The Big Picture
I’m among many local folk who count themselves lucky to have a long acquaintance with Miko Sloper, a perennial long-distance traveler and self-appointed ambassador to the world. Wherever Miko happens to be, he teaches Esperanto, parades as Uncle Sam (if it’s the Fourth of July), and never misses a chance to fly a kite. Hovering in Berkeley through this summer and fall to aid a friend going through chemo, Miko has served as a gravitational force for many gatherings. Having more friends around gave me additional chances to test out some of the 15-plus recipes assembled for this issue, but there have been additional gifts:
Among Miko’s many endearing traits is an ardent desire to share observations of each evening’s unique celestial display. And so, one warm night in October, we all looked up to notice that the crescent moon had fallen in with three planets strung like jewels along the elliptical path they follow. While it’s no revelation that earthlings travel this same path around the sun, it turned into one of those awestruck moments with a sudden sensation of sitting out among the stars looking in. (See, you don’t have to be a billionaire or William Shatner to do that.)
Similar feelings of looking out across a world much larger than my small quotidian one arose while crafting numerous parts of this Winter Holidays issue. With our story on the revival of the San Francisco Mycological Society Fungus Fair—set for January 23, 2022—there’s been ample opportunity to contemplate the vast “wood-wide web” of mycelial connection, increasingly understood to be the vital fabric of our living planet. The section’s myriad collaborators all hope you will enjoy these stories plus the fair offerings and any forays you may launch in search of the “fungus among us.” (Fingers crossed for a wet winter.)
Wider horizons are also in store with our multi-part feature on olio nuovo and new-harvest olive oils. You’ll time-travel back through the 14th century to even earlier times in Amelia Saltsman’s historical account of the latke, and then learn more about ancient olive-growing traditions of the Middle East with olive oil miller and maker Samir Bayraktar, whose “mill on wheels” is bringing California a new state of the art in extra virgin olive oil production. We hope you will take up our additional invitation to head out on a California olive oil tasting adventure via our exciting online guide to olio nuovo and new-harvest olive oils.
But wait! There’s even more armchair travel to enjoy: You’re in for a delightful journey via three tales of festive rice from three East Bay residents who have brought their family cooking traditions from afar. Read their stories and try their recipes, which I can tell you firsthand are delicious.
In closing, I want to call your attention to a closer-range journey in this issue, one that goes into the heart of our East Bay community. Please spend some time here to learn about how Piikup—the little Oakland delivery company that delivers our free magazines to their distribution spots—has been building mycelium-like connections between a substantial group of East Bay nonprofits that share a common goal in providing food security and better jobs for under-resourced community members. If you are looking for recipients for your charitable giving and want to make a direct local impact, check out the dynamic nonprofits discussed in that story.
Wishing you a healthy, happy, and inspired winter season.
Cheryl Angelina Koehler