Edible East Bay—it’s such a naturally appealing idea, one so good that it makes us wonder why it didn’t come along years ago. But now Edible East Bay is here, thanks to Edible Communities, a growing, award-winning, nationwide series of community-based food publications with a laudable mission: “to transform the way communities shop for, cook, eat, and relate to the food that is grown and produced in their area.”
Here in the blessed land of Edible East Bay we might take this mission for granted. After all, it has been more than 30 years since Alice Waters first cultivated her network of suppliers to provide Chez Panisse with fresh, organic, locally grown food products, and that sustainable harvest is now available to us all. What is more heartening, however, is to see this notion sweeping the country in a food revolution we never dreamed possible.
The revolution is real, and it carries a bit of irony. Where once it was deemed patriotic to “Buy American” with a big car from Detroit, now Americans are beginning to see how our national security might rest on buying our essential goods from producers located much closer to home. Not only is it important to know “where our food comes from,” to use an oft-spoken phrase of the day, it is important to be aware of how it is produced as well.
Even as the USDA has come out with a new food pyramid that promotes more fruit, vegetables, low-fat milk, and whole grains, the $17 billion that has been allocated for Federal farm subsidies goes to promote an abundant supply of corn, wheat, rice and soybeans, much of which is fed to livestock and turned into nutrition-poor foods. There is a growing movement to more closely link farm programs, due to be rewritten in 2007, with the new government nutrition goals.
With this is a growing awareness that supporting small farms in one’s own region is the right thing to do. Many of these farms are bringing us better and healthier products and some are going the extra step and installing their own solar and methane generated power, so when the oil runs dry, they might still be in business. Another great development is that school districts are adding local garden produce to cafeteria menus and classroom curricula, so perhaps we are cultivating a generation that will once again know precisely “where our food comes from.”
But yet, while we chant the mantra of “sustainability,” we still allow ourselves to be seduced by the exotic table set before us. We choose out-of-season fruits and vegetables because a recipe calls for them. We eat fish from stocks on the brink of collapse because we still see them there in the fishmonger’s case. We forget to question our belief that “the best” of a certain product comes only from some foreign land. There is still a place for celebrating the delicious diversity of the world’s foods, but each day as we rush into the market between work and our other appointments we would do well to remember that our food choices do make a difference, both to our health and to the health of our planet.
Making good choices is a significant challenge, but we are a people who love to read, converse, create new ideas, and solve old problems. Edible East Bay is here to be part of it. Four times a year we will turn the subject to the much-favored topic of food and we will let you know what’s happening right over the back fence. (Read our article to see what some neighbors are doing in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood.)
As we sought to envision the scope of this new publication, many people have asked, “What do you define as the East Bay? Is it just North Oakland and Berkeley?” Truth be told, we could fill these pages many times over without ever leaving Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. But there is far more to the East Bay food scene than Berkeley. We have defined our territory as all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, and that includes the unique growing areas of Brentwood and Livermore Valley. One lovely thing we discover is that within these two counties there is an extraordinary history of food production, dating back a century or more before Chez Panisse and even into prehistoric times—yes, we go that far back.
From time to time we will step beyond these borders into the territories of our sister publications, which are just being born in San Francisco, the North Bay, the Peninsula, and Sacramento. But mostly, we’re here to raise our glasses to food in our East Bay communities.
So welcome to Edible East Bay! We are so pleased that you are joining us.
Cheryl Koehler, editor
Edible East Bay