What it means to think about food

I recently heard an interview of an author who's written a book called "where locavores get it wrong...".  His basic thesis is that for someone who is concerned with the carbon footprint of their food, local is often not the right choice. It often is of course, but sometimes it makes more sense to import snap peas from Uganda than it does to walk down to the farmers market.  I guess this is true. I imagine the man did his research, as he was being interviewed on a show I trust, so I'm going to  take it as a given that he's not lying. So that begs the question...why eat local?  If we can get snap peas year round from disparate corners of the globe, always snappy and fresh (or at least fresh-ish), and at the same time reduce our carbon footprint, why all this talk of eating local? The answer that I've come to (full disclosure, Michael Pollan was also on the show, and he had a similar idea to the one I'm about to espouse, but I swear I thought it before he said it on the show) is that local food is about more than food. Wild food is about more than food.  People love wild foods, they're clearly delicious, often more nutritious (and I believe if the author had done his research on foraged foods he would have found they are much more carbon efficient, but put that aside for a second), but I'm not sure that's the main reason people love them. To me wild food is almost more about the connection to the place I live. I've lived in San Francisco for two years now (just had my anniversary), and I feel more a part of this place that almost anywhere else on earth.  I've explored more of the Bay than I have in VT, and I grew up there. I meet people every day that are interested in what I'm doing, and want to be involved. I know that a week after the first rains I'm going to mushroom forage, I know who I'm going with, I know what I will (or should) find. I'm honestly looking forward to going up to Mendecino next week to collect acorns, and making plans for the best way to get to the wild onions before the landscapers get them next spring. I feel a part of this place, and that has all sprung from my interest in the foods of this place.  I throw dinners that have become some of the most memorable meals of my life. I know chefs all over the city, and always know if I have a question about the food business I can ask Ian at Far West Fungi.  The people I call friends are the people who are actively working towards changing the way America eats. Creative people who, through their creativity, inspire people to see the world in a different way.

Local food is about much more it's carbon footprint. That's important of course, but what the local food movement is really about goes beyond the eating. It goes to a connection with the place you live, and the people that make that place important. When you buy a mushroom from a forager (or a farmer), you support that person, their community, expand your own community, and get to know the place you call home just a little bit better.


Eat Real

[gallery columns="2"] My Eat Real marathon weekend of sea bean proselytizing is over.  It was great to get out and talk to people about what we're up to, and really exciting to see how into people are.  Foraging is often a lonely pursuit, and I get the feeling that people are often a bit confused about just what it is we're trying to do at forageSF, so getting face to face with people and answering questions about what we're about was great.  So great in fact that I'm going to start a push to get into some local farmers markets. It was originally my intention, but the focus moved a bit over the last year, and it got put on the back burner.  The problem with selling wild food in a certified market (meaning that everyone there is the primary producer) is that no one actually produces wild food.  We forage it, so we are as close to producers as any human gets, but not close enough.  It's a pretty funny situation to be in, what makes the food so interesting to me and to others is the exact reason it can't be sold.  I talked to a couple farmers market managers who seemed to think we could find some common ground, so I'm optimistic.  So look for us at your farmers market soon!


August CSF

boxpic This months box:

Dried Porcini and Morel Mushrooms (Mendocino/Humboldt Valley)

Dried Mushrooms, left to refresh in water for about 20 minutes, can be cooked just like fresh. It takes about 10 lbs of fresh wild mushrooms to make 1 lb dried.  Drying actually concentrates the flavor of many mushrooms, such as the bolete.  The Boletus edulis mushroom (bolete) was first described in 1783 by the French botanist Pierre Bulliard and still bears its original name. The Porcini, or King Bolete, is always an exciting find in California since they’re rare and delicious. Porcini are great sautéed with a little (or a lot) of butter.

Orange and Foraged Lemon Juice

Foraged in our own backyard, these lemons were rescued from certain rotting.  We got some fresh squeezed OJ and added foraged lemon juice to give it a good sour bite.

Sea beans (Bolinas)

Pickle weed is a small succulent, with leaves that are waxy on the outside and full of moisture on the inside. Its leaves are long, thin, and round, like little fingers. Pickleweed flowers between April and September, but its tiny yellow flowers can only be seen upon careful examination. Pickle weed grows in the low- to middle-tide zone in the marsh, which means that it gets covered up by water some of the time.  It’s delicious fresh as a garnish, or if you want to get creative in the early morning hours, check out the recipe below.

Wild Foraged Bay Leaves

The very same bay laurel leaves that you see (and smell) all over California, can be used in cooking. The aroma is a bit stronger than store bought, so use sparingly in your favorite soups.

Wild Foraged Blackberries

That’s right, collected just yesterday…they’re delicious.  We had to exercise some serious self control not to eat them all as we picked.  These blackberries come from Mendocino county.

Seabeans Sauteed with onions

This week we wanted to give you an idea of a good way to cook those seabeans you get so often in your box. Here they are, sautéed with some onions, garlic, pepper, and just a pinch of sugar to cut the saltiness. Hope you like them.

Wild Foraged Mint

Use this just like regular mint, the taste is a bit more intense with the wild variety.


Chp 1. Mushrooms

The first time I ever foraged wild mushrooms was up at my dad's house in Willow Creek CA.  I, perhaps much like you, had always understood in some peripheral way that wild mushrooms come from the woods.  They are called wild, and therefore not cultivated.  It follows that something that is not cultivated needs to be found, so someone must do the finding.  If asked, I would have given that reply. Who these unseen seekers were, where they did their seeking, who they did if for, how they learned, who they sold mushrooms to when found, were all a mystery.  In northern California, these questions are not so academic. Mushrooms are everywhere. Boletes, Black trumpets, Morel, Chanterelle, Yellow foot, Hedgehog (so named for their spiky underside), Matsutake, Snaggle tooth....that last ones a joke, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that as a local name for some under-appreciated fungus. The mushrooms I mentioned are only a fraction of what is bought for retail sale, and mushrooms for retail sale are only a fraction of edible fungus that's out in the woods.  There are many others that aren't available in stores.  Mycophobia (fear of mushrooms) runs deep in our culture, so people are not too keen to try a fungus that isn't already popular.  Although I for one disagree with much of the hype around mushroom danger (many more people die from eating eggs every year), there are mushrooms that shouldn't be eaten. The death cap is one such mushroom.  Small, white, unassuming, the death cap purportedly has a mild sweet taste (this from those that have eaten it and survived).  Eating half of one mushroom can kill you. TBC....


Local Fish?

My search for local fish to put in the CSF box took me down to the docks today, where I met Rolando at peir 45 fish, Mitch at Aloha, and Ernie the herring fisherman. The basic response I got when asking what kind of local fish I could expect to buy was a slight chuckle, followed by a diatribe into the reasons that no fish comes from the bay area.  I expected (living in a port town), that I would be presented with a grand list of bay area catch, rotating seasonally. I was wrong. Apparently almost none of the fish we buy comes from local sources, not because it's not there, but because the regulations are such that almost no one is allowed to fish it.  Now I'm all for regulations where they make sense, but regulations that create a situation where it people are forced to import a resource that is available locally seem fishy (punny I know). Granted, I'm a bit of a newb on this issue, and I doubt fisherman and fish wholesalers are the only people with something to say on this issue, but still...crazy. I won't be able to put bay area fish in my CSF, not because they aren't there, but because the powers that be would prefer I get it from Australia.  So remember that next time you go out to your favorite bayside bistro, chances are the fish you are eating are not from our shores. Pelicans...who knew?

Come sunday I'm going to be reeling in herring on this boat!

p.s. got an invite to go out on a herring boat sunday night!!


forage forage

So foragesf had one of its first community forages saturday!  There were only three of us, Iso (me), Shelia Hernandez, and one new forager, Moe Beitiks, who's pictured below holding some fresh mushrooms. We went up to china camp, this great park in the north bay.  It used to be an old chinese shrimping village until they were forced out by racist laws in the 1800's, allowed to return, and are currently being forced out again by global warming.  Got the last bit of fact from this old chinese women who runs a store in the village.  A cool little place with about 3 budweisers and some instant coffee.  We were hoping to find a boatload (get it....shrimp....boat)[gallery] of chanterelles, but for some reason only found boletes and some yet unidentified fungus.  Seemed like someone had already been there, although we were pretty early.

I'm in the midst of planning a foragesf fundraiser. music, food, drinks, mostly wild, mostly homemade, with Asiya of Forage Oakland. Thinking 18 reasons, Bi-Rites new art space on Guerrero seems like a good spot, but need to go down and talk to them.  I'm still learning how to use this here internet machine website wordpress, so all the pics I've taken are rather haphazardly placed.  Until next time.


moe w/shrooms

p.s.  pics above include will Schrom, from a previous hunt.