Ruth Reichl: Food Righter

Carina and I at Octavia Park - Hayes Valley April2010

I say it was our mothers; you call it whatever you want. Carina and I grew up in a space bubble of peace. Santa Cruz, California. Carefully cultivated by vivacious women seeking the best opportunities, always emphasizing comprehensive wellness through a powerful respect for existence. Carina and I are daughters of incredible awareness. We were born into a revolution of personal responsibility. Myself, Franco-American, Carina, Jewish-Salvadorian, our identities were molded at a very young age.

Carina left for the bright lights and expanse of L.A. seeking more opportunity and endless food trucks. A year later I joined the light-always-on, festivalian New Orleans, LA. After five years of crawfish and hot summer sweats, I am back in San Francisco and cannot get enough of the seasonal organic produce. I savor every last dime of the cash only mantra. I resonate with car-free city living. I’m in absolute love. Despite her deep aversion for hippie-derived living, Carina, my deep-fried loving, plastic loving, queen of convenience, was equally smitten upon her last visit. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve seen if you forget where you’ve come from. Her visit included devouring Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires. Despite our differences, Carina and I’s shared similarities pervade preference. We have a penchant for intelligent women, genuine integrity, forming calculated opinions, and knowing the best way to someone’s brain is through their stomach. Carina is business, I am creative, Ruth Reichl’s mother used to prepare “canned asparagus, mayonnaise, marshmallow fluff and pickled herring.” We are all striving to spread an appreciation for camaraderie, communication, and just sharing a meal.

Proverbially, a beet in the hand is greater than a donut around your waist. Ironically, I consider myself a couth gourmand. Idealistically, I am a warrior fighting the war on human elitism. Realistically, I am constantly encouraging my community to focus on positivity. I lack compassion for processed garbage. I possess an inexhaustible palette, an arduous recognition of culinaria, and tenaciously assume the role of relentless evangelist for bright, locally grown sustainable foods.

My brash approach to represent myself as an individual has as result, fervently rejected “trend.” The same attitude has provided for an unusual immunity to celebrity, averting admiration based on popularity. Our nation’s slowly churning minds, bogged by big Macs and bigger Gulps, are slowing acknowledging the immediate need for change. Obesity and depression should be reason enough to change our minds, body, and planet. A healthy America can be grown from this soiled land.

On the morning of April 20th I joined a full audience for an intimate living room chat with a mogul for healthful, proactive living. I was awestricken by the political activism Gourmet Magazine provided America, specifically during Ruth Reichl’s tenure.

Ruth Reichl - SF Jewish Community Center 4/20/10

Reichl, former editor-in-chief of the late Gourmet Magazine, rejects the notion that quality in any form be labeled as elitism. Modern society has suffocated intelligence to a degree that has been detrimental to the formation of a nurturing culture.

Microcosms of this whole-love approach to life exist all over the United States, fighting for a global shift towards personal responsibility and cognizance of repercussion. Macrocosms like the greater San Francisco Bay Area have been fostering a conscious approach to living for decades. Following her deep involvement in Berkeley’s 70s co-operative food revolution, Ruth’s heartfelt writing inspired fine dining to re-evaluate the individual. She reminded restaurants that the honor should be bestowed upon the customer. That respect is due to thy neighbor. Our intelligence should be regarded as a gift to cultivate true happiness in all persons. Through food we can fuel and nurture our bodies, minds, and spirits.

I nearly became tongue-tied delivering the final audience question. I realized that I’d been duped. Celebrity awe-stricken by the genuine candor of such an influential, dare I say, icon. I worry that I inaccurately depict her honest awareness by revering her as anything other than a truly compassionate human being. There is no doubt in my mind that Ruth possesses all the qualities of a timeless change-maker. She reassures me that my honest efforts at doing right by my community can be rewarded with a private bathroom in an editorial office. Despite a driver, Ruth still walked to work daily. Her connectivity to life, happiness, and the human desire to belong, never dissolved from her pool of motivational drive. Her commitment to exposing truth transcended Gourmet Magazine. Political change was activated after an exposé on migrant tomato pickers in Florida being treated as no more than slaves. There was a substantial amount of time devoted to audience question, and in typical form* I felt the need to round out the session with a thought-provoking question. I asked Ruth what she thought the easiest way for an individual (probing the audience to pay attention in their personal lives) to become politically active in eradicating toxic ingredients from food production. She responded directly to me, making complete eye contact despite the distance and bright lights. She urged everyone to remain aware themselves of the impact of toxicity and to actively engage our peers, neighbors, and friends to follow suit. I urge you to follow suit.

Ruth Reichl signed my book | "fast to it. peace"

I find it to be no coincidence that behind Ruth’s genuine grin are the words “fast to it” and “peace.” Absorb every clue, because our interpersonal relations turn nourishment into a story of community.  As I anarchically fight, for the right, to (organic) baaaaarley – my couth transforms into uncouth. While trend expires, the need for respect does not. For this, Ruth has forged a path for celebrity voice being about the movement, not about the deliverer. I thank her wholeheartedly. This is a delicious trend that I wouldn’t have prepared any other way.

*I also asked the final question during Sheryl Crow and Laurie David’s (Larry David’s former wife) American “Fight Global Warming” bio-diesel bus tour. What can one person do to make a difference? My attempt to influence each individual in the audience to listen to a celebrity whose word, in their mind, holds more weight. In high school I also garnered the final question during a GirlsRock! conference in Santa Cruz. Asking Gloria Steinem how she thought best a high school girl could change negative image. I encourage through question. Ask yourself, how can you make difference?

In LOVE with San Francisco

About the Author: d’Auria is the owner of olive, you &me creative studio, a freelance mover and shaker, and would always rather cook at home than eat out. After five years of New Orleans, she is back in her native Bay. Residing in San Francisco and spending a substantial amount of time in the quiet and comfortable Hayes Valley, she can’t get enough of the variable Vietnamese spring roll nor the abundance of artfully crafted micro-brew coffee. Like a bird, she tweets! (@dauria)

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I Left My Heart and Footprint in San Francisco

I grew up in Santa Cruz, so whenever I mention “The City” it has always been San Francisco that I have had in mind. I spent a bit of time there during the last few years of high school but I have now lived in LA for 6 years and since then I have had limited visits. Especially because when I head up north my mom wants me all to herself. I have had small excursions and I was a guest at the Tasty Awards last winter, but I have yet to really spend some quality time in the city that I always assumed I would end up living in. This weekend was different, one of my best friends who is more of a sister, named d’Auria, had just moved there from New Orleans and the whole time felt like us going home in some weird way. I picked her up on Saturday and she told me that another friend from Santa Cruz was in the city to see Wicked and asked if I wanted to hang out with him. I knew his name right away and was pleased that he knew who I was, even though I was a grade older and only knew him because he had dated an acquaintance during my senior year of high school. He was right across from the Ferry Building, we picked him up and I asked d’Auria to get on her phone and find me a sandwich. We drove around until she found a place on her Yelp App. She navigated me and we ended up only a block away from where we started. The sandwich place she found was closed and with our princess parking we went by foot and returned to the Ferry Building. Here is my bestie, d’Auria, in front of the building that houses a ton of culinary treasures.

The place was bustling and it contained some of my favorite things. I loved the oysters because of the aphrodisiac element and the mushrooms for their richness while still containing zero calories. I took a picture of Cowgirl Creamery because I know how much Josie loves their cheeses. I, on the other hand, love my cheeses like I love my men…hard and hol(e)y. We were in the mood to be served so we just browsed and returned to the car. I said something to d’Auria about how all of the LA food bloggers go nuts over Tartine. She told me that she goes there several times a week and loves just getting a baguette and jam. d’Auria is a French girl that is a foodie in her own right and she led me straight there. It was in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. It was the exact kind of neighborhood I dream about living in. There is a park in the center with an enormous woman statue made of recycled parts and is surrounded by boutiques, candy shops, and people picnicking and serenading one another. We walked to the bakery and it was quiet and empty. I thought that surely this couldn’t be THE Tartine that gives people food boners. Correct I was, it was not. Apparently we were at Tartine Cafe Francais instead of Tartine Bakery. I didn’t mind. I was starving, this place had a French owner, and my French bestie vouched for it and the prices were so reasonable. I am always happy when I see a sandwich less than $7. I had the salami and swiss with cornichons. I told d’Auria about how when I was in Cannes I brought a jar of cornichons  back with me in my luggage and what a tragedy it would have been if  the jar were to break. d’Auria proved why I love her so much by saying, “Then you would really smell Jewish.”

My sandwich was quite good and reminded me of something I ate in France. Simple, small, and fresh ingredients. Apparently this place has been here longer than the other Tartine and it clearly doesn’t have the same clout. It is a friendly neighborhood bakery and one that I wish was in my own neighborhood. The pastries were all hand crafted and everything was yummy and inexpensive. I left with an apricot hamatashan. I liked the fruit filling but strangely enough it was d’Auria who isn’t Jewish that explained to me this significance of this little cookie. We had a nice stroll through the park and then I said I needed a drink because I was parched. I said either a Diet Coke, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, or a cider. I ended up with the latter, a pomegranate cider brewed by Two Rivers, at  the 21st Amendment Brewery. It was a perfect neighborhood brewery, there were two bars inside, the food looked delicious, and along with serving local brews they also brewed their own beers.

d’Auria and I were left by our friend and we headed to her new office to change for dinner. Her new office is this very cool warehouse space in the SOMA district. She is working with her other Jewish BFF (actually all of her besties are Jews) on a very exciting new project that I can’t wait to tell you all about. We grew up in the same town, went to the same HS, and have the same confident/bossy demeanor that can be a lot to handle. We talked about business, dating, partnerships and everything else under the sun. We ate nuts, drank Stella, and it felt like the guys (er, girls) getting back together. It was fantastic. At around 9:30, I said I was hungry for dinner and we agreed on a Thai restaurant by the office. The place was called Manora, which made us both think of Hanukkah, and it was kismet.  We ordered the fresh mint rolls, a chicken curry (after we told the duck curry we were planning on getting was very spicy), and some pad thai. The fare we ordered was standard but the food was all very good. d’Auria got full early on but I could have been grazing for hours. I was having a fantastic day in a fantastic city and I couldn’t help but notice that the packed restaurant contained 90% men. This was far better numbers than we have in LA.

I told d’Auria when we were driving into The City that I had the feeling that I sometimes get when I go on a first date, which is a repetition in my head of “Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love.” However, San Francisco won me over…hard. I had the perfect day, great conversation, good food and drink, princess parking throughout the city, and good weather. I think I left a bit of my heart in San Francisco but the rest of my footprint has yet to be made. I am quite certain that the other foot will drop in the future and I’ll return to this beautiful city that has always felt like part of my destiny.

My Time at the First Annual Tasty Awards

Josie and I were thrilled to be part of the process of the 1st annual Tasty Awards, as we both acted as judges. At the last minute Josie made the tough decision to honor a work commitment rather than attend the Tasty Awards with moi. I completely understood but I found myself dateless. 20 minutes before leaving for NorCal I quickly wrote a post and asked on Twitter if any SF/Bay Area foodies/bloggers wanted to accompany me to the award show and after party. In typical UG fashion, I wasn’t overwhelmed by a plethora of date options but a nice girl who goes by Smashed Potatoe was interested. Smashed Potatoe (Ashley) and I communicated via Twitter on my drive up north to my hometown of Santa Cruz. I arrived late at night, read books with my bro, and had to wake up at 7A because my favorite hair stylist Tommy-tito was sweet enough to squeeze me in on his busiest week for cut and color. He opened the Parlor, just for me, and darkened my hair and gave me bangs. I left in the late afternoon off to meet my new friend and have an adventure in San Francisco. The recommended attire was black tie but I noticed that some were in ball gowns and tuxes and some were in jeans and sandals. It reaffirmed why I love San Francisco and first annual events so much. It is the unexpected, the surprises, and all the awkward turtle and uncouth moments that make life grand. The show was hosted by the very sexy and zany Zane Lambrey of Three Sheets. I wasn’t all that familiar with him but my date Ashley was and said he was someone we definitely had to get a drink with after the show. Since you have already seen the first picture you know we made this dream a reality.

The award show began with their person of the year, Anthony Bourdain. Unfortunately, he was not there but he made a video acceptance speech and his executive producers came up and said that he asked them to tell dick and fart jokes. This is how the award show started and more uncouth and awkward turtle moments followed and caused me and my date for the evening to bond in looks and laughs. Some funny lines of the night came from the Cooking for the Clueless and her producer husband that admitted to sleeping with the talent. We were seated in the second row and had the honor of being only a few seats down from the lovely Debbie Mazar who we discovered was starting a web show called Under the Tuscan Gun. We also were both gawking at the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” guys who won the award for best animated food related movie, of course they were the only nominees but we loved them..too bad they had dates.

There was quite a lot of talk during the night from presenters and winners talking about wanting to go to the party to eat and/or drink. Ashley was making me laugh by adding in comments like, “I have seen his/her show and they need a cocktail”. It was in walking the few blocks to the after party at New People that the whole evening really loosened up. People didn’t know what the awards ceremony would be like but we all knew how to have a party. The space of the After Party was a gallery, store, and cafe. The whole event took place in Japan Town so the party was equipped with Harajuku style girls and it was funny seeing everyone get loose when alcohol and food were finally added to the mix.

One of my favorite people of the award show was the Queen of the Trailer Park, Miss Jolene Sugarbaker, who won the award for Best Comedy Series. She was a kick and was in character all night. The other award winners I thoroughly enjoyed was Average Betty and Leslie from Check, Please! Bay Area. These Tasty winners were complete UGs, as they both ended up using their awards as drink holders. Hilarious, and all women I aspire to become!

The awards show was fresh and had a laid back attitude that is unusual in such a setting. The after party was like a maze of finding all of the interesting characters of the night and searching for wine and chocolate. Ashley was a perfect date and I was thrilled to learn we both like food, booze, and have elephant tattoos. Anyway, a big thanks to all for giving me a great night and making the Tasty Awards as tasty as can be!