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Edible Silicon Valley Summer 2015 : Page 15

watching good farmland being gobbled up by urban and suburban sprawl. In addition, so much of our food policy is dictated by our tax policy—by what we subsidize—which is why people need to be more aware of the political implications of what we eat. BL: And the farmworkers? RR: Regarding farmworkers, I hope that American eaters become more concerned about justice for food workers. I think it’s the most shameful thing that is happening in America—that the entire food system works on the backs of undocumented workers. We will not truly have a sustainable food system until we understand that sus-tainability includes fair wages and fair labor practices for the people who are picking and cutting our food. BL: Th ere are two new food and technology conferences emerg-ing in Silicon Valley this year: BITE Silicon Valley and Bon Ap-pétech. Statistics show there is an infl ux of venture capital into the food technology arena. What do you think the impact of this entrepreneurial spirit will be on the food landscape in Silicon Valley and beyond? RR: Technology holds out a lot of promise and a lot of terror for me. I wish there was more exploration of the topic beyond just two new conferences. Th is should be an ongoing discussion. Unfortunately, the food world tends to be divided in two—the sustainability move-ment, which sometimes verges on the luddite, and the tech people who think all progress is good progress. I wish there was more of a dialogue between the two camps. BL: What is the single biggest food issue the world faces today? RR: Water—it’s not just the drought in California. Th e water table in India is dropping precipitously. It’s the one thing that we can’t manufacture. So far nobody has fi gured out an economical way to do desalinization—and, given how much we have abused the oceans, perhaps desalinization isn’t a panacea either. BL: How do we keep the dialogue going regarding the impor-tance of childhood food education? RR: Th is is a topic we can be most optimistic about. It is on the national agenda, thanks to Michelle Obama. Every chef I know is working with schools in some way. When Alice Waters started Th e Edible Schoolyard, it seemed like a quixotic idea. Now there are dozens, probably hundreds, of school food programs all across the country. Again, the problem comes down to money. As a nation we need to understand that the costs of not eating well are higher than the costs of educating our children to eat well. Food TV and social media have encouraged young people to be deeply interested in food in very thoughtful ways. When you feed a group of people under the age of 25, you almost always have to provide vegan and vegetarian options because these kids are thinking about what they eat in an ethical sense. Th at’s a real change and it makes me hopeful for the future. BL: Your fi rst novel, Delicious, just came out in paperback. What advice would you give someone making the leap from journalis-tic writing to novel writing? RR: My personal belief is when you are in trouble, do the hardest thing. When I didn’t have a day job anymore, I decided to try writ-ing fi ction, even though I had never done it before. Th e real diff erence between writing a memoir and writing fi ction is that in memoir you know who your characters are but in writing a novel you need to get to know your characters really well before you start writing. Th at was a real lesson for me. BL: What can you tell us about your new cookbook/memoir coming out in September, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life ? Do you mean that metaphorically? RR: It is not a traditional cookbook—it is a narrative. It starts with Gourmet closing and how I went into the kitchen and just grounded myself. I discovered that the secret to life is learning to take pleasure in the little things. For me, that is cooking and the joy of going to the farmers market and cooking for people that I love. Th e book is orga-nized seasonally so it starts in fall with the closing of Gourmet and goes through the year. Each recipe begins with a tweet and then a diary of what was going on in my life and then the recipe that I tweeted about. BL: Silicon Valley and the LA region both have a very ethnically diverse population. So tell us what you see as the hottest ethnic food now and what’s next? RR: One is Korean food—you are suddenly seeing kimchee in the supermarkets. Th anks to David Chang and Roy Choi, Korean food is having a real impact. Th e other food that’s having real impact is Middle Eastern. I call this “Th e Ottolenghi Eff ect”—thanks to the success of Ottolenghi’s books, Middle Eastern fl avors are creeping into the menus. He’s had a huge impact on the American palate. His books are so lovely and so accessible and suddenly spices like sumac and za’atar are on the menu. What’s next? I hope we will learn about the South American cui-sines. And Mexican regional food. A Mexican kitchen is a really so-phisticated kitchen that we know very little about. I also hope we learn more about vegetarian Indian cooking. It requires a whole box of spices that many Americans don’t have but I think we will learn to love. BL: Th omas Keller (French Laundry) once said that the simple task of caramelizing an onion still gives him great joy. What sim-ple tasks in the kitchen never fail to excite you no matter how many times you repeat them? RR: I love everything about being in the kitchen. I love the sensory act of cooking. When I bake pies, I cut the shortening in by hand then I put the water in and love watching it come together. I love kneading bread. I love the smell of yeast in the kitchen. I love peel-ing a peach—you fi nd a color when you peel a peach that is just beneath the skin—like it’s been hiding there waiting for you. I love the smell of onions and butter—it’s just a wonderful smell. Th e smell of chicken stock—it just fi lls up a house when you’re making it. Learn more at Purchase tickets for the POST event with Ruth Reichl and Michael Krasny at Beth Lee is a San Jose–based food writer, marketing consultant, co-founder of the virtual cooking community Tasting Jerusalem and writes the food blog OMG! Yummy ( summer 2015 15

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