Last month, Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, an outspoken leader on food safety and animal rights, hosted a special screening of the documentary, FOOD, INC. for a roomful of legislators in Sacramento. Thanks to a friend who works at the capitol, I was able to sneak in. It’d been a very long time since I’ve been surrounded by that many people wearing suits, and discussing public policy is not one of my favorite ways to make small talk (SBX2 3 or SB 135, anyone?). But seeing this important film with a roomful of legislators who were excited about sustainable food and who could actually institute change was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in a movie theatre.
You will soon be hearing a lot about FOOD, INC., a documentary directed by Robert Kenner, winner of both a Peabody and an Emmy for his previous film, Two Days in October. Opening in San Francisco on June 12, this latest release by Magnolia Pictures tackles the unenviable job of educating consumers about the agricultural industry. It’s being called the Inconvenient Truth of the food world, and the quality of its production certainly compares well. Super-saturated colors, animation, engaging graphics, a sprinkling of humor to lighten its distillation of immense amounts of information, and a line-up of articulate, passionate speakers all meld into a highly viewable documentary.
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.
— W. H. Auden
Like the earth itself, our bodies are 70 percent water. This also happens to be the proportion of our water supply that the agricultural industry consumes to bring food to our tables. No conversation about sustainable food systems can exclude the topic of water.
While water wars seem like the concerns of distant communities, experts predict that towns across the US will also soon be struggling to provide clean, affordable water to their citizens. An award-winning documentary, Flow, one of the post powerful and elegant films in the recent 3rd I Film Festival, tackles the complex issues embedded in a simple glass of water. From Bolivia to India, from Michigan to our very own California, access to water is being contested.
Life’s little intersections can reveal deep connections, and sharing a meal is one of the most common ways that happens. A friend visiting from the east coast, John “Taiko Man” Ko introduced me to his drumming friend who invited us to dinner and then, the next thing, I’m learning all about my local community’s history and eating amazing food.
Hideaki Nishikura, a baker at Wild Flour Bread, took our intrepid New Yorker and me, along with a doting grandmother and a giggling son, on a personal tour of his hometown, Sebastopol. I feel privileged to have this insider’s peek into a little known community and hope to inspire a few of you to take the trek north to visit the town during this time when autumn’s colors and flavors are at their peak.
Laughs are few and far between for anyone who works in that tough corner of the food world where food security, public health, and urban development issues intersect. Fortunately, the dynamic duo of Dallas Penn and Rafi Kam have been making short, sharp, and extremely funny documentaries about shopping and eating in urban neighborhoods, including this short on bodegas, those infamous corner stores.
My friend Ed works crazy long hours making sure people are fed well. Fortunately, he also knows how to party. More to the point, he knows how to throw down one hell of a spread and mixes generous, powerful drinks.
Thus, I blame him for my momentary lapse of politics. It’s been roughly a year since I gave up shrimp, confused and frustrated and devastated. Then, at a recent bash, Ed laid out platters piled high with buttery, herby, perfectly poached shrimp. My powers of resistance were strong for a good half hour, then slowly, steadily, the other guests’ swoons of delight and the potency of sangria convinced me to try one…just one….