San Francisco is a sensual city, dedicated to the pleasures of the flesh. But we like our vices marinated in politics. Last century, having sex and taking drugs were acts of liberation. Doing it for the cause was reason enough to frack with our own, and others, minds and bodies. Good times, even if, in the end, change tended to blow away in the wind.
Today's sin of choice is gluttony. We search for the choicest, local, chemical-free bites to swallow, as if by so doing we'll create nirvana. And, this time, maybe we will. The food movement marries ideology with economics in a way that could alter our ecological and social systems. By buying handmade products grown close to home with earth-friendly practices, we're creating enterprises that are more financially and environmental sustainable than the dominant food industry.
The locavore food economy is fueled by the Bay Area's substantial wealth, and 20-somethings' willingness to spend every dime of their Zynga paycheck on slow-cooked organic eggs garnished with backyard spices tended by a rock star chef. These gourmet pioneers drive costs down, increasing access for the less well-heeled. It's Economics 101: rising demand is steadily drawing in more suppliers, reducing prices.
The irony is what's demanded today is precisely what 40-acres-and-a-mule farmers used to produce less than 100 years ago. Beef from cows slaughtered by farmers who know each of their animal's names. Homemade dishes based on slow food recipes handed down over generations. Today's concoctions are more improvised and cross-cultural, made possible by the civil rights liberation ushered in century last. But, fundamentally, they're based on mom -- today perhaps in the guise of a gay African-American -- whipping up something delicious from stuff raised within a long walk distance of a well-loved kitchen.
And that's the food movement's brilliance. It can decompose our existing, capital-intensive, labor-loathing, and environmentally destructive food industrial complex into something much more friendly. It's at once more radical and conservative, fighting one kind of progress -- industrialization -- with another: sophisticated, hand-crafted production.