Like the majority of people living in the United States today, I do not walk the path of need in my daily existence. I’m driven by motivations to achieve and prosper, which generally involve sifting through myriad options rather than grasping to fill basic requirements.
And so on an afternoon when I was heading into Berkeley Bowl to procure materials needed to test a recipe for this magazine, I was momentarily stumped by the question being sent aloft by a young man with a manual typewriter, who was positioned just outside the door.
“Do you need a poem?”
No literary materials were on my shopping list, and the only services my current project required would be to convene a panel of tasters for the evaluation phase of the dish I was testing. Poetry is a fine thing to have on hand for some meditative moment, but I was in action mode. So after a curt dismissal of the poet’s offering, I grabbed my cart and entered the fray.
While waiting in the checkout line (by Murphy’s Law the line I choose will always be the slowest), it gradually dawned on me that, as the editor of a magazine whose intent is to represent the breadth of our East Bay food experience, I did indeed need some publishable local food poetry.
Back outside, I found that the Bard of Berkeley Bowl alternates his pitch from “Do you need a poem” to “Do you want a poem,” since most potential patrons, like me, don’t immediately relate to needing one. But after reading the poem Zack Houston typed out for me that day, I understood that he intended a flexible meaning for the word “need.”
As humans, we do indeed need the insight, inspiration, and moments of reflection a poem can provide. Without this indulgence, we might move too quickly past the meaning and consequences of our actions. We might buy our food without considering the systems of production we are supporting, and we might prepare and consume our daily fare without embracing the opportunity to share with people we love and celebrate the good things of the earth.
At Edible East Bay, we hope to reach inside this other need, while also remembering those in our community who truly are in need.