Yesterday was the very unofficial launch of The Food Matters Cookbook. Phone interviews have begun in earnest (“Hello, Pittsburgh!”), and plans for two tv appearances for next week fell into place (“Today” will be Wednesday, probably 8.45am or thereabouts, and that’s as official as this launch will get).
Last night, however, I was honored to be given some kind of good guy award at the Let Us Eat Local event put on by JustFood. I don’t like sounding all gee-whiz, but it really was incredibly cool: a massive thunderstorm (which all but destroyed Brooklyn, evidently, and shook the NYT building as if World War I were happening down the block) left behind some heavy, humid air, but the atmosphere in the big tent at Water Taxi Beach was friendly, happy, and optimistic. I have been to literally scores of similarly organized events – chefs cook behind tables, put food on plates, people swarm and eat, etc. – but never one with better vibes.
Or better food. If there is a problem with these kinds of things, it’s that chefs feel obligated (or are guilt-tripped) to show up, and then put less than their best food forward, offering their and most easily and inexpensively produced food, thus making for a sad state of affairs.
This one was completely the opposite. At least half of the chefs were absolutely stoked, really psyched to demonstrate their commitment to local food and their ability to cook with it. I’m going to leave some people out, and I’m sorry, but special kudos to Northern Spy, Back Forty, Angelica, and Palo Santo (freshly made tortillas with fried fish and various relishes, simply perfect).
I did get an award, for doing what I’m not quite sure, but I was happy to speak, however briefly, to this crowd of committed people and their supporters. I said something like this, which is about as succinctly as I can put the message I’m going to be trying to get out there all Fall:
“Here’s why we need JustFood, and why it’s important to support this organization and others like it: If you believe in society, the banding together of humans for our common good, if you believe in our obligation to support and care for one another – not just our families or coreligionists or neighbors or compatriots but everyone – then you believe in the human right to eat food that is raised ethically.
“What does this mean? This means food that is grown – or raised – with respect – not only for the earth, but for the people who eat it and the people who work the land and tend the animals. That is sustainable and ethical food, which will also necessarily – and not unimportantly – be delicious food. That’s our goal.”
I said something too about the food kicking ass. Also got interviewed by NBC Niteside (sic), but I’m afraid to watch it.