side dish - what's stirring in indie kitchens
co-founder: dan sullivan (with chris hill)
What spurred your interest in food and farming?
I grew up in Bellevue, Washington, before Microsoft arrived to the region and really changed the vibe (not to mention the economy). We were kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies and grew a lot of our own food in our own backyard right there at the edge of suburbia. My mom loved to cook, and we all loved to eat.
What was your first farming media project?
I'd been working since college as an environmental reporter and editor for a newspaper chain operating predominantly out of tourist towns across the West (e.g., Vail, Colo., and Seaside, Ore.) when the opportunity surfaced to interview for a writing/editing position with Organic Gardening (OG) magazine. Since I'd been working in areas where land and homes were not cheap (and therefore I didn't have either), the only gardening I had done since leaving my parent's nest had been through collaborative efforts with friends at community garden spaces. OG's editor at the time, John Grogan, took me at my word that I intended for my first home to include a parcel of land where we could begin homesteading, and it did.
I helped re-launch the OG Test Garden at the original Rodale spread in Emmaus before making a move to the nonprofit Rodale Institute organic research farm as senior editor of its new webzine NewFarm.org. That's where I cut my teeth in web-based journalism and also learned that the organic farming community is made up of some of the nicest, smartest, most innovative and collaborative people I have ever met. It's where I discovered my passion and my calling, and where the seeds for FarmStory.org were planted.
FarmStory.org is a group of farmers, writers, foodies, agriculture educators, nutrition "detectives," and social-justice and environmental activists engaged in changing the food system "one bite at a time" through the sharing of engaging stories and by offering a venue for communities to exchange ideas.
Your Organic Kitchen by Jesse Ziff Cool. Jesse's name says it all. She runs a restaurant and catering business in Palo Alto, California, and is deeply involved with creating curricula for schoolchildren whereby gardens become classrooms. Jesse is so down to earth and I guess we share some crunchy roots (I'm talking about a lifestyle/philosophy, not a raw salad). The book is laid out with recipes that follow the seasons, and we haven't tried one that was a dud. There's also plenty of forwarding content about the good-food movement and why it pays multiple dividends to shop organic and local. The original edition of the book was published by Rodale in 2000 and can still be found online in hardcover and paperback. I have yet to check out Jesse's newer book Simply Organic.
What's the one ingredient you could not live without?
Favorite Microbrew beer or wine?
Living an Colorado and Oregon turned me into a bit of a microbrew snob, but now great microbreweries seem to abound everywhere. I'm not big on overly hoppy beers, preferring a nice nut brown or maybe a chocolaty stout. Sorry, I can't pick one - It's akin to asking me which one of my kids is my favorite.
Favorite music to listen to while working?
Because I am a writer, I tend to become distracted by lyrics. Also, my wife and I traveled extensively in India in the late '90s and have gathered an impressive collection of music from that culture. Give me some Ravi or Anoushka Shankar or maybe Zakir Hussain and I am ready to zone into that space where the words flow.
What is your favorite type of food?
We love Indian and Thai food and enjoy preparing both which is good, since there aren't a lot of local options here in Berks County, Pa. Potluck gatherings with friends who grow their own are our ultimate favorite.
Most memorable meal?
We were living in Avon, Colorado, and invited friends over for a harvest meal of vegetables we'd grown in our community garden plot 22 miles away (at the county seat near the government offices I visited frequently as a reporter). A bunch of our crew worked at Alfalfa's Market, a health-food store where Andy (my wife) was produce manager, and so our own offerings were augmented substantially. We ended up with a vegetarian sushi assembly line using our own golden chard instead of nori rolls. I remember our friend Josh exclaiming with a broad grin mid-meal: "This is the best food I have had ever," and I would have to agree. There is just something about growing your own food and sharing it with good friends that cannot be beat.
Most irritating celebrity chef?
Alice Waters (and I feel kind of bad saying that because she does such good work).
What makes local/indie food better?
The stories, the culture and the characters.