After years of research, an animal scientist looking for ways to keep inflammation down in cattle came up with a novel approach: feed them flax. The flax in their food helps keep animals healthy and has an added benefit for those who later eat their meat: omega-3 enriched beef.
Andrew is from Louisville, Kentucky. He lives in San Francisco, plays music, works with kids, and writes for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including The Oakland Tribune, The Contra Costa County Times, Wine Enthusiast, The Onion, and Thrasher. Pro: hush puppies, green garlic, caramel ice cream, Japanese sweet potatoes, smelts, Larb Ped, beer, wine, cocktails, and assorted dumplings; con: milk, chips, and candy.
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Valencia is a humming thoroughfare teeming with restaurants, bars, vintage stores, galleries, furniture vendors, shops hawking expensive curiosities, construction projects, pigeons, and one small, loud street performer with a bright blue guitar. I don’t know what the street was like in the 90s, but it’s changed remarkably since I arrived just seven years ago. The blocks have built up, becoming denser. Spaces have changed hands, but fewer proprietors without public relations teams still hold court over the bike lanes, shimmering cars, and busy pedestrian paths. Notably, many restaurants have closed, and many new ones have taken their place. The climate brims with potential, yet it’s simultaneously harsh: with so many eating options tangling in such close proximity, survivors must stake out unique corners of the market — or place a premium on a convenience they provide.
I first became really curious about Lao food nearly two years ago, after a tasty meal at Champa Garden, the somewhat venerable Lao restaurant on 8th Avenue east of Lake Merritt in San Antonio–one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the Bay Area, home to close-knit populations of African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians in almost equal proportions. I tried to draw distinctions between its dominant flavors and those most prevalent in the more familiar cuisines of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Like Thai, Lao thrives on interplay between sour and spicy, crunchy and soft, and both cooked and raw ingredients. The effect however is different.
Food is wholesome and sustaining, but my relationship with it at the time kept it framed in an unhealthy light. Food was something that had once made me very happy. I was tired of surrendering it to an unpleasant fantasy realm, where my brain waged war against my body, and limited what it could enjoy. That pissed me off as much as anything about my predicament, and I finally decided to do something about it — with some counseling, a gym membership, and plenty of tacos. I wanted to spend my life eating, and in time, maybe make a living doing so.
The jerky salesman was the real deal, I thought, a Kentucky classic, an intrepid street food hustler in a lean and largely cart-less land. I wanted to meet him again, to interview him perhaps, to most importantly get my hands on some more of his delicious wares.
Everything on television is deliberately orchestrated, of course, but many of the common signifiers of male chefness — the cursing, the drinking, the fighting, the screaming, the preoccupation with large pieces of meat — whether expressed on camera, in memoirs, or reputation via third-person anecdotes — endow a traditionally feminine role with coarse, conventionally masculine trappings. Producers want men to feel safe watching their shows.
Every Tuesday morning, the class visits the SF Ferry Building. We teachers gently prod our shifty little charges into the loose winding semblance of a line and lead them, meandering along the sidewalks, dashing through crosswalks.
Office workers are captive diners. Since people will pay more for convenient bad food in the middle of the day, lunch spots charged with feeding the downtown drones know their registers will ring regardless of how good their wares are. For every self-described foodie frantically mining for diamonds in the roughest of roughs, there are a dozen people who, at least for an hour or so, don’t care.
Let’s say you’re at a party, hovering over a gooey white puck of Mt. Tam, canape-concerned, ignoring the guests swirling around you, when a stranger sidles over and sizes you up. “Hey,” he says, a wide, knowing grin spreading across his face as he gestures at the cheese-covered knife you’re determinedly sliding across a good cracker. “You’re a real foodie, aren’t you?” “No, I’m just hungry,” you say, wincing — because you hate that word.
Brunch-positive people work hard and play hard. They see brunch as a soothing extension of the partying they did the night before, a necessary putting back together of things that were dislodged — a ritual well worth the inflated price of pancakes and a lengthy wait. Brunch-negative people think waiting for food they could make at home for a fraction of the cost is a waste of a day’s best hours. There are two sides, and San Francisco’s boutique-lined streets — Haight, Church, Valencia — are divided between them.
For five years now, Manivanh, a smallish place on 24th Street near Hampshire, has been one of my very favorite neighborhood restaurants in town. It’s a completely unremarkable-looking Thai joint unceremoniously dumped at the grimiest edge of the Mission District, out of step with the strip’s bevy of taquerias, hair salons, and, more recently, art galleries and hipster donut stands.
The film doesn’t sufficiently sell Julie’s decision to blog about cooking her way through Child’s celebrated book. That on-screen moment is weak, her impetus glossed over like ripples in a cake’s frosting. Once Julie gets going, her resolve blossoms into a slightly creepy, worshipful obsession.
Then, I started slipping.
The process was slow but steady and natural. Animal by animal, each meaty notch on my fork, the fresh flavors and the associated stories, people, and places, has marked my memory. I’ve returned again and again to this timeline of tines, to reflect upon my gradual path — from devout vegetarian to comprehensive meat-eater.
We may be approaching gastronomic Thunderdome, a new quasi-post-apocalyptic condition of eating through recession, where restaurants, having struggled, gradually shutter and practically disappear altogether, surrendering the pitted scene to scrappy, subsistence-level free-agents — wagon-pushers and van vendors — with no regard for increasingly irrelevant health code regulations, much less entrepreneurial convention.
Pie Truck is one of the latest freelance foodie endeavors to garner city-wide attention and, as it turns out, it’s a lovely, deserving operation.
One day last week, the lady and I had plans to visit Schmidt’s for dinner. When we’re deciding what to eat, we tend to favor collaboration and compromise, at least I do. Sometimes, rarely, our tastes don’t intersect, and I always want to find dishes we both want, even if it means passing on something I’d really, really like to try. In the case of Schmidt’s, a sleek, two month-old German eatery in the Mission District, I knew what I wanted, and would accept no proxies: hasenpfeffer, a red wine-soaked saddle and leg of rabbit with braised lingonberry-sweetened cabbage.
Amid billowing black stove-staining clouds of digression, I suppose what I’m really coming to, here at the end of this roundabout stew-stirring, is another question, one stretching a bit beyond the scope of the original subject: if food, in the right hands, with the right software, can become music, can music, in a listener’s right frame of mind, feel, not literally, of course, but metaphorically, like food?
18 Reasons, the Bi Rite-affiliated gallery space on Guerrero near 18th Street, has made such conscious, well-examined consumption its mission, offering exhibitions, lectures, tastings, and classes to draw clear bright lines between food, people, and place, existing essentially as the embodiment of its intention, as a local meeting spot for people who love food and want to talk about it, share what they know, and learn from others. The gallery has received some local press love but this summer’s offerings deserve special mention.