Every time I sit down to write this week's ditty, it rains here in Minneapolis. I'd like to think the universe is providing a little atmosphere, but the truth is, it always rains in Minneapolis. It has done nothing but rain since I pulled into town, and the forecast is for rain straight through until my untimely death. (At least the mood will be suitably somber.) Meanwhile, the sun is presumably still shining on San Diego. Maybe I am struggling with this final column because I refuse to relinquish my one last tenuous connection to that picturesque corner of the world.
Of course, let's try to keep things in perspective. I wrote about food for about a year and a half, but it was in San Diego. And if you're wondering what it takes to write about food in San Diego, pick up a copy of that most revered of local publications, the PennySaver. Each issue features a full-page review from David Nelson, written with all of the skill and wit of Katie Couric's children's book. Who is David Nelson, you ask? Only one of the regular food reviewers for stately San Diego Magazine. After reading his latest tour de force, if you decide that you, too, want to write a PennySaver column, you're in luck: Nelson also teaches a food-writing class at the UCSD extension.
I don't mean to single out Nelson. His vapid advertorials in the PennySaver are still worlds better than the mealy-mouthed menu recitals that pass for restaurant critique in the Union-Tribune, courtesy of Wolfgang D. Verkaaik. In a city where evening newscasts harken back to the glory days of Entertainment Tonight, Nelson and Verkaaik fit right in.
But what really bothers me about the food writers in San Diego is that the city deserves better. After all, in some ways, San Diego is a culinary mecca. That perfect climate allows anyone to grow anything, anytime, and restaurants all over the United States buy produce from San Diego, through Chino Farms and other small specialty farms. Personally, my favorite local vegetable patch has always been Good Faith Organic Farms, at the Hillcrest Farmers Market (every Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the DMV parking lot).
Yes, I buy organic, even though I don't buy the typical, self-interested arguments. (One: trace chemicals in conventional produce are little suicide pills, crazy particles that bounce around your innards like Pong until they cause cancer or knock your chakra off its axis or something. Two: organic produce tastes better, lack of chemicals and natural growing process allowing the flavor to shine through.) And I still buy organic here, even though the selection at the Minnesota vegetable stand is not quite as good as it was at Good Faith, and even though people in other parts of the country look at you funny when you mention the word "organic." Even my mother-who, incidentally, petitions her local farmers not to allow their cattle to wander through streams, and begs them not to don Outbreak suits and spray their plants liberally with the latest industrial-strength bug poison-shakes her head at my organic obsession. "They charge you 10 times as much," she sniffs.
Unless you think cattle should stop wandering through our streams, and farmers of the world should never have to wear Outbreak suits and should stop turning those streams into fertilizer-colored lava lamps, then you might argue that organic farms charge one-tenth of their real worth. As someone once said, supporting a small organic farm at a farmers market is not just grocery shopping. It is casting a vote for the way you think the world should be.
But take it from a guy who just packed up his truck and drove 2,200 miles for a temporary contracting position with no benefits: the way the world should be and the way the world is are often two very divergent scripts. Further proof: Good Faith Organic Farms was not allowed to renew its lease, and developers are planning to build a polo field on the company's Jamul farmland. The owners, meanwhile, will move their vegetable operations to Northern California.
Then again, sometimes the world is an OK place: I was driving around Lake Calhoun the other day, and I saw a sign for San Diego stalwart the Tin Fish. Against all odds, the Tin Fish chose to start its nationwide expansion here, in the land of Frostbite Falls, and I can't wait to try a Walleye and wild rice fish taco. Just as soon as it stops raining. ©
Say goodbye at cityeat@SDcity beat.com.