Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Kissable pizza, and new food-faith partnership

Last week I mentioned a Northwest fast food chain, Burgerville, that features local ingredients. This is too good an opportunity not to mention a couple of other small restaurant chains in our area with a local flavor -- and as a January article in the Portland Tribune puts it, “There’s not a wallet-busting meal among them.”

Laughing Planet Cafe doesn’t have its website up yet (check later at but based on my visit to the Eugene branch, Alice’s Adventures in Sustainable Eating blog describes it well. Great, simple food.

The brand-new Hot Lips Pizza site includes a list of farms they support -- including, I was pleased to see, a personal favorite, Gathering Together. Hot Lips has earned widespread respect for its commitment to efficient use of energy and commitment to education. Gotta love this Willamette Week quote: “This is how a sustainable future tastes, one slice at a time.”

I’m happy to make a plug also for fine dining establishments that offer local foods. Some of the top chefs in the world are committed to Slow Food, a movement which celebrates the food specialties of each region. Here in Corvallis, Big River and Intabas are just two of the excellent restaurants with local food on their menus.

(Intabas deserves special mention for the owners’ exceedingly generous support of various food security initiatives taking place in this county. Just this past Monday Chef Intaba provided a delicious complimentary supper for community members taking part in a new project from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon; more on that below. Intabas’ marvelous flatbreads and pizzas -- baked in their cob oven -- are reason enough to eat there, but the idea of supporting such a good neighbor makes each dining experience there even more satisfying.)

Yet I think it’s especially important to support single-$ restaurants that serve local foods.

Last summer “Julie and Julia” author Julie Powell wrote a New York Times op-ed warning against the “temptation of economic elitism” in the local food movement. It has a certain point. Take, for example, the 2005 Smithsonian Folk Festival in D.C., which offered several tasting menus featuring locally grown ingredients, farm-raised meats, artisanal cheeses, etc. -- at $70 to $150 per person (tax, tip and wine included).

If people think sustainably grown, local food has to come with this kind of price tag, who would blame them for thinking this good food isn’t for them? But this is just what makes Hot Lips Pizza and the others so appealing. I could just about kiss ‘em.

Here’s a cheer and a prayer of blessing, too, for the local initiatives underway here in Oregon that strive to bring congregations and farmers together -- while also doing something to make fresh, local food available to low income folks.

The meal Chef Intaba provided this week was at a gathering for the Interfaith Food & Farms Partnership. Its mission: “To empower faith communities, farmers and neighborhoods to build rural-urban alliances and create innovative partnerships for just and sustainable food systems.” As I understand it, this project is being funded in part by a two-year grant. The hope is to develop pilot programs here in Corvallis and in the Portland area that can be used in communities across Oregon and perhaps beyond.

One way that farmer-congregation connections have been happening in Oregon is through the "That's My Farmer" project in Eugene. This will be the project's seventh year. Its main focus has been to try to encourage church folk to sign up for CSA (community supported agriculture) memberships; the goal is to have 500 households participating by 2007. Last year nearly 300 households took part -- keeping as much as $160,000 circulating in the local economy. Some $2,500 raised at the spring inaugural celebration subsidized additional CSA memberships for low income families.

Last year, the Eugene group also tried something new: selling books of coupons good for food -- including produce, eggs, meats, and cheese -- at numerous farms and farmers markets.

Thanks to the Interfaith Food & Farms Partnership, it sounds like this year Corvallis folks also will be able to buy farmers market coupons, with each $20 booklet containing six $3 coupons. The $2 additional "tithe" will benefit low-income community members.

What a wonderful, creative way to help neighbors, care for the environment, and keep food dollars at home.

For more information about the Interfaith Food & Farms Partnership, contact the project coordinator.


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