I use to teach economics. Now I’m a professional artist and I teach. Often I spend 4 hours preparing a class that earns $50. My students can do the math. “What kind of an economist were you?”, they ask.
I spend my money at the farmers market, where I chat with the farmers and artisans. I especially like cheese, and was excited today to find a new vendor selling buffalo cheeses. Like many farmers at the market, he’s displaying a laminated newspaper article. His tells the story of a fire that destroyed the fencing around his new buffalo herd and how Ian Massingham (a septic tank salesman) and wife Kim spent days rounding up the animals.
As excited as me, talking rapidly and straining Ian’s capacity to have two conversations at once while dispensing tastes of his cheese, an Asian restaurateur is trying to organize enough supply to include the mozzarella in one of his salads. The cheesemaker is firm “I just can’t do that right now. We only have 24 buffalo.” And one of them is a bull.
The article explains that the couple are still working full time. I mention my friends Michael and Cressida McNamara selling their Pecora Dairy sheepsmilk cheese a few stalls down at the market. “She’s quit her job but he’s still working.” I remember that Cressida gets up at 4am to sell at one of the other markets and wonder how many slices of cheese do you have to sell standing in the rain so that one of you can quit your job? I'm pretty sure they're not doing this because they think it's going to be lucrative.
The new buffalo cheese company doesn’t have an urbane name like Pecora Dairy. They’re calling themselves AusBuff Stuff. The article explains that the couple went on a vacation to Italy, fell in love with cheese, and came back and bought a herd of buffalo. The same story as Richard and Helen Dorresteyn the owners of Clevedon Valley Buffalo Mozzarella. He was an electrician. Now with 200 buffalo they are one of the brightest lights in the fledgling New Zealand artisanal cheese scene.
Later, I go see Michael, intending to take home both sheep and buffalo mozzarella. He whispers to me. “I only brought my blue cheese today, no mozzarella, because I want the new buffalo guy to be successful.”
What kind of economist are you?
This is story is about falling in love with food. It’s about working for something because it’s beautiful, and hoping the money will be enough to keep doing it - a story that I keep running into while distractedly turning a corner. Mike Davis has written about the odd return of wildness to sterile urban ecosystems. (Ecology of Fear, 1999) This story is about the wild return of a romance with sensuality and craft in a world of information overload, where nothing seems to matter for very long, and everything can be had for $.99 from the iTunes store. It’s about a search for meaning in the money, connection in the contract.
Chad Robertson, award-winning artisan baker at Tartine in San Francisco, is a celebrity. He makes 175 loaves of bread a day, and sells out in 45 minutes. Do the math. In an interview with Bon Appétit he explains: “I wanted to do something with my hands.”
|Declaration of Maputo: V International Conference of La Via Campesina|
Thursday, 23 October 2008
Maputo, Mozambique, October 19-22, 2008
Food Sovereignty now! Unity and struggle of the people!?
We, La Via Campesina, are a worldwide
Four years of struggle and Victories
Through our Global Campaign for
In 2004 we held an
The commitment to solidarity
The struggle of La Via Campesina inspires,
The offensive of capital in the countryside, the multiple crises, and the displacement of peasant and indigenous peoples
Declaration of Peasant Rights
Food Sovereignty: the solution to the crisis, and for the life of peoples
We have to develop a
Multinational corporations and free trade
The advance of women is the advance of La Via Campesina
We recognize the
We are not alone: the building of alliances
Youth provide our hope for a better future
Education to strengthen our movement
Diversity and unity in the defense of peasant agriculture
Globalize Struggle! Globalize Hope!
Metropolis Magazine May 2008
Locally grown food has become a mantra among urban dwellers, fueling farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture services, and, in select cities, backyard chickens. Now Vancouver, British Columbia, is raising the bar. Under the city’s ground-breaking new “urban agriculture” program, developers of an emerging downtown neighborhood, Southeast False Creek, will be required to include edible landscaping and food-producing garden plots for rooftops and courtyards. Planners have also crafted a set of voluntary guidelines for all-new multifamily projects in Vancouver (the city council was scheduled to vote on them in April)—possibly the first city in North America to launch such an initiative.
“If we can make this happen—and make it successful—this is going to be big,” Devorah Kahn, Vancouver’s food-policy coordinator, says of the urban-agriculture plan, which is part of a broader city effort to strengthen green-building standards in private developments. An 80-acre mixed-use community, Southeast False Creek will help illuminate the way forward by modeling high-density food gardening and other practices, such as rainwater management and neighborhood energy generation. The first phase, Millennium Water, is under construction and will also house Olympic athletes during the 2010 Winter Games.
Using somewhat convoluted rule-making, the Southeast False Creek urban-agriculture conditions delineate shared garden plots for 30 percent of the neighborhood’s residential units that lack access to balconies or patios of at least 100 square feet. The actual landscaping for Millennium Water is dazzling: 4,000-square-foot rooftops support espaliered fruit trees and raised vegetable beds, courtyards feature edible designs such as blueberry and raspberry bushes, and ubiquitous trellises anchor fruit-bearing vines. Tool sheds, potting benches, and hose bins provide the necessary accoutrements, while adjacent amenity rooms and play areas for children encourage a multiuse gardening environment.
“The city wants False Creek to function like a single-family residence with a backyard,” says Jennifer Stamp, a landscape architect with Durante Kreuk who is working on Millennium Water. “You walk through the garden, eat some currants, get to know your neighbor.” All of the buildings in the Olympic village have a maximum height of 12 stories, and during the design phase, “shadow studies” helped ensure that garden areas would receive at least six hours of sun.
Hardwiring residential buildings to sustain food gardens is one challenge, says Janine de la Salle, a planner with Holland Barrs Planning Group and the author of a report on urban agriculture at Southeast False Creek. The human factor is another: “The question of who is going to manage the program and care for that apple tree—that’s always a stumbling block,” she says. The city’s intention is to have residents manage the plots, and a demonstration garden will help people living in the neighborhood learn about planting and harvesting.
Urban agriculture aids Mayor Sam Sullivan’s new “eco-density” policy, whereby housing developments will be reshaped to limit environmental impacts. Councillor Peter Ladner has also called for new gardens by 2010 as an Olympic legacy. (So far 740 have come on board.) High-density food gardening provides wildlife habitats, mitigates the urban-heat-island effect, and encourages awareness of locally grown food. As Stamp says, “It ties into sustainability on so many levels.”
There's no sign on the door, there are no business cards near the entrance, and there is no phone number to call for reservations. You may dine there and never learn the names of your hosts. But that's all part of the mystery.
Love+Butter is an underground restaurant, or supper club, as it calls itself, the first in this area. It's not listed in any dining guides, and all the advertising is word of mouth. But those who have eaten there give this illicit venture and the chefs who run it top ratings.
For years diners on the West Coast have been scrambling for invites to underground restaurants, where local chefs take off their toques to cook in a small setting without the limitation of having to cater to public tastes. Other cooks also got on board, creating illegal supper clubs in their homes, friends' homes, even, in one case, a bus on the beach.
Love+Butter does not take place in a bus on the beach, happily. It's in a private home, where on weekend nights you can secure a seat at a table for six by making an online reservation. Unless you book it for yourself and five companions, you'll be seated beside a stranger. But by definition, the other guests are typically interesting and add to that sense of discovery. Love+Butter provides only water, so it's strictly BYOB, which wine lovers appreciate. There is no set charge for dinner, but rather a suggested "donation" of $45 per person in cash, with a discount for students or those working at nonprofits. Interested diners go online to see the five-course menu one week in advance. None of the courses are set in stone. Special requests such as fish instead of red meat, or restrictions because of allergies can be accommodated.
The underground spot has no license to operate, nor has the Board of Health inspected it, which means it risks being closed down. In California, one underground restaurant, Digs Bistro, was busted and shuttered, but parlayed its success into a legal business just last month.
While the air of secrecy does add spice to the experience, having a restaurant in a home means that the duo who run this place are both cooks and servers. As a result, some things are downright homey. Flatware isn't replaced after each course, and diners pour their own water. As for decor, crates of books line the walls. Think graduate student housing, only spotless.
The venture isn't a moneymaker.
"It would take one creative accountant to find profit in this," says one of the chefs.
So why do it?
For love. The love of good food and feeding others, they say. But also for a more sentimental reason: their love for each other. They wanted a project that would bring them closer. "We have very different professional lives," says one half of the duo. "This was a project we could do together." And they simply enjoy cooking for others. "We were feeding people long before this."
Making a meal in their tiny kitchen might test the tightest relationship, but for these two, harmony rules the house. On one visit, while they prepped for the night's meal, one had sent small rounds of dough to the oven, hoping they'd bake into puffy little cakes, but they flattened and spread into a thin, crispy layer of brown. They tasted it. Not bad, but not what they wanted. No worries. The other chef remixed the dough with more flour and tried again.
While the two cooked, there were no recriminations, no sighs of exasperation. It might have been a lesson for kitchens and marriages both.
Their food philosophy is the popular one these days, buying local and organic whenever they can. A farmer brings them grass-fed lamb, which is tender and flavorful, prepared four ways: lamb's tongue with beets becomes an appetizer, set on Chinese soup spoons with herby pesto. The entree is fashioned from peppered lamb loin, braised lamb shank, and seared lamb belly.
"Each muscle is distinct," says the half of the duo who used to be vegetarian. "With several cuts of [lamb] we can put all kinds of cuts on display. It becomes an act of discovery."
A lineup of dumplings, vegetables, and rabbit broth for a second course is the only clunker in the mix. The dumplings are undercooked and a tempura carrot has lost some of its flavor, although the golden crust is a model.
The third course is Spanish mackerel fillet with two potato pancakes and white gazpacho with chorizo. "The only food I've had in Boston that's better than what these folks cook is at L'Espalier," announces one of the guests.
Amuse-bouches - tiny mouthfuls - punctuate the meal, such as an apple fritter with a crisp outside and springy inside, offered with a shot glass of apple essence and a palate-cleansing spoonful of salty-sweet cucumber jelly over preserved-lemon ice.
A fourth course, called "Herbs & Spices" on the hand-printed menu, includes an unusual trio, beginning with a tablespoon of Greek yogurt topped with rosemary sugar, a buttery cookie with juniper icing, and a bay-leaf gelatin cube, all with vastly different, yet compatible, textures and flavors. "We wanted to pay attention to each flavor - rosemary, juniper, and bay leaf," says one of the chefs, "in isolation and then unite them."
The final dessert course includes spiced cardamom bread with orange and lemon rind, ice cream dotted with pieces of preserved bergamot (the citrus that flavors Earl Grey tea), and a warm slice of pumpkin.
After dinner ends, the chefs answer questions about the menu. The two are smart, thoughtful, and quite shy. There's no denying that what they do, they do for love.
Love+Butter might smack of a certain elite foodiness if the meals weren't so carefully and cleverly prepared. And the secrecy is fun. Who doesn't want to give a smart answer to colleagues wondering what you're doing this weekend or be able to bring a date to a restaurant no one knows about?
Alas, there's no receipt to prove you were there.
photo of ours, not theirs: