CHOW.com is proud to be a sponsor of the Eat Real Festival, August 27-29 at Jack London Square in Oakland, California. Anya Fernald is the founder of the festival.
It’s high time to revitalize and re-energize American food: Making better-quality, healthier, and less processed food available is an urgent priority. To make more real food readily accessible to Americans, we need to support the continued growth of farms practicing sustainable agriculture, we need to demand the production of better food by our country’s large food manufacturers, and—above all—we must support the regrowth of regional food systems with strong connections to our community and culture. Supporting this regrowth means bringing back foodways and food craftsmanship skills that disappeared decades ago and relearning the ancient arts of preparing, processing, and conserving our food.
Defining Food Craft
Food craft is the transformation of raw ingredients with techniques that change and build flavor, make foods last longer, and increase the impact of land and place on flavor. Food craft requires entrepreneurial spirit, manual skills, wisdom, and a deep understanding of primary ingredients. Many food-crafting techniques date back centuries or millennia, others are recent innovations. Food craft is where food and people meet, where human skills make flavor, where better food is born.
We’d like to put the culture back in agriculture. We’d like to plant the seeds of a food-making movement in communities across America. The craft knowledge will grow in the next decades, bringing with it new knowledge around scale, marketing, and distribution. Along the way, we’ll discover how little traditional wisdom around food craft has been passed along to current generations, and we’ll move forward to reclaim and relearn. To restart the culture of food crafting, we must relearn and teach the skills of making food and bring dignity and respect back to food professions while supporting the growth of thousands of new businesses.
The American food production system has prioritized productivity above taste and environmental quality for the past five decades. Along the way, American consumers have learned to outsource their home food production to agribusinesses, forgetting the food craft knowledge of their parents and grandparents. Some of these changes in the food system have led to healthier, safer food. Some have made our food more dangerous. The great challenge of the upcoming decades is to make real, good food the standard, not the exception, in America’s cities and rural communities.
We think that many of the technically incredible transformations that agribusiness has wrought on food—extraction, manipulation, reconfiguration—are wondrous in theory and disastrous in reality. We openly criticize the degree to which the manipulation of food has consequently manipulated the American palate, helping us lose our perspective on what real food tastes like. This is not a question of scale—big can be fantastic, small can be terrible—but of the degree of technology involved in food making. We believe that food that’s been good for humans for thousands of years is still the best food for humans.
Future Radical Deliciousness
In the past five decades, there has been a rapid decline in the prestige of the art and craft of making food. We believe that to build a better American food system, we must bring new attention and credibility to food making professions. Chefs have become cultural stars in the past decade; next up are the tofu makers, the noodle pullers, the brewers. Not only will this create a change in our cultural values around food, it will create a new generation of green entrepreneurs, bringing new businesses to American cities. We believe that to make real food America’s everyday food, we need to build the skills that will be necessary to feed the demand for better food.
Start the ferment: Use your food dollars to support food craft in your own community by buying foods made by the food craft businesses in your own community—the butchers, brewers, bakers, and coffee roasters. Eat real by choosing smaller-batch, less processed foods when possible, and try your own hand at making some craft foods from scratch. Ask your local and regional food-making businesses what they’re up to, tell your friends about what you love to taste, become an agent of change.
Join us at the Eat Real Festival when we launch our campaign to support food crafters in our own region of Northern California.