Twenty-three years ago I came to California for a visit, fully expecting to return east to resume life in a land with summer rains, early autumn frost, winter snows, and a springtime that waits until May to happen. But life’s design was for an extended stay in Oakland. It was remarkable to be living, so suddenly, in a place where people can grow food all year round, provided they’re handy with a garden hose. Here was a place where spring springs eternal.
In fact, I’m not much of a gardener, and when I settled in Oakland, I was far more interested in seeing what I could find on the shelves at G.B. Ratto & Co. International Grocers than in watching the snails rampaging through my semi-tended lettuce patch. At that time, Ratto’s had been firmly anchored in Old Oakland for nearly 100 years, and all around that neighborhood I saw an inner-city on the verge of a renaissance like I had witnessed in my former home of Washington, DC. As time went by, however, I felt increasingly discouraged that the gorgeous renovation of the Old Oakland historic district was not also spawning an economic revitalization. When Market Hall opened in the “burb” of North Oakland a few years later, I suddenly forgot all about shopping in Old Oakland.
Quite recently, many things have appeared on my “Heart of Oakland” map. One is Tamarindo Antojeria, the fantastic Mexican “little plates” restaurant, on 8th Street. Another is the Old Oakland Friday Farmers’ Market, where a good part of the unique appeal comes from the multicultural soul of its location. The market gets promotional support from the Jack London Square management, which also provides a home for several nonprofits, including the new East Bay office of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, which you can get acquainted with on page 42. With my eyes opened to the Oakland roots of the sustainability movement, I learned about Oakland Unwrapped! and the GrassRoutes Travel guide to Oakland, and while negotiating with the Oakland Mayor’s Office about use of the City’s oak tree logo for Matthew Green’s Oakland Food Policy Council article, I became acquainted with an Oakland artist who is also an urban farmer, Helen Krayenhoff, co-owner with Peggy Kass, of Kassenhoff Growers. They sell plants at two of Oakland’s farmers’ markets. Helen’s watercolors, and her aesthetic judgement, enhance several pages of this book, and may soon appear on some Oakland City graphics.
There are several other surprising layers to this story of rediscovering Oakland, but I’ll let you go off on your own adventure now and just say that Edible East Bay feels honored by this opportunity to open doors into many aspects of this great, blooming city.
Peace, love, and good food for all,
Cheryl Angelina Koehler
Edible East Bay Editor and Publisher