Today was a great day. I got the chance to join our class up in the Sierras on the hunt for the ever illusive morel! I try to get out with the classes as much as I can, but usually have to leave them in the very capable hands of our resident mushroom expert Patrick.
The bill to repeal the glove law, AB2130, passed the Assembly yesterday 18-0! Thanks to everyone who sent in letters of support, they really made a difference. We still have to get through the Assembly Appropriations Committee and then on to the Assembly Floor and the Senate. Still a long road to go, but the unanimous vote today shows that folks in Sacramento see this is a bill that the people dont want. Exciting stuff! Iso
Tomorrow is a big day. Its the day the health committee decides whether to repeal the glove law. Your support on this petition is one of the reasons they're meeting at all, but now we need to show them you really mean it.
Two ways to help:
1. Send a letter of support to Benjamin.Russell@asm.ca.gov. There is a sample letter below, but you can also let them know in your own words that you support AB2130 (the bill to repeal the law). If you send a letter please let me know.
2. Go to Sacramento! I know its a drive, but its important that we have people there to show their support. The meeting is at 1:30pm in room 4202 of the State Capitol. Let us know if you can make it.
Thanks again for your support. Your voice is working to change a misguided law that will effect millions of people. We're in the homestretch now, we can do it!
The Honorable Dr. Richard Pan
Assemblymember, 9th District
State Capitol, Room 6005
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 319-2109
Re: AB 2130 (Pan) – SUPPORT
Dear Assemblymember Pan,
[Name of your organization] writes to express our support of your AB 2130, which would
roll back the recently enacted law prohibiting bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food.
This prohibition, created last year by AB 1252 (Committee on Health), will require bars and
restaurants to buy and discard thousands of disposable gloves, imposing a significant financial
burden and environmental impact. The numerous glove changes workers will be required to
undertake will further result in a loss of operational efficiency. Though we are in full support
of ensuring food safety for restaurant customers, small restaurants and bars were not involved
in the discussion surrounding AB 1252. As a result, substantive changes that directly affect our
business and livelihood were put into place without our input.
[Optional: include a brief statement about your organization and the problems created by the
We thank you for introducing AB 2130 to roll back the glove law.
[Name and title]
cc: Members of the Assembly Health Committee
You did it! You signed and they listened! Assemblymember Pan, the chair of the Health Committee (the committee that passed the Glove Law), announced emergency legislation today to repeal the law! We're not done yet, we still have to make sure the bill goes through, but they havnt heard any major opposition so it's looking good. This is super exciting, and a real example of how powerful we are as a group. This is my first time wading into politics, and granted, its a law that was clearly ridiculous, but its really amazing how quickly this all happened. The people spoke and the government listened: If only all politics could work so well…. Thank you all for the support so far, and I'll make sure to keep you updated as we move forward.
Been working working working on getting this campaign going. After just a few days we have over 2500 signatures on our petition! We're going to be meeting with Assemblyman Phil Ting tomorrow, hoping to convince him to champion the bill. Met with the new head of the GGRA (Golden Gate Restaurant Association), Pattie Unterman from Hayes Street Grill, and Earl Shaddix from Bayview Underground Market to talk strategy. We're going to really start pushing this out to media after we get Ting to agree to work with us (fingers crossed!).
Next steps are getting more folks in the city to be aware of the campaign. Going to be organizing some folks to canvas the cities restaurants, getting people to sign the petition. If you want to get involved, email me at email@example.com. This is exciting stuff! I really think we're getting somewhere in pushing back against this misguided law.
I'm sure there are some of you out there with similar concerns, so I wanted to post this email I got, as well as my response:
"Too many of us SF diners have gotten stomach problems from so-called nice clean restaurants. This should not be merely about respect for the chef. Instead it should be about respect for the health of your customers! Your credibility is being shot if you think your email recipients would even consider that the former is more important than the latter. Also, your proposal to change the law implies restaurant chains are as not as clean as small restaurants, when we all know it's far more likely to be the opposite!
A diner and his friends who are tired of expecting a stomach problem every few months of dining at so-called nice clean SF restaurants."
"Thanks for the input. I think that all these issues are important, and the truth of the matter is that gloved hands are not any cleaner (and often much dirtier) than washed bare hands. Having worked in restaurant kitchens, people with gloves on are much less likely to change those gloves when changing tasks (taking out the garbage then cutting vegetables), than someone is to wash their hands. It's really just a truism of the logistics of working in a kitchen. I definitely am not downplaying your desire to avoid getting sick (food poisoning sucks!), but this is not the solution, its just a mirage of safety that actually makes you less safe.
Sign the petition here.
What I’ve learned on the glove law: The last few days I’ve been trying to get up to speed on where this law came from. Who sponsored it? Who voted on it? How did it just appear without anyone in the industry hearing it existed? It’s been an interesting process, delving into the machinery of government, and so far I’ve found out:
The bill was introduced by The Committee on Health in February (weird no one heard about it), which includes our very own Tom Ammiano, and was sponsored (the ones who created the bill), by a group called The California Retail Food Safety Coalition (CRFSC for those long winded acronym lovers amongst us). So that means that this group is the one who actually wrote the bill, and gave it to the Committee on Health to push through. I contacted Pat Kennelly, who is the head of the Food And Drug Branch of California Department of Public Health, who told me that DPH did not advise at all on the bill publicly.
CRFSC is a lobbying group comprised of state health officials and private industry. Some interesting members include:
The head of the California Food and Health Branch, Pat Kennelly, as well as heads of several other California Health departments, Jack in the Box, YUM! Brands (the largest fast food company in the world, they own Pizza Hut and KFC amongst other chains), Olive Garden, and Safeway to name a few.
I am just learning about this group, but for me reading that list is disquieting. Imagining the folks who decide on our health code, the people who are being paid by us to protect and represent the people, sitting in a room creating legislation with fast food and supermarket chains, certainly gives me pause….I sent them a request outlining their justification of the law, and we’ll see what comes out of that.
I also reached out to Assemblymember Richard Pan, who is the chair of the Health Committee, to ask what information factored in their decision to support the legislation.
So at this point it seems that the bill was created by a lobbying group with made up of CA health officials and corporate food giants, and quietly passed through committee. They did reach out to the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, who as I understand it does not support the bill, but for some reason none of us heard about it….More updates soon.
On Jan.1 Jerry Brown signed into law a new addition to the California Retail Health Code, the document that governs all restaurants and food service establishments. This new provision requires nearly everyone working in a kitchen to wear gloves. Single use disposable gloves that they change every time they change tasks. What the law states is that people touching food which won’t be cooked after contact need to wear gloves, but if you think about it logistically, that’s everyone. That’s a bartender squeezing a lemon into your drink, a chef salting a dish after plating, chopping garlic, rolling sushi, really anything done in a restaurant. The reality is that if followed to the letter, it would force every chef to go through dozens of pairs gloves a day.
This really bothers me. For the aesthetic crime of not letting chefs touch their food (which I firmly believe makes good food almost impossible to make), the environmental waste of tens of millions of gloves filling up landfills daily, and from what research I’ve done so far, the fact that studies suggest it actually creates a more bacteria rich environment (think about how sweaty your hands get wearing latex for more than a few minutes, how impossible it is to put on gloves with damp hands after you wash them, and how often they rip).
I disagree with this law, and I’m going to work to do something about it. At the moment we’re gathering information on the states justification of the law. I filed a Sunshine Request, like a FOIA for California, with Pat Kennelly, the head of the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health, to find out the specific justifications of the law. What the process they used in creating the law, and what research was used to back the decision, what studies were done on the environmental impact of the law, etc.
If you want to get involved in the campaign, or if you have info that you think could help the cause, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
More info soon…
A public service message from forageSF
The holidays are a time for giving. For searching our hearts and minds, attempting to find just the right gift to satisfy those we love. Perhaps its that ipad they've been lusting after, or maybe a fine book of fiction, one that will gently lull them to sleep, bundled up in front of a crackling fire on those cold Bay Area winter nights (I don't care what East Coasters say, 50 degrees is cold!). Perhaps you have an art lover in your life, and are leaning towards a gift of oil paints, those nice ones that caught her eye at Flax last month, and for the less imaginative amongst us, pre-paid gift cards to Best Buy are always a hit.
I am the fist to say that these are all great gifts, but we at forageSF would be remiss if we failed to remind you of the coming post-apocalyptic dystopia. It could be a foreign power that shuts down the grid, a torrential flood caused by global warming (if you believe in that kind of this), or the ever popular fire and brimstone, rained down upon us for our myriad sins (I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure the rapture is going to be leaving me behind). Sure, it could come in 50 years, or it could come tomorrow. Our team of experts are still working out the specifics, but they predict with 100% certainty* that it will come "very soon" (*with a margin of error of 0-100%).
We don't like to think about it, but the truth is that when it does come we'll all have to choose teams. There wont be room for everyone on our ship, and two by two we'll choose those with the skills to survive. I don't know about you, but those that can hunt, fish, and forage will be first on my list.
Don't let your loved ones be picked last. For their sake and for the sake of all of us, set that ipad aside, and get them a gift certificate from forageSF: HERE
Blessings this holiday season,
From Iso and The forageSF family to yours
At last Sunday’s Batch Made Market we tried something new, live fishing. The idea was simple: teach people how to catch, clean, and cook a fish from beginning to end. Along with all the classes we teach, the aim of the live fishing class was to provide the rare opportunity to observe, learn, and experience urban fishing.. It wasn’t something I’d ever seen anywhere else. Without a model to work off of, we decided to take a risk and try it out. We thought through the process, researched the fish, got the pool, and lined up a lifelong commercial fisherman to help guide the class. The response to the idea was overwhelming and the class sold out almost immediately.
While majority of responses were positive, I did get a few vocal concerns about the event that I’d like to address:
We came up with this idea as an attempt to show people the reality of what it means to catch and eat fish. Watching the entire process of killing and cooking an animal should enliven a respect and gratitude for the food we eat. Last Sunday we found that the fish were not interested in biting. This wasn’t a consequence of inhumane treatment. The fish were handled very gently. Freshly bought from a fishmonger down the block (incidentally, they had much more room to swim around in our pool than in their previous home) and placed into fresh water. After it became clear that it wasn’t going to plan, we cut it off, and decided to show folks how to filet, gut, and fry fish instead.
At forageSF our mission is first and foremost to support and educate people about the food they eat everyday. Sometimes that’s taking people out into nature to find it, sometimes that's taking them into the kitchen to cook it, and sometimes that’s taking them into the dining room to eat it. It’s great when we can get people out into nature to see the reality of their food, but that isn’t always feasible. The people who came to our event came because they wanted to learn what it means to take a fish from live to cooked. As in all things we do, we created this event to take people one step closer to being comfortable obtaining and preparing delicious food. We will continue to search for innovative ways to bring fresh food to urban settings, and to hew to our mission of supporting a vibrant local society through the lens of great food.
Sometimes I worry that it is. That all this; local food, local community, organic food, humane treatment of animals, developing local economies based on people running their own businesses, mutual trust built on real relationships, the move away from industrial food, that it’ll all go away. It’s happened before. This philosophy was popular back in the 1960’s; canning, foraging (Euell Gibbons is still my go to for wild edible knowledge), small-scale farming… all the kids were doing it. Then came the 80’s with TV dinners and… well, honestly, I wasn’t too aware of what was going on in the 80’s, but I do know that in the 90’s I went to a hippie boarding school (Buxton!) where we chopped our own wood, the dorm I lived in was called “The Barn,” but we still had chicken patty Wednesdays and “Orange Drink” on the table at every meal. By then the pendulum had swung back, and no one gave a second thought to what they were putting in their bodies. I sometimes worry that this decline will happen again. I got a book in the mail the other day that gives me hope that this won’t be the case. It’s called “Farming the City” , a book created in Amsterdam, and at its heart it’s a glossary of food movements taking place around the planet. There’s Brook Park Chickens in the Bronx, a small volunteer run chicken coop; Turntable Urban Garden In Helsinki, a government-funded community garden, educational space, and café; Culinary Misfits in Berlin, started by two women who reclaim produce deemed unsuitable for sale (which is often thrown away) to repurpose into jams and preserves; I could go on. For that list I just opened the book to random pages, and throughout there are scores of similar projects, great examples of people who come up with an idea, then fight to make it happen. From starting my own business I know how hard it must have been for each and every one of them. From the day they had that light bulb moment, to the days and months and years it took to tear it out of their brain and manifest it for the world to see.
What gives me hope is that people seem to keep doing it, and not just here, but all over the world. There’s a lot of talk of us living in a bubble here in The Bay Area, and we do, there is no arguing that. What we are, and what the bubble allows us to be, is an incubator for ideas that spread across the world. The support and excitement that people here show for new ideas catapults things that otherwise may have never existed into reality. People look to our ideas and create their own, and the freedom of our bubble inspires others to see the ability in themselves to create the change they want to see in their own world. What is great about all this is that we're not the only bubble. We're part of a global community of people, all with their heads down working hard to reshape the world into one they want to exist. We look to others for inspiration and they look to us. I truly do believe that if we all keep it up, the world will be a very different place when we’re done.
The Cottage Food Law, which allows the homemade production and sale of certain foods, was passed on Jan 1st. I was so excited because I assumed that people would be able to start getting permits right away, but of course, that is not how government works. I’ve recently started looking into where we are in the process, and wanted to share what I’ve found. It looks like DPH has set their guidelines and has started to issue permits. Before those permits can be official, however, the ordinance needs to be pushed through by the board of supervisors, specifically the Budget and Finance committee (you can check here for updates on the ordinance). To do this, one of the Sups needs to become a sponsor of the ordinance, and then a vote can be called. This should happen at the end of this month or early May, but in advance of that, The Health Department is taking applications for permits and issuing licenses. DPH (The Department of Public Health) has outlined the structure of the permits on their end. They’ve set the fees at:
This permit allows production and direct sale of homemade foods. So if you’re making something and plan only to sell it to people face to face, this is for you:
No application fee
$100 billed to you by city after registration accepted (annual fee)
$127 zoning referral fee (one time cost unless you move) sent in with your application.
You’ll need this permit if you want to sell through a secondary market (grocery store, mail order, etc):
$332 application fee (one time cost unless you move) send in with application
$127 zoning referral fee (one time cost unless you move) sent in with application
$350 annual fee billed to you after application accepted.
Personally I’m not sure why there should be a zoning department fee for this ordinance. If you’re not opening a retail store out of your home, it doesn’t seem like it should fall under their jurisdiction. Honestly though, I’m still learning about all this, so we’ll see.
I’ve reached out to David Chiu, the president of the Board Of Supervisors, to get more information about the best way to nudge along the process, and we’ve been discussing different avenues to get people on their way to making (and selling!) their homemade goods.
We’re hosting classes taught by Patricia Kline and Christina Oatfield, both of whom were instrumental in getting the law passed on the state level. They will have more in depth info about what can/cannot be made under the law, and all the info you’ll need to start your home food business. Check here for dates.
This is exciting stuff! I feel like this law is really moving us in a more sane direction on the issue of homemade food. This is a first step. Once we prove that we can keep people safe, and that small producers are not the ones we need to worry about, that if anyone should have mandatory inspections it should be huge meat plants—not-home based cookie makers—hopefully we can expand the law to cover all kinds of homemade foods.
Selling Life: Why a Soybean is Not a Stereo
I heard a story on my way into work today and am feeling compelled to write something about it. It covered the Supreme Court case of a soybean farmer vs. Monsanto. The case, as I understand it, boils down to this: a man went to a grain mill, bought seeds, and planted them.
These seeds were Monsanto seeds: genetically engineered to produce incredible yields and illegal to replant. The farmer contends that he had always bought seeds from the grain mill to plant, and it wasn’t his fault that the Monsanto seeds were mixed in there.
Monsanto’s basic argument is that if farmers are allowed to replant their seeds without paying, there is no incentive for innovation. The Obama administration is behind them (which really pisses me off), on the grounds that the case has far-reaching implications for “self-reproducing” technologies in other fields (most notably medical devices).
Patents were created to protect inventors. If someone has the bright idea to make a better mouse trap (or stereo, or smartphone, or computer), then they should be able to maintain rights on that invention. If there is no protection, what’s the point of spending time creating it? This makes sense in most cases, and I understand why a court would argue on the side of Monsanto. If the decision applies to all technologies, then they would want set a precedent that is applied correctly.
But this is different. As genetically modified seeds become ever more ingrained in our food supply, it will be increasingly hard for farmers to refuse to use them. Even if they don’t buy them, seeds from neighboring fields could blow in, setting off lawsuits. Over time our food supply will become ever more dependent on the whims of these technologies, at the cost of thousands of years of slow selective breeding. This is just wrong. We should not treat our food supply like an iPhone; whether it’s similar in a legal sense is not the point. In a real sense, they need to be seen as worlds apart!
I'm not trying to fear-monger, and I realize that technology, especially bio-technology, has created some real wonders that have pushed us forward as a species, but the issue of patenting life is not only a food issue. A decision in a case like this could have more far-reaching consequences than we could imagine. Just one example is the fact that genes are now patented, and soon, I’m sure, more efficient forms of organs will be patented (grown in factories by handy 3D printers). What will the courts say then? What does a child owe for the superior genes that his parents bought from the lab, and what is it going to cost if he can’t pay? Health would be going to the highest bidder (although that's not too far from the reality at the moment). I know this is taking the issue to its most extreme reaches of science fiction , but all too soon. fiction will become reality. These are the real questions we should be asking ourselves. If we don’t, these questions that will be answered for us by the very companies who stand to profit from our lives.
So what do we do? I think the first step is simply letting people know that they are eating these foods. That is why I was so behind Prop 37. I feel like the issues of health are almost secondary to the issues that are being brought up in this case. One company should not have a monopoly on our food supply. Negative effects of GMO's are to this point unproven, but it seems that science has had one too many "oops" moments. Moments where something that was "proven" safe reveals itself to be anything but. These are bets. Bets that wager advancement of our species against some unseen consequence. The problem with this bet is that if we lose, the loss will be far greater than we can pay. It will be the loss of thousands of years of careful small advancements in food production, advancements that will be much harder to regain once they are lost.
Tonight is our four year anniversary of our Wild Kitchen dinners, our meals that focus on locally foraged ingredients. It's crazy that’s its been four years! I did the first Wild Kitchen on Valentine's Day in a friend of a friend's warehouse in the Mission. At the time my email list was about 50 people - all friends that I knew from the city - and I sent out the little blast with the menu to them. Two days before the event, almost no tickets had sold. I had bought all the food (spent my rent money and then some), had the location, but no one to eat! I was freaking out when my girlfriend at the time suggested I send it to Mission Mission to see if they’d post it. It worked! Allan from Mission Mission posted it and the dinner sold out! It's interesting to think of what would have happened had it gone another way. What would I be doing at this moment? It's crazy how many pivotal moments there are that I can look back on. Moments where it seemed like everything was going to fall apart, but then somehow, miraculously, it all worked out. Someone appears with just the right solution at the right time, or a location pops up out of nowhere when the one you think you’ll use has fallen through, or just the right amount of money falls into your lap to just barely finish buying the food for a dinner. It really is amazing.
We had two kinds of tickets that night, communal and couple. The warehouse where we held the meal had all these great nooks for couples. The one I remember best was an old speedboat, a two seater, where we sat super friendly couple. I distinctly remember them being really into the event and into each other. We turned down the lights and filled the space with candles. The whole night I was worried that the health department was going to show, and there was even this one guy at the table that I became convinced was going to bust me (in retrospect, I think he was just a bit shy and overwhelmed by the whole scene). At that meal I decided it’d be fun if I got up and talked about the dishes as they were coming out, why I chose the ingredients, and what I found exciting about them. This has become an integral part of the dinners, and its fun to try to relate my excitement to the diners.
It’s been a good four years. It’s easy to lose sight in the day to day, but I think that that is what’s good about anniversaries: more than a celebration of the day, they are a chance to look back and see how far you’ve come.
On letting go....
I went to film school, and something a professor once said has really stuck with me (one of the few things that did…). It was the notion that sometimes you have to "kill your babies". He was talking about filmmaking of course, and what he was alluding to was the idea that sometimes the things that are the closest to your heart (a protagonist, strong image, compelling story arc, or exceptional line of dialogue) need to be cut. Though they seem vitally important, or--even worse-- have worked really well in the past, sometimes you need to get rid of them. Again, he was discussing film, but over the years I’ve thought a lot about this concept as it pertains to all things in life: the relationship that needs to end even though you’re overwhelmingly comfortable in it, the city or job you need to leave if you’re ever going to follow your dreams, and in this case; a successful project you’ve created that needs to be put to bed.
The Underground Market was my baby. It was an idea that flashed into my mind while I was driving across the Bay Bridge (my favorite ideas come on solo drives), and I went for it. It was successful in a way that I would never have imagined; who really thinks they’ll end up on the front page of the New York Times for starting a food market? This success has given the vendors who got their start at the market the jumpstart they needed to launch their businesses, and has allowed us to take the leap towards bigger projects like Forage Kitchen. I truly could not have asked for a better outcome, and honestly, at times I’ve felt terrified to see it go.
So why kill it? The market needed to close. It was originally created to lower the bar to entry for folks who made delicious food and wanted to sell it. Home cooks with a dream of starting a business, but without the resources, hence “Underground”. Since being shut down, there is nothing underground about it. We need to get all the same permits, pay all the same fees as any other event, and turn down home cooks as vendors. It didn’t feel right to keep it open like this.
To be successful, you need to always be looking forward. It was scary closing down the market. It was what I was known for, part of my line about what I did when people asked at parties, and just a great event to be a part of. I still wonder if I’ll top it. Part of me wanted to keep it going forever, but part of me also knew that wasn’t the way things work.
I feel that the fear of seeing the end of something--especially something you care deeply about and have worked incredibly hard to build-- stems from a fear that you won’t be able to produce anything better, that the recipe or concept you’ve created can’t be shared because somehow great ideas and inspiration are finite, the dread that if you let this person go, there won’t be anyone else to follow. I fall prey to this fear myself, but deep down I believe that this kind of thinking is self-fulfilling.
If you don’t share your ideas far and wide, they won’t be as sensational as they could have been; if you don’t--at times-- let go of things that you love, you close yourself off to new experiences. To move forward you need to let go of the past, it’s as true of ideas as it is of emotions. So the next time you have an idea/job/city that you’re holding onto too desperately, think of this concept and consider that maybe the only way to find something better is to let go of what you already have.
Here's a nostalgic look at the Underground Market.
The holidays have scattered us far and wide, so we've all had a dose of much needed down time. I took a trip up north to visit my dad in northern CA, spent a few days watching the rain and playing an outdated version of trivial pursuit (interesting how many facts have changed in the last 10 years), and came back to SF to discover that the herring were running! Our local herring live in the open ocean, but once each year they come into the bay to breed. Millions of fish (the estimated weight is almost half a million TONS) all rush into the bay. Just beneath the surface, females drop millions of eggs on shore rocks, and males are close behind to fertilize. This is called a run, and its an amazing thing to see. You need to be at just the right place at the right time, as they're often only in a certain location for a few hours, so if you want to find them, you need to have an in with the local fisherman network. If you're lucky enough, you'll get a frantic call, and you'll need to drop everything to make it there on time. I was lucky enough to get the call this year. With each throw of the net, dozens of fish came up, got over 60 lbs total! A super fun, exciting experience. We pickled them up and will be serving them at our next Wild Kitchen Dinner this month. If you want to join, the information is here.
But back to the kitchen: lots has been going on with Forage Kitchen of late. We've hired an operations manager, a great woman named Tracy Leighton who has years of experience in the industry. She's owned several restaurants, as well as spending years in the corporate world focused on project management. This will add some much needed structure to the team, and I'm excited to be working with her. We've also gone official and registered Forage Kitchen LLC (this actually happened a few months back, but I haven't mentioned it), and Fred (my business partner) is getting the SF business license today.
Our most pressing need now is to find space. We are looking for two kinds of spaces at the moment:
1. A 3-4000 Sq ft space with a previously built out commercial kitchen, to use as a starter space. The build out of the larger space could take over a year, and we really want to get all the excited folks using the kitchen before that. It will be a good spot to create fun events, get some businesses and Makers started working, hold classes, and also to figure out what tweaks we need to make to our ideas before the larger space opens. It will also help us start making money and proving that this isn't just some hairbrained scheme but actually something that people want to use (banks and investors like to see things actually existing before they shell out too much cash).
2. A final space: an 8-1000 sq ft. space, preferably with some kitchen infrastructure already existing (this will dramatically reduce our build out costs)
We have leads on both of these, which is super exciting! If you know of any similar spaces, let us know. That's all for now. I'm feeling really good about the project. We've got a great team together, and everyone is excited to make it happen. Until next week.
The Last Underground Market
On Saturday, December 22nd, we will hold the last-ever Underground Market. The Underground Market was an event I started in December of 2009 with the idea to allow myself and a few friends to sell the things that we made, without the red tape and cost of permitting through the city. The market grew, attracting national attention, and soon it was drawing thousands of people every month. Then, following a front page story in the NYTimes, it got shut down.
But the movement had already spread. It spawned other markets, from Boise, Idaho to Amsterdam. It promoted the idea that people should be able to eat food made in their neighbor’s kitchen just as easily as food that’s been trucked in from across the country.
The idea that what makes food safe is at the local level is not inspectors, but the inherent responsibility and care created by the local community. I think we proved that point. With over 50,000 people eating everything from Webber grill fired pizza to pulled pork, there was not one illness reported to the health department. Over 350 home cooks who’ve sold at the market have gone on to start restaurants, catering companies, foodtrucks and sell their products all over the country. It’s been really amazing to witness how hard everyone has worked to make it happen
Since the market was shutdown last year (the rumor is that SF Department of Health was getting pressure from the state level), we havn’t been able to allow new home cooks into the event. Everyone must be permitted, and I have trouble justifying what is “underground” about the event. That’s not to say the food isn’t still great, and what’s been cool about these last few markets is seeing how successful and professional all our returning vendors have become.
This is the last Underground Market, but not the last market we’ll create. There are too many people making amazing food in this city not to bring them together. We’re still working on the idea, but hopefully by spring we’ll have a brand new event, full of deliciousness to enjoy. We plan to have this event be an outlet for makers from Forage Kitchen, as well as other great cooks around the city, to share what they’re up to.
I am insanely proud of all the vendors who’s hard work and innovative cuisine made this event what it was. Thank you to everyone who helped this happen, whether as a maker or an eater, I feel lucky to have been a part of it. So on December 22nd, we’ll be bringing our favorite vendors and success stories from years past back to SOMArts for the last event of its kind, I hope you’ll join.
The market was a moment in time, a great time, an exciting time, and one of the things I am most proud of creating. I’ve come to realize that it has served its purpose, and now we need to focus on taking the next step in this movement. It’s been an amazing experience. Meeting the eaters as well as the makers. Seeing how excited and inspired people were by seeing what others were creating .
There were seven vendors at the first market, and around 150 eaters coming to feast. We had homebrew in the kitchen, and Ayla Nero playing acoustic on a chair in the living room, surrounded by a semi-circle of folks listening from the floor.
What’s great is that many of the vendors who started out at the market as home cooks have since progressed. Some have opened restaurants, others have gotten great press for their accomplishments, and still others are in stores and shops all over the city. It’s really amazing to see how everyone has worked to make their dreams a reality. It’s great to think that we had any part in helping to make that happen.
Here are some photos from our last dinner series, a thank you for our kickstarter supporters. Was great meeting some of the folks who helped to make it happen.
I havn't written in a few weeks, and lots has happened. We just got done with our first series of kickstarter reward dinners. Dinners where everyone there was either a kickstarter supporter or their guest. It was nice to finally meet and give back to the folks who helped so much during the campaign. We made caja china roast turkey, with wild mushroom stuffing, fried smelt with caper aioli, wild boar proscuitto, and I discovered a new favorite dish, eucalyptus-huckleberry popsicles. It was a great weekend. Over 1600 people gave to the kickstarter, which is an amazing thought. That 1600 people, most of which had never met me or anyone at forageSF, decided to give some of their hard earned money towards a project that they believed in; something they thought should exist, is really great. There has been a lot written about kickstarter, how it has helped artists and entrepreneurs get projects started that would have otherwise floundered, but I think there is something more interesting at work. I feel like crowdfunding has the ability to totally upend the way that things are created, as well as the general publics relationship to those projects.
Classically, a person with an idea shops it around to investors, gets money (hopefully), designs and builds out a space, creates the notion of what the space will look like, and opens it up. Only when it opens does the public find out about it. Businesses even go so far as to block out windows, so you only get to see when something is totally done. The idea being that the process of creation tarnishes the finished product. I dont think this is true. I think that people want to be involved in the process, and that the finished product can only be improved by community input. People want to see how the institutions they use are being built, and they want to have a hand in that building. And why not? Rather than drop an idea from the sky, why not work with the people who are going to use it to make it better? Social media, crowdfunding, these are buzzwords used to explain technological innovations; but I think they are really allowing us to change the way people interact with their world. Now we're able to involve ourselves in what we're interested in, and create the businesses and products that we believe should exist. It really is an amazing time, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
We'll post pictures soon, but they wer
Hello everyone! It’s Nitika, one of the new forageSF interns. I’m super excited to be joining the forageSF team this semester and am writing to introduce myself to all you foragers and food-lovers. I am currently a second-year student at UC Berkeley, studying Computer Science. In addition to my love for food, my passions also include photography and dancing. Being a relative newcomer to the area (I’m originally from the great state of New Jersey), I was blown away by the flourishing food scene in the Bay. Everything, from food trucks to the Underground Market, embodies the entrepreneurial spirit I love about California. In the coming months, I can’t wait to learn about what it takes to start a thriving food business from people who are on the ground really doing it. In addition to constantly learning new things, my time at Forage will include working on the website, doing some outreach to the community – that means you!-, and doing research for the Forage Kitchen – which, incidentally, is how I found out about forageSF in the first place. All in all, I’m looking forward to my forageSF experience and hopefully meeting all of you along the way!