Age-old practices such as canning, jamming, foraging, fermenting, growing and gleaning are suddenly new (and cool) again. Chickens are the au courant backyard animal of choice. And classes in the Domestic Arts all the rage.
In an era of identity politics and culture wars, food fights join the fray. What you eat (and what you choose not to consume) speaks volumes about your political persuasions. First Lady Michelle Obama, dubbed America's foodie-in-chief by The Atlantic, talked about ending obesity and increasing activity with her Let's Move initiative. She also championed growing food and farmers' markets -- and brought to her kitchen top chefs like Sam Kass. On the other hand, Rush Limbaugh mounted a modern-day Twinkie defense (this time citing the fact that a man lost weight on a diet consisting mostly of the infamous junk food as evidence that all nutrition science is bogus). Sarah Palin showed up at a Pennsylvania school bearing cookies and dished up s'mores at a diner in a calculated countermove to a Michelle Obama dessert comment. Professional rager Glenn Beck even weighed in. Sigh...
The task of putting the food wars in context fell to ex-Washington Post writer Jane Black, who has moved to Huntington, West Virginia with new husband editor Brent Cunningham to see what happens to the community's eating habits now that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has skipped town.
Local angle: Taking the happy out of Happy Meals: Outgoing SF Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed a Board of Supervisors ban on plastic toys in fast-food meals. But the supes struck back, ensuring that no child in the city will be tempted to eat junk food simply to get their hands on a cheap trinket that will likely break before you can say Big Mac.
4. School Food
For the majority of schoolchildren around the country school lunch sucks. Big time.
Fueled by Twitter feeds, gourmet grub on the go continued to attract a growing following around the country as food trucks hit the streets in increasingly more legitimate ways, boasting inspired names and bright colors, to wit The Best Wurst in Austin, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in New York City, and Chairman Bao in San Francisco.
Food trucks went a step further in size, too, with the introduction of bustaurants, stripped former public transit buses reconfigured as a mobile kitchen, and, in some cases, even offering eat-in seating. In L.A. the double decker Worldfare dished up ethnic eats, while closer to home Le Truc in San Francisco served up gastro-pub fare, and Diamond Lil debuted to a small crowd and a camera crew.
Local angle: With mild-mannered accountant Matt Cohen at the helm, the mobile food fest Off the Grid launched in Fort Mason and sprouted several neighborhood locations, including Golden Gate Park, McCoppin Hub, Civic Center, and UN Plaza. Officials in San Francisco passed reforms making it easier and cheaper for mobile vendors to serve street eats, while in the East Bay the city of Emeryville saw pushback from local brick-and-mortar businesses and Berkeley residents bemoaned missing out on most of the mobile food fun (for now).