Has the capital of the food revolution relocated to Brooklyn? That other counter-culture enclave, Berkeley, California, has long been home to ecology-minded advocates reimagining our food system. In 1971, Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse there, a little café that launched the big philosophy of ingredients-over-technique and inspired a generation of chefs whose menus read like farmers market shopping lists, or rather, lists of what they found for sale when they arrived at the farmers markets with open minds, baskets, and wallets. Arguably no other restaurant has had as great an impact on New American fare and its celebration of seasonal fresh foods from small local farms. That same year in Berkeley, Frances Moore Lappe published Diet for a Small Planet, which set out to prove, using bar graphs and tofu recipes, that we can eliminate world hunger by eating all the food we grow, rather than feeding much of it to animals raised for meat; that is, by going vegetarian. Which you did. Admit it.
Today, Brooklyn is challenging Berkeley for its status as food fight headquarters, and not just because we boast a burgeoning community of farmers markets, community gardens, innovative chefs and culinary cognoscenti, but also because Alice Waters’s daughter Fanny, and Frances Moore Lappé’s daughter Anna both call the boro home.
Fanny arrived fresh from Yale, where she helped bring about the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which transformed the dining hall (fatefully named “Berkeley”) into a local-foods temple. And Anna is also following in her mother’s food-revolution footsteps; this spring she releases her new book Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, coauthored
with Bryant Terry. Like Diet for a Small Planet, Grub is part food-system-alarm-bell, complete with academic charts, and part cookbook, replete with vegetarian recipes. But this book’s style is decidedly Brooklyn. As examples of the Grub way, Anna cites the Park Slope Food Co-op, Red Hook’s Added Value Farm, Fort Greene’s Ici restaurant, and Crown Heights’s West Indian fare, as well as local farmers markets and CSAs. The recipes are sorted into party themes, and each includes a suggested soundtrack curated by food-conscious DJs. Best of all, for their portrait, the authors strut their Brooklyn stuff in the Clinton-Washington subway station. Berkeley, thanks for the memories.
PS—Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl also cut her foodwriting teeth in hippie Berkeley way back when. Hey Ruth, send us your first born!