We talk about food trends a lot at CHOW, and something that comes up part jokingly but part seriously is the idea that farmers are now sexy. And a recent event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts called OPENrestaurant seemed to prove this point. It was billed as: “Urban farmers, foragers, homesteaders, and members of Slow Food Nation … share their expertise and help us all start thinking towards spring and planning our spring gardens.”
After waiting in a huge line to get in, there was another wait for a drink, and another for a bowl of kale soup. I noticed everybody there was so waifish it didn’t look like they ate, they were young, and they were beautifully disheveled—girls in sweaters with ultra long sleeves and striped socks, boys with I’ve-just-been-ramblin-round-the-Hebrides hair and poetical dazed expressions. The only thing that seemed farm-related was a table with a big pile of dirt.
Finally, after people had sat down at communal tables, the sous-chef of Chez Panisse stood up and made a garbled announcement, saying, “Please enjoy.” There was a confused silence, then somebody shouted, “Who’s here?” prompting the chef to identify the farmers and Slow Food people in the audience. I gleaned that you were just supposed to mingle and ask them questions.
A Bay Area urban farmer I’d been wanting to meet, Novella Carpenter, sat with us, and we had a great conversation. But overall I was left with the impression that, though there were a lot of people there who genuinely seemed interested in farming, the idea of farm-to-table eating had become more style than substance, and I’d stumbled onto the newest mid-20s “scene.” Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you—who doesn’t want to be in the midst of a cultural zeitgeist?