas is presented in the pages of the weekly. It must say something that this story sounds so Quixotic. It is probably indicative of the loss of common knowledge about the bounty at our feet.

I must confessed that I even feel a little uneasy ingesting something that is not some how mediated for me by a grower or sanctioned by processing by General Mills (and this is only indicative of my own conformity with the agro-industrial complex).
The basic questions posed by the author is food for thought: how did foraging, one of the most basic of human endeavors, become so foreign.

Even before reading this article I had resolved to learn about some common local edibles that I could begin to gather and bring to our table. To that end I cracked open a copy of Edible and Useful Plants of California, by Charlotte Bringle Clarke that had been on my bookshelf for a while. It has been recently reprinted by UC Press. The book is organized by habitat and includes recipes and medicinal use information.

Something I learned that I may soon get to apply is that small branches of California bay can be placed in a chicken coop to keep fleas away. I also want to try making tea from dried blackberry leaves (I'll post it when I do).

Read about Iso Rabins at SF Weekly. His website is ForageSF

Thanks Manuelito for sending me this link.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Quote: The Local Food Revolution

All over the world, people are standing up to the agro-industrial complex and calling for food sovereignty - the right to nurish and strengthen their families and communities, sustain their culture, build health, and protect biodiversity.
Sarah van Gelder
Executive Editor of Yes! Magazine

The Spring issue of Yes! is dedicated grassroots food projects. Yes! Magazine.

Asparagus on My Mind

Sarah's Corner

Until last night I thought I’d make it through next week without buying asparagus.

I’ve been trying to pare down my time spent thinking about, buying and preparing food. We subscribed to a CSA farm box, and I decided to go to the Alemany farmer’s market every other week. I wince imagining my flat of eggs running out in the refrigerator, and buying a few non-local, less juicy apples at our local grocer, but my time is precious these days so I wanted to reclaim a few hours of my Saturday morning.

Back to the asparagus. The season is so tantalizingly brief, and asparagus are so easy to prepare. They work alongside pasta, chicken, in risotto. Maybe part of the pull is the thought of only a few precious weeks of asparagus each year. But I thought I could skip this coming week. Then I tried the most amazing, crunchy, grilled, juicy asparagus recipe, and now I can’t stop thinking about those stalks. The best part is that the recipe takes only 12 minutes, one or two knife swipes, basic ingredients, and your home stovetop.

Pan Roasted Asparagus

Wash and chop bottoms off a bunch of asparagus.
Heat up a 12” skillet (I used my favorite cast iron) at medium high heat with one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon olive oil.
Add asparagus, with half the tops in each direction. Cover for 5 minutes.
Uncover, add salt and pepper, raise heat to high. Cook 5-7 minutes, rotating asparagus towards center of the pan.

The asparagus come out tasting grilled, and brilliantly flavorful.

I got this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which is my latest cooking obsession. They tested this recipe with all kinds of variations and settled on this version. I have to concur, it’s perfect.

I might just have to buy three bunches this Saturday.

Pollan on Bill Moyer's Journal

Great Interview. See it here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Article: Bay Area Wheat Makes a Comeback

A great article I missed during my hiatus. Eat Well and Full Belly Farms revive an historic wheat strain, Sonora wheat, that may have arrived in the Americas with Columbus. Wheat may never be king here again but the revival adds diversity and excitement to the locavore scene. Read it at while you can.

What's more you can purchase Sonora wheat at the Pie Ranch farm stand. You can then mill it yourself as the ranch has just received shipment of a new stone mill from Austria. More on that at Pie Ranch.
We can owe this revival to Monica Spiller who has a non-profit working to promote sustainably grown grains. See her work at Whole Grain Connection.

Also, check out Morrell's Bread, made with this local wheat at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin.

Susan Stamberg Goes to Duarte's

Listen to this great piece from NPR's Susan Stamberg about Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero. If you have yet to experience this local treasure, get yourself there soon. A recommended outing around Pescadero: hike the marsh, U-pick 'em olallieberries at Phipps Farm and Country Store and the half-and-half bowl of cream of artichoke and green pepper soup at Duarte's. Personally I precede the soup with half a dozen oyster on the half shell and a Bloody Mary (green bean rather than celery at Duartes).

Hear Susan's piece here

Friday, March 13, 2009

Check out What's up with Urban Sprout

Urban Sprouts, an educational organization focusing on gardens, nutrition, and food justice, runs programs out of several San Francisco Middle Schools. They develop the gardens and help teachers integrate curricula with food growing. They are proposing a new garden for MLK Middle School in the Portola District. Check out their newsletter and slide show.
Slide Show

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Article: The Perils of Efficiency

In this short article James Surowiecki of the New Yorker argues that we have traded efficiency to the detriment of resiliency in our food systems. Another troubling trend. The Perils of Efficiency.

Article: Spoiled: Organic and Local is So 2008

Locavoring under attack on the pages of Mother Jones. Just in case we started feeling too comfy within the easy confines of our local foodscape, Paul Robert reminds us that we are 6.5 billion and growing. Sustainability in a food system will have to be a lot less neater that many of us envisioned it in order to feed us all. Spoiled: Organic and Local are SO 2008.

Article: Farmer in Chief

In an earlier post I refered to a serious discussion of an edible garden on the White House lawn. Well Michael Pollan is the main proponent of this idea and you can read his open letter to the President here, Farmer in Chief.

A little excerpt to get you in the mood: "Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis -- a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Meals-on-Wheels Hits the Farm

What is bright yellow, goes up to 60 mph, and has a fire on its tail (actually a custom built grill)? Apparently Meadow Lark Farm Dinners. These folk prepare an outdoor meal right next to the farm field out of a converted yellow school bus. Its extreme locavoring and it sounds wonderful. The down side for us is that they do this only in Colorado but it is such a great idea someone from Northern California will surely steal it. Meadow Lark Farm Dinners

Article: Eat Local, Kill Local

Pass this up if you don't eat meat. If you do and you want to do it locally and ethically, Read Heather Smiths article about a group of ranchers attempting to open a small-scale slaughterhouse in the Bay Area. Apparently even locally grazed, organically raised cattle must be trucked out to some industrial slaughterhouse in the Central Valley to be killed. These folk want to close the loop and bring some honesty to our local meat consumption. Read it hear Eat Local, Kill Locall

In the works: Documentary Film 'Edible City'

Check out video clips and help support this homegrown film project.

Edible City Trailer 1 from East Bay Pictures on Vimeo.

Food Deserts

This old post at FOOD MAPPING is worth revisiting because it brings up an important point about food accessibility. Although not local (the post focuses on NYC, of course we have our own food deserts. See the post @ FOOD MAPPING

Back on the Blog

After a long hiatus because our family has sprouted a new addition (Inez is now almost 9 months old), San Francisco Local Foods is back. It is hard to believe how much more momentum this movement has taken in the meantime. From the start, this energy has come because of grassroots efforts but may not be unrelated to a new sense of optimism brought on by the change in leadership in Washington. There has even been a serious discussion about displacing a portion of the White House lawn to make way for an organic kitchen garden (along with a new position of Farmer in chief).

It is now hard to find a mainstream publication or news outlet that has not covered local food movements and no more telling sign than the recent adoption of the word locavore by the editors of the Oxford American Dictionary (although this html editor still underlines the word in red).

We missed bringing you the news from our local scene and we are glad to be back in the stream.