Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Local Flavor: A Bay Area Lifestyle Report

On KQED this afternoon, there was an interesting conversation on food (near and dear to my heart and stomach.) While driving, I caught a snippet of a conversation with Russ Parsons, author of How to Pick a Peach. The interview discussed the merits of seasonal eating. Specifically, how eating seasonally encourages a quarterly menu change (keeping your taste buds from being bored) and creates a cultural epiphany inspired by the miraculously great taste of produce, only to be experienced when it's eaten at its seasonal prime. I was touched almost palatably, in a way that had me instantly salivate and appreciate. First, I can't wait to buy a ripe peach. Secondly, I humbly thank our own local celebrity, Chef Alice Waters, who is largely responsible for the richness and availability of local produce here in Northern California. I can't do her justice so I feel compelled to quote Wikipedia here:

Alice Louise Waters (born 28 April 1944 in Chatham, New Jersey), one of the best-known and most influential American chefs since the 1970s, is credited with single-handedly creating a culinary revolution in America. She is the founder and co-owner of Chez Panisse, the original "California Cuisine" restaurant in Berkeley,
, as well as the informal Cafe Fanny in West Berkeley. A champion of locally-grown and fresh ingredients, she has been credited with creating and developing California cuisine and has written or co-written several books on the subject, including the influential Chez Panisse Cooking (written with then-chef Paul Bertolli). She has also promoted organic and small farm products heavily in her restaurants, in her books, and in her Edible Schoolyard program in the public schools. Her ideas for "edible education" have been introduced into the entire Berkeley school system, and with the current crisis in childhood obesity, have attracted the attention of the national media.

Waters advocates eating locally produced foods that are in season, because she believes that the international shipment of mass-produced food is both harmful to the environment and produces an inferior product for the consumer.

It is hard to talk about seasonal produce, without shamelessly promoting our local Farmer's Markets. Our Farmer's Markets travel around the East Bay with a scheduled regularity, making it is possible to bring the freshest possible local produce to your dinner table for each night's dinner. (Last night I personally enjoyed to most spectacular mushroom ceviche; with fresh oyster mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, lime and a bit jalapeno pepper.)

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