Foodshed story and National Food Day

If you live in DC, Virginia or Maryland, go get the first every copy of Foodshed Magazine — formerly Flavor Magazine — and read my story about Brian Walden’s experiment with locally grown grains. He’s thinking big about locally grown, milled and baked breads, brewed beers and black beans. You can also read the story here. Or visit his website here.

The husband and I also had the pleasure of hanging out with a gaggle of young farmers and chefs at the design-mag worthy home of Foodshed’s editor Pam Hess on Monday night. I was in my happy place — talking to farmers who are my age and have lives just like me, except they took a giant leap at their passion for food and hit the fields. And the food, mmm, included a baked ham-and-apple concoction by Anthony Lombardo, the head chef at 1789 in Georgetown, and a popcorn ice cream topped with caramel and cheddar powder (it was unexpectedly good). If my phone had been in working order (it’s being restored now), I would have taken a photo of every bite. But here’s a glimpse of the spread/Pam’s awesome decor.

Speaking of food (and aren’t we always), today is apparently National Food Day with events around the country celebrating the burgeoning movement toward more healthful, sustainable, local food. I celebrated by spending a little extra time at my favorite farmers market this morning and by stopping by my favorite seller of local, organic, free-range eggs (for $3.25 a dozen!). DC is celebrating as only the nation’s capital can. The Environmental Working Group announced today that it has spawned a separate Food Policy Action organization to for the first time begin ranking politicians based on the food friendliness of their voting. The scorecards now available by the organization rank lawmakers based on 32 food policy votes that touched on issues such as food safety, hunger, farm subsidies and organic food. EWG’s Chief of Staff Heather White said at a panel discussion on Monday they hope to model the group after the League of Conservation Voters, which ranks legislators based on conservation decisions.

“Farmers, for example, are some of the most politically nuanced creatures I’ve ever met — it’s one of the things I love about them.”

White urged attendees of the event Monday to “get political” about the food movement. It will be interesting to see how this new action group plays out and what it looks like to get political about food. In my experience, food is difficult to peg on one political side or the other and has often been a place for compromise and common ground. Farmers, for example, are some of the most politically nuanced creatures I’ve ever met — it’s one of the things I love about them. I have written about a libertarian Mennonite farmer who is leading the way on conservation projects (story here); I knew many “hippie farmers” as you might call them in Western Washington, but also found a fair share of farmers who couldn’t have been more politically different from the people who bought the majority of their locally grown food. What do you think about this move to make food more of a political issue?

The event on Monday was called Chefs as a Catalyst, hosted by Teaism and others, and touched on nearly every food topic imaginable while firming up the idea that chefs, especially in DC, are beginning to carry the food movement torch to the masses. Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen had some fascinating things to say on the subject. I especially enjoyed his recollection of the restaurant’s first “all-local” winter almost five years ago, before they realized quite what they were getting themselves into.

“Our first winter there was a little iffy. We didn’t know if we’d have food to cook.” – Spike Gjerde

Now Spike’s kitchen is a part-time cannery in preparation for winter, always planning to maintain the local stores through the off-season. He has been one of many chef leaders of the local food movement in the greater Baltimore area and a devoted advocate of Chesapeake Bay seafood, offering little known local catches on his menu and providing the stories that go with it. I hope to follow up with many of the characters and topics from Monday’s event for stories… and perhaps a bit more here. And I’ll end with a quote from Spike:

“As leaders we (chefs) have to recognize our role, which is much more of an articulation of what food should be.”

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