People who know me, know that sustainability is a subject close to my heart. Starting this blog and getting to know bloggers around the world made me curious to see if we were all approaching sustainability the same way, or if there are some new practices that we might share. I an not sure we can talk about culture and food without considering sustainability, I hope never to see a day that I cannot replicate a recipe from a different culture – not because my local market does not carry the necessary ingredients, but because that ingredient is extinct. Understanding what is involved in the life cycle of the food system is eye opening, and goes a long way to explaining why cultures adapt certain food in the manner they do. Every day I meet people passionate who balance great food and preserving the environment. I had the pleasure of meeting Will Allen last year for a summit on sustainable agriculture I helped put on, and I have to say there is a reason he is in the New York Times and various other periodicals, he is just inspiring, and what he is doing for the community of Milwaukee with his urban farm, Growing Power is just impressive.
I asked a few other bloggers in different parts of the world to guest post on what’s happening in their area and to see if any trends or new ideas pop up that might be useful, so expect future sustainability posts. I would love to collect ideas from all over, so please, if you have something to share, let me know in the comment section, and even better if you’d like to post, I’d love to add your post to this series. To kick it off, I thought a run down of some of the practices I found in San Francisco would be in order.
Graze the Roof Project at Glide Memorial Church is a roof top garden providing produce to the under privileged living in San Francisco. The food goes to the volunteers and children who work one day a week in the center and learn to cook what they grow.
At the California Academy of Sciences we now have the greenest museum on earth with one of the most unique exteriors I’ve seen, with its living roof. Here’s a link to information on its sustainable design. The restaurants in the building are run by two locally reknowned chefs – Charles Phan (Slanted Door) and Loretta Keller (COCO500), and they have proved a very popular attraction for the museum.
Not Business As Usual
In San Franciso, we will have the toughest composting laws in the country. In a few months, the city is requiring that all composting be separated from the recycling or trash, otherwise the sanitary workers are authorized to issue tickets of $100 for offenders.
At the Ferry Building, aside for the now standard, bins separating compost, recycling and trash, is this new bin that collects wine bottle corks for recycling. The organization is ReCork America.
Any more when I attend meetings the water provided is not in individual plastic water bottles but glass pictures or bottles filled with filtered water. Disposable dishes and silverware are compostable made of potato starch or comparable material.
CSA (consumer sustainable agriculture) and Farmers Markets
For those of you not familiar with CSAs it is a produce delivery service that you sign up for with an area farm on a set schedule, typically weekly. The farm delivers boxes of produce in strategic locations around the city. We belong to a CSA and our pickup is less than a block away at the local elementary school. We pick up our box of seasonal produce and carry our bounty home. With this CSA, you never know what you are going to get so it keeps you on your toes when trying to develop meals for the upcoming weeks. Not all CSAs are the same, some add cheeses from local dairies or sustainable raised meat and fish. Some also have a menu selection that allows you to pick your vegetables so you do not get backed up on carrots.
Here’s a few resources for you:
Om Organics – find a CSA near you in California
Local Harvest – find a CSA anywhere in the United States
The number of farmers markets in San Francisco has increased, two were added in the last few months – The Inner Sunset, and Island Earth located inside the Metreon. Both are great additions. Since I spend a lot of time in the Inner Sunset, I love the increased sense of community the market brought; little kids earning change “baby sitting” the dogs while their masters stroll the market, community singers entertaining the shoppers, and passionate discussions on merits of different varieties of peaches.
Recently, the mayor of San Francisco proposed that the city grow its own crops in window boxes, street medians and vacant lots. The details are still sketchy, and some practical and logistical issues need resolving, but heck, if you don’t start brainstorming good ideas might never take off.
Alemany Farms is a cooperative established to improve conditions in a public housing project and encourages community by “providing organic food and green jobs for a low-income community while sowing the seeds for economic and environmental justice”.
My Farm is a decentralized urban farm that grows vegetables in backyards around the city. They use under-used space in people’s yards around the city, in return for its use they offer discounts on their produce for the use of the land. The produce becomes part of a CSA delivery system that is provided weekly. They also make it a closed system composting on site. I met their founder at a urban agriculture summit I helped put on last year and really liked the idea of the company. There are many different models around, but selected My Farm based on my previous contact.
Tataki, America’s first sustainable sushi restaurant opened in San Francisco, others are in the works, including one in Seattle.
More menus are listing locally sourced food on their menus to lure environmentally conscious consumers. Actually thats not fair to say, people realize that probably the best tasting produce is locally grown so they are on the prowl for the best meal.
I’ve seen more people bringing their Tupperware with them to take the leftovers in, so as not to use the plastic containers supplied by the restaurants. I’d like to say I am one of those people, but I do not have that foresight – yet!
The city’s restaurants are participating in a joint commercial composting program designed to reduce the amount of compostable materials into landfills. Several businesses in the City also breakout compost in addition to distinguishing between recycling and trash.
Cow Shares – when a group collectively buys a cow from a local butcher and divides up the meat rather than buying from a grocery store chain, in the attempt to reduce the carbon foot print and gain knowledge of where the meat is coming from. This idea is not new, at least not to farmers and those that live in rural communities. My uncles, both farmers, pitched in with neighbors to purchase and butcher a cow as it was more meat than any one family could consume – it reduced cost and waste.
Preserving foods though as canning, and making jams and jellys has taken off, as have the classes that teach these techniques. My local hardware store has a hard time keeping Mason jars in stock.
A Moveable Feast: Every month two top area chefs create a multi-course dinner that highlights both their individual talent while showcasing the offerings of a featured farmer. These dinners are to benefit CUESA.
Events such as Farm to Table of Ground to Glass are becoming increasingly popular as people want to feel like they are getting back to nature and understanding better the connection with their foods. Even Harley Farms Dairy, which I had mentioned in previous posts has a dining room they use for events or dinners they host,
Cook Here and Now – is a “underground” dining party started by an Italian foodie from Rome where the food is local and seasonal, and the guests share a passion for good food and companionship.
Many of these places started in response to restrictions on ingredients such as raw cheeses or unpasteurized milk, and the desire to sample the best and freshest bounty available, and to share these experiences with like minded individuals.
Here’s a list of underground dining establishments around the world.
Useful resources – not SF exclusive
CUESA – Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture – offers classes and the farmers market at the Ferry Building.
On the side of this page are several links for sustainable sites that are worth checking out.
The summary is my perspective of the happenings in the Bay Area – no its narrower than that, its what I know of that is happening in the Bay Area, as I can only ingamine what else might be going on. I am going to try to keep this topic food focused, and apologize in advance if I digress, as this is a topic I am deeply interested about and my background touches on more far reaching aspects of sustainability beyond food.
People are eating less meat, and when they do eat it they are more concerned about quality. I am not sure if there is any one factor involved in this trend, given the economy meat is probably one item people may be trimming from their diet, vegetarianism has gone main stream, and with the abundance of TV and internet sites offering recipes it is very easy to find options, and given all the food safety issues of late people are looking for alternatives, in addition to eating food with a small carbon footprint.
Setting the Stage:
As I was writing this post it occurred to me that I am always curious about who is on the other side of that post, and thought maybe you felt the same, So here’s a bit about me, and it dovetailed nicely with the requirements of a recent award I received from Ruth of I Love Flavor Me, Thank you so much, Ruth for the recognition.
The rules are as follows:
- Thank the person who has given you the award
- Copy the logo and place it on your blog
- Link to the person who has nominated you for the award
- Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting
- Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers
- Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate
- Leave a comment on which of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated
Facts about me:
- I’ve been interested in food and cooking for as long as I can remember, when I was nine I started borrowing Bon Appetite from my neighbor and subjected my family to “gourmet” cooking. One such dish made with gorgonzola ended up buried in the garden when neither the family or the dog could tolerate the smell. Apparently it was not too popular with the earthworms either, as it looked suspiciously fresh come spring when we turned over the top layer of soil in preparation for planting. I think that was our family’s first experience with anything other than cheddar cheese, and we got off to a rocky start.
- I have a BS civil engineering, minored in economics, finished with an MBA in International Business. For those of you that think this might be the reason I really delve into the details in my posts, you are probably right. I think I was first struck at the impact we have on the environment when I was led my first civil works project out of undergrad. We followed another contractor that had tore up the place and damaged ecologically sensitive areas and I vowed our team would never repeat those thoughtless actions. The more involved I got, the more I realized how integrated my environmental interests were with my love for food and culture. I volunteer with some great organizations; including serving as a mentor with Clean Tech Open which helps clean technology start-ups realize their potential, and I also serve on the Clean Technology Board of Advisors for ASTIA – a phenomenal non-profit that helps women start-ups. What these entrepreneurs are producing is incredible, they have some really cool agriculture related products in the works!
- I have an unhealthy habit of collecting cook books, and food + culture related books, I am deep into the triple digits and can now only buy a book if I can give up one. I just rarely meet a cookbook that I did not like. Despite my fetish, I have to say that I am an intuitive cook, I generally march into the kitchen take stock of what I have to work with and then just freeflow, which is why I rarely offer any unique recipes – that would require me to measure.
- I am growing a management consultancy and refining a business plan on a culinary culture related company (details being tweaked). Being in San Francisco, I have met some incredible culinary and cultural experts – culinary historians and anthropologists who have generously offered their assistance, and their insights and drive are amazing.
- I had no idea what to expect starting this food blog, but can I say it exceeded my expectations? I have learned so much in this process, made some good friends, that I never expected. I started this blog as an outlet for my interests on the connections of food and culture and along the way gained so much more. I am lucky!
- Aside from visiting the local food markets and stores my favorite activity when I travel is to take culinary classes, to me that acquired knowledge is the best souvenir.
- I have a special fondness for Terminal A at National Airport in Washington, DC. I met my husband walking down that long hallway early one morning on my way home for Christmas holiday. If he had not been brave enough to ask a disheveled woman (who obviously just rolled out of bed to make her flight) for a much needed cup of coffee, … well what can I say. I’m blessed, although now I suspect he feels like a food blogger widower.
The following blogs I found have an interest in sustainability and food and I nominate them for the Kreativ Blogger award.
Seattle Tall Pop – I discovered this Seattle blogger through Twitter and have to say I love her style based on her Twitter action, I firmly believe that she is indeed a food networker extraordinaire.
RunnerBeans summarizes Andrea’s culinary experiences primarily in San Francisco from gardening to cooking to dining out. A fun read with great ideas for healthy eating.
Fishes + Loaves – I just discovered this blog, out of curiosity I did a search on “sustainability” and “food” and this blog popped up. Besides being beautifully done, it was such an inspiration to read, and so clearly shows what is not sustainable with the current system. This blog is eye opening and humbling.
The Ladybug Letter – the musings of Andy of Marquita Farms, fun and thought provoking.
The Leather District Gourmet – Jacqueline Church combines food, cooking, dining sustainability issues, you name it – nothing escapes the eagle eye or pen, and thank goodness.
OffalGood – Chris Cosentino of Incanto restaurant writing about his work. He is famous for his head to tail dinners, and the charcuterie that the restaurant produces.
CivilEats – a great resource on all the food sustainable issues and resources