Why California Matters: A Recap and Look Ahead

When I signed up for a six-month
appointment at the Berkeley Food Institute, I definitely wanted to squeeze
in some field trips and I wasn’t disappointed. Where are we? I mean I know we’re in
Oakland, but where are we in Oakland? West Oakland. Oh, West Oakland. Good spotting, Mark. You have the makings of a pollinator biologist. Want to throw me the net? There’s so much going on in California
agriculture, public health and policy. And since I pretty much had the entire
University of California system at my fingertips, I zig-zagged around the state
to interview experts about these topics. On one day I was on the streets of Los
Angeles meeting with food labor activists. The next, I hung out with a
historian of Chinese American cuisine. Then there was a tour of sustainable
farmland in Santa Cruz. There was even a scenic boat ride where I learned about
the health of the marine ecosystem. And then of course there was food. I cooked
an all organic, hyper-local meal with apprentice farmers; I ate the freshest
possible seafood; I ate at an authentic Taiwanese cafe and I joined
eighth-graders for a fabulous school lunch. I don’t remember last time I had chocolate milk. Might’ve been twenty years ago. I ate a bunch of weeds
also. Some were more edible than others. I don’t know what I did with my little
collection of toxic plants. Hopefully we didn’t eat them (laughs). No, we didn’t eat then and we didn’t eat enough. Between my teaching gig, weekly columns and a book tour, there
just wasn’t enough time to cover everything, like the drought for instance.
But living out here there’s no way to avoid it. I saw fallow fields, dry riverbeds
and I listened to UC farm advisers discuss different irrigation
techniques with affected growers in the Central Valley Forecasts now predict a wet winter for
California and lots of fingers are crossed, including mine because I’m staying on
another year as a lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. And while the “you can take the boy out of New York” jokes will probably continue, I feel at home out here. So I’m looking forward to the new academic year, learning more about UC food system research and of course, cooking with the
best ingredients around. And come winter time when that Meyer lemon tree of mine
bears fruit again, there may be one recipe I can share using these Bay Area
favorites. We’ll see. Find out why California Matters.
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