No matter how long I live in Santa Barbara, I will never tire of the exquisite view of the glistening ocean. To sit outside on a Saturday afternoon in JANUARY, eating my lunch and meeting new people, was such a treat.  Oh, and did I mention that conference sponsor, St-Germain was serving their signature uber-refreshing cocktails? Ya, life was good. If you are just tuning in, I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend the Edible Institute food conference over the weekend. This is the second of a three-part series (click here to read Part 1; Part 3 coming tomorrow).

Are You Paying Attention?

Okay, the title of the third panel was a bit lackluster: Journalists Talk Strategies for Writing About Industrial Agriculture, but the content of the session was anything but. As someone who is passionate about writing, I pay attention when seasoned pros are giving out advice. Panelist Philip Brasher, of the Des Moines Register, was asked how he writes about both sides of the food debate without alienating either side. Brasher said, “Mostly by dealing straight…trying to get the story right, fair, and reliable.”  Sounds simple, but I found myself wondering how often journalists really do get the full story and accurately portray all sides. Food for thought.

A reoccurring theme emerged with this question: “How do you reach the other side; those not already paying attention?” I’ve certainly asked myself this question in relation to Be Food Smart. How do you get people to care about their food?  Barry Estabrook, who writes for such unknown publications as the New York Times, Washington Post, and now defunct Gourmet Magazine explains, “Gourmet readers were not the choir, but getting message out to them had big effects.” 

“This is All Slow Cooking and There’s No Crockpot”

We switched gears a bit with the afternoon session: The Future of Food Writing, Recipes and Cookbooks. Up at the panel table was Molly O’Neill (cookbook author of One Big Table), Dianne Jacob (author of Will Write for Food), Terry Walters (of CLEAN FOOD fame) and none other than LA Times food editor, Russ Parsons (pretty please do a story on Be Food Smart, Russ!).  The caliber of folks speaking at this event was top notch. Molly Watson opened the session talking about her own experiences and how her kids understand that “everything comes from a place, everything goes someplace and they are intrinsically involved.” As a mom I too feel the importance and social obligation that I have to teach my daughter respect for her body, her community, and her planet. Here are a few more of my favorite quotes:

“I hate recipes and don’t use them, which is not a good qualification for a cookbook writer.” - O’Neill

“Stories that aren’t original are suspect, recipes that are original are suspect.” - Parsons

“This is all slow cooking and there’s no crockpot” – Watson

“I like the Yelp (iPhone) App…, but if I’m going to spend $400 of my own money on dinner, I want to talk to a grown up” – Parsons in response to audience asking the panel what they think is the future of restaurant critics.

The Wino in All of Us

If you know me, you know I like my wine. By this point in the day, I was a little tired (it’s siesta time somewhere, right?), but was eager to hear from all the local winemakers on the subject of Mighty Wines: Small Family Producers Using Traditional Winemaking Methods. I love that they had female winemaker, Karen Steinwachs from Buttonwood Winery representing. Her goal? To make their wine as famous as their peaches. I can’t say I’ve ever had a Buttonwood Peach, but now I really want one! Steinwach’s wine motto? “Crush grapes, put it in the barrel, let it speak for itself. ” Love it!

Gary Paul Nabhan closed out the day. I felt for him, since by this time it was 4:30 and most of us had been there since 7:30am. I’m not used to sitting in a “classroom” for so long and was feeling it in my bones. But like all the speakers, the minute they started talking, everyone was paying full attention. Nabhan began by saying he had doubts that we are going to make major changes to food policy at the federal level. Instead, he encouraged his audience to start local and get support for something that is already working. Nabhan used The Greening of Detroit (see my recap on this in Part 1) as an example of a success story that could be used to guide policy change. He asked us to find our” sweet spot” and determine where we as individuals could make the most impact. I’m hoping that Be Food Smart is my special role. Stop for a minute and ask yourself, “what’s my sweet spot? How can I make an impact?” I loved Nabhan’s example of Joan Gussow’s  sweet spot (Gussow was the keynote speaker – see Part 1): “She can be that curmudgeon that keeps us honest.” He ended his message by reading the touching and thought provoking, A Terroir-ist’s Manifesto.

Frothy & Pink

My friend Jeanine and I decided to hit up Brophy Brothers for a quick snack while we waited for the gala event to begin. Sunset overlooking the Santa Barbara Harbor is not something to be missed. Stunning. My already incredible day ended with a downright fabulous gala at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. The room was filled with sumptuous, locally sourced food bites, Organic Soup Kitchen’s coconut-yam soup, an overwhelming selection of Santa Barbara wine, brown and white Telegraph beer, St-Germain cocktails with beet foam (yes, BEET foam – think frothy & pink), and dessert. Wait, did I mention dessert? Let’s see, there was homemade almond gelato, meringues, vanilla creme pots, lavender sorbet, caramel de sel chocolates. This is my version of heaven. It was so cool to see a zero waste party where all the food was served on VerTerra‘s new, compostable dinnerware (it’s stunningly beautiful, seriously, check this stuff out for your next party. I’ll post pics soon.) and wine out of actual glass stemware. GreenProject Consultants sponsored the event’s waste management and had “compost police” strategically placed at every bin.  Talk about putting your money where your mouth is (extra pun intended)! I walked out of the building into the crisp evening air feeling both physically and mentally satiated.

What do elderflowers, heirloom beans, blogging, and branding have in common? Stay tuned for part 3 of my Edible Institute Experience.

Image: harminder dhesi photography via Flickr