File Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, Po Boys, Dirty Rice, Boudin, Cornbread, Collard Greens, Tarts, Pralines, Grits, Sweet Tea. There’s a lot of flavor down south, ya’ll. The preparation and sharing of these unique recipes is a way to stay connected to the past and each other. Food brings people together and all too often becomes our common denominator. I’ve seen it within my own family and consistently in my friend & work communities. People get excited to prepare food dishes that root back to their origin. And others get excited to eat it.
During my travels for the past few months, I’ve had my eye on small mobile food businesses. In the form of trucks, trailers, push carts, bicycles! and stands at farmers markets…people are diligently working to prepare fresh foods for their communities. For some, these businesses seem to be a way to creatively pursue a passion, bringing the food they enjoy to others, while making a living. Beginning a small business is a huge endeavor, but it gives people a vehicle to express their vision and build relationships they see as valuable. Sometimes mobile, sometimes not…many of these small-business chefs get to choose their food sources, where (relating to who) they serve, and their hours of operation. You could say many of these food businesses are bringing the ‘mom or pop’ style back around. I’ve been especially inspired and thrilled by
food visionaries, Adam & Krista Bork of Food Shark (Marfa, TX), Rose Johnson of Hot Bike (San Francisco, CA) and Marla Kristicevich of Freetown Fries (Lafayette, LA). These inspiring-funky folk are bursting with resourcefulness and creativity. Their visions are unique and clever. They are small business owners, they have a passion for fresh foods, and they care about their environment & communities. They are doing something different. The train is so tempting…that I can feel myself ready to jump aboard.
With a 5 year background working as a cooperative member of the nation’s largest worker-owned Co-Op (Rainbow Grocery Cooperative), I’m planning on taking some of the skills I’ve learned and utilizing them in a new way. I’ll start these dreams small…and grow them small. The spicy hardworking friendly roots of the Cajun spirit is calling…and I’m thinking it’s time we spread dat red pepper. If you build it, they will come, right? We need more cayenne round here, don’t cha think?
So I’ve been gearing up for my return back to the Bay Area…Oakland, in particular. Historically, Northern California is a place that many Creole folks (and less Cajun folks) from Louisiana migrated to from the 40’s into the 70’s. In Mark DeWitt’s book titled, Cajun and Zydeco Dance Music in Northern California, he discusses this area as being a hub for Creole/Cajun cultures to exist given the Civil Rights movement as well as in response to California’s thriving counter-culture. On a much different level, I can relate to this historical migration. It’s true…the Bay Area is a place where all types of diversity are more-often-than-not celebrated and I’m blessed to call it my home.
Getting this food-adventure out of the clouds (of my mind) and onto the street may very well be the most challenging piece, but I was reminded of how inspiring community collaboration can be the other day while attending a fundraising brunch at Crossroads/Phat Beets Produce in North Oakland. Crossroads and Phat Beets Community Kitchen Cafe is a project made up of a collective of people coming together to create a local, community-focused cafe that offers delicious food, rentable commercial kitchen space, and incubator programs for new small businesses! These folks of various backgrounds are making beautiful things happen in their community. Coming together as individuals to create larger resources, this project is a fabulous example of how communities can work together to get ideas off the ground.
The ideas are churning, the food is simmering, and I think we might need to organize a fais do do to get this thing on the ground! Til’ soon….