Kitchen Sisters here, writing for HEAC.
We have been traveling in the South this past month: Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. Everywhere we go people take us to their Hidden Kitchens, to the unusual and out of the way places where they come together through food. We were thunderstruck by a farm--an urban farm, smack dab in the middle of downtown Birmingham. It's called the Jones Valley Urban Farm. It sits under the shadow of two freeway overpasses, trains whistle by in the night, and long blocks of public housing are right across the street. We went to a dinner there prepared by an amazing chef named Frank Stitt, who grew up in rural Alabama and cares deeply about its land and food traditions and the rebuilding of this once vibrant downtown that borders on being a ghost town. It's a food desert of sorts. This attempt to rebuild, and to feed, and revitalize a community through its food is going on around the country. An urban farm or garden grows organic food that it sells to farmer's markets, and restaurants. Crime in the neighborhood goes down as more people and life are on the streets. Neighbors meet one another and are less isolated.
Meeting some of the HEAC Youth has opened our eyes to a lot of things. The Market Makeover Program made us think about what is going on in corners across America. One thing that continues to strike us as we travel the nation in search of Hidden Kitchens and lost kitchen cultures is how this "food movement" is growing. And how creative it is. And how young people are at the heart of it.
Over this past weekend we recorded another event that started at the Alemany Farm in San Francisco. It's in The Saint Mary's Housing Project neighborhood, nestled below four lanes of freeway. It's full of strawberries, pussy willows, greens, squashes, you name it. It's really big and the last place you would think you would see a garden. It's part of the park system here. Tons of neighbors are part of it, and little kids kept wandering in asking to pick fruit while about 15 people were rubbing a thousand-pound steer on a massive spit with salt preparing it to be roasted underground for 24 hours. 5 guys were going to stay up all night tending the cow and the fire. I mean this was a really really big beast that had been grass-fed, raised sustainably and killed humanely, and was going to be fed to 400 people. 8 women were going to butcher it together in the atrium of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art the next night as part of a program celebrating the 100th Anniversary of an art movement called Futurism. Here are some photographs from the event and a link to Open Restaurant. You can see what this group of young cooks is thinking about.
The last photograph is two young women farmers that we interviewed in Jamaica recently. Their country is going through real economic hard times and they are glad they are growing food, but it's very hard for them to make a living now. They are smart and funny and we're going to use include their interviews in a story we're producing soon about women in Jamaica.
See you next month, with more hidden kitchen stories from across California and the country.
Until then, check out our site. . .