It takes time to know a city and get hip to its food culture. Six years in Los Angeles still left plenty of unopened menus and undiscovered markets. I only know a few things about the East Bay.
One is that Chez Panisse happens to be located in Berkeley. Another is that Berkeley is full of hippies.
So when I heard Chez Panisse was celebrating its 40th with a free event at the Berkeley Art Museum with food and exhibits, I had a basic idea of what to expect and promptly informed my boyfriend that we would be making the trip. The event didn’t disappoint. And neither did the weather, which was seemingly untouched by the usual San Fran fog.
We ate bread baked outside in cans with honey and butter, fed apples to goats (and ate surprisingly un-goaty goat’s milk fudge), collected seed bombs (that we rebelliously planted…on our balcony), watched kids ride a grain-mashing bicycle and apparently even ate part of Werner Herzog’s shoe. OK not his real shoe, a pig-skin replica. We were stuffed with free food. Amazing free food; plates of juicy red and yellow watermelon, fresh tortillas and salsa and crisp bread cooked on a grill. No bottled water. No plastic plates or utensils (or any of those ‘biodegradable plastic’ ones) and no trash all over the place. L.A. festivals could stand to take some notes. We tried to share and conserve our food, but were downright encouraged to take more, more, more. There was enough for all.
In fact, more than enough. By the close of the event, most vendors (the few that were charging anything) stopped taking tickets for food and gave it out freely; the most tasty veggie tamales, spiced grilled corn, mortadella sandwiches and agua frescas. Take more for later, we were told. It was like having my Jewish mother there.
We didn’t just eat (but we mostly did). We also learned. We learned about Hayes Valley Farm for instance, a 2.2 acre urban farm in San Francisco built by volunteers over the wreckage of the 1989 earthquake. Check out their volunteer days here.
On the freeway ride home my boyfriend started laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
“I remembered I still have a sandwich in my pocket.”