“What’s for dinner?” That’s the central organizing question for Michael Pollan’s brilliant book on the U.S. food system, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
And today, I had a spectacular personal experience of the growing alternatives to the mainstream industrial food system that are described in part in the book, and that are being celebrated this weekend in San Francisco at Slow Food Nation.
In the late afternoon, I paid a brief visit to the Victory Garden in front of San Francisco’s City Hall. The festivities had ended for the day, but I walked around the garden and saw that the corn that I had seen a month ago had grown to over 7 feet. I walked home on Polk Street, past the many restaurants from around the world, and stopped across the street from one of my favorites, Modern Thai, asking myself, “What should I have for dinner?”
I decided to keep walking, because I wanted to cook something. I wasn’t sure what, but planned to stop at one of two grocery stores on the way home. When I reached the end of the block, ‘lo and behold, a brightly-dressed woman pulls up to the red light on a bicycle laden with baskets of colorful flowers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and string beans. She saw me smiling and staring, and yelled out, “Do you want some?”
Of course! THAT’s what I’m having for dinner. So I bought two bunches of kale and some yellow squash and zucchini (which I’ll cook with tomatoes and onions I already had).
Airielle farms at Green Oaks Creek Farm & Retreat in Pescadero, off Highway 1. They sell their organic produce at the Palo Alto farmer’s market, and also have a CSA program with about 40 members. They also have a retreat center, and on third Saturdays are open to the community for berry-picking and concerts.
Airielle said that ideally she would be closer to customers, but she did deliver five CSA boxes recently to customers near the farm; the 30-mile round-trip was a lot of work but it was manageable. Today, Ariel had driven into San Francisco with her musician buddy who rode his Xtracycle bicycle (Airielle had the Xtracycle supporting her market, too,) with a cello strapped to the back and played his plastic container drum as he pedaled.
They were on their way to Fort Mason for the evening concert, and she had decked out her bike with produce as a demonstration of a rolling farmer’s market. This was an extreme kind of local farmer’s market since it pulled up next to me, so it’s safe to say that this was a unique and wondrous event, not something that I can count on as an Everyday Sustainable way for me to make my dinner. Unfortunately.
However, two Everyday Sustainable Practices helped make it possible.
- I was walking, so I was open to this chance encounter.
- I was carrying my handy-dandy tote bag, so I could easily carry home the veggies.
I hope Airielle and her compadre found some more happy customers along Polk Street. And there’s no doubt they got some smiles.