Monday, October 29, 2012

Every Body Eats

This week we attended the Every Body Eats event here in Santa Cruz.  The panel discussion featured some amazing people – Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, John Robbins author of The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less and The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World , Jim Cochran from Swanton Berry Farm, Randall Grahm from Bonny Doon Vinyards, Jamie Smith of the Santa Cruz City Schools, Darrie Ganzhorn of the Homeless Garden Project, and Dr. Wallace J. Nichols of the Blue Marbles Project.

We managed to make it another Date Night and started the evening at Burger again.  I can confirm my positive review from an earlier post.  We enjoyed a vegetarian burger that was excellent, a couple Slop Sloppie Joes that were great and some fries and salad.  More important to note was the joyful service of our bartender, Shawn.  He was our bartender a few weeks ago also.  On this night they were short a bartender and were dealing with an enthusiastic crowd for the Game 2 of the World Series.  Shawn was hustling – doing his best to stay on top of drink orders, food requests, general bar maintenance and pouring beers and wine from the other bar located about 40 feet away.  He performed with panache and ease, epitomizing the adage, “Never let them see you sweat.”  Well done – we will return.

On our way into the event we were treated with free ice cream from the Penny Creamery.  This is a place you must try.  The free treat – mint ice cream on an obviously home-made cone.  The mint was incredible, far, far superior to anything found in a grocery store and guaranteed to make anyone smile in amazement.  Once inside the Santa Cruz High School Theater we were treated to a thoughtful discussion of the intersection of food, science, economics and politics.  

Dialogue began with a discussion between Robbins and Pollan about California’s Proposition 37 which would force food providers to label genetically modified foods.  I took away from this a few ideas.  First, or the good of our families, do we not all want to know what is in our food?  It isn’t about what is or is not harmful – it is about simply having all the necessary information from which the consumer can make individual, informed decisions.  Yet opponents are spending a million dollars per day to defeat this – and that is far more money that the supporters.  The health issue for us here is pesticides.  It is not about taste or nutrition.  It is about the amount of pesticides found in and on our food.  For much there is not enough science to determine the health effects of ingesting these foods…but don’t you want to know if those pesticides are there in the meantime?  In regards to the money being spent and big agribusiness’s efforts to defeat this, I think Robbins had the key quote, “Ignorance is not bliss; it is subordination.”  Check out for more info.  Next, we all need to learn more about BT Pesticide.  I don’t know enough to say much here, but the fact that it can be engineered to occur in our food and therefore is ingested by us following genetic modification is enough to make it a priority for me.  My final take-away from this portion of the evening was this thought: eaters need representation on the Congressional Agriculture Committee to have input in the writing of the Farm Bill.  The committee needs some urban representation.  Is there fertile ground for a food-oriented consumers’ lobby?  Is there such a thing already?

At this point the other panelists joined Pollan and Robbins on stage.  From each panelist these are my take-aways:

Jamie Smith, Santa Cruz City Schools’ Food Services Manager – Our schools should be centers of community service and should be places where kids are safe from harm…and this includes the food supply.  SC Schools have gone to cooking from scratch and using local ingredients.  This has provided numerous learning opportunities for everyone involved.

Jim Cochran, Swanton Berry Farm – Labor issues must be part of the dialogue about our food supply.  If we are serious about caring for our environment and the economy re: our food supply, then getting informed about labor practices is vital.

Darrie Ganzhorn, Homeless Garden Project, Santa Cruz County’s first CSA – Similar to Cochran’s thoughts, Ganzhorn asked, what is the link between the food movement and homelessness?  None of the issues of our day and place exist in a vacuum.  When we realize the interconnectedness of the issues and bring the leaders of various movements and organizations to the table, they can more effectively coordinate to make real change.

Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vinyards – There are wines of effort and wines of terroir.  There are wines for which the maker determines every step of production and therefore taste, and others for which taste all comes from place, weather, and soil of the grapes.  A wine of terroir is low-tech and far more interesting.  Grahm is now trying to develop a very low-tech, very traditional vineyard in San Juan Bautista, and I cannot wait to see what the results are.   

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, The Blue Marble Project – “The ocean is downstream from our entire economy, “ and everything we consume and all of its packaging eventually ends up in the ocean.  If we care enough to eat organic, local, seasonal, can we care enough to have it all packaged responsibly?  Recently his team found a sea turtle with 3400 pieces of plastic in his digestive system.

My final take-away was this:  We all care about our food for different reasons.  We all have our pet issues.  We are not mutually exclusive.  We need to get to the table, coordinate, share and change our food systems for the good of our children and our collective future.
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