It’s Thanksgiving. This is what we do. Cultural traditions are important. Here are a list of way more than six things I’m grateful for in San Diego’s food scene as the holiday arrives:
1. I’m grateful for nonjudgmental plant eaters.
Vegetarians and vegans are the millennials of the food world—the unlucky recipient for our aimless blame. Dog died? Vegetarians. Car got repossessed? Damn vegans. It’s time to ease up on the flack we give our friends on plant-based diets, because they’re changing society for the better. Look. Bacon is a whole section of my food pyramid, too. But the fact is we eat far too much meat in the U.S. We all need to stop Ted Nugenting around the clock and add a few fruits, veggies, and nuts to our diet. It’d be nice if those things didn’t taste like sadness, and vegans are the ones pushing real-deal chefs to create better and better plant food. Look at it this way. Even if you’re an unapologetic carnivore, at least your side dishes are getting better! Now, judgmental vegetarians... or vegans who protest honest mom-and-pop operations because they sell fish or meat.... or plant-basers who just, won’t, shut, up, about the moral supremacy of their diet? Please continue flacking those blowhards. Here’s a list of the best veggie burgers in town. We’ve got a plant-based fast food empire building locally. Kindred is one of the best vegan restaurants you’ll find. And Oceanside will soon get The Plot from Wrench & Rodent husband-and-wife duo, Davin and Jessica Waite.
2. I’m grateful for carpet.
At some point U.S. restaurants decided surfaces were only cool if they were hard. Concrete floors, metal chairs, roll-up garage doors, steel bars. Know what happens in a room full of hard surfaces? Your ear doctor does. Like Gilbert Godfried singing karaoke into a leaf blower. I like a party. Parties have loud sounds. But I’m loving the return of drapery and acoustic tiles and plush booths and even the dreaded restaurant carpet that absorb sound and let us talk like normal humans again. I’m not old. My voice just hurts from your hip restaurant.
3. I’m grateful the year-round availability of local farm food.
It’s debatable on whether local food is actually better for the environment, but here’s the simple fact: Food is at its freshest and tastiest and most nutritional the second before it’s picked from the earth. Every minute after it’s picked, it starts to degrade in flavor and nutrition. So eating food as close to its source is probably a better way to live (and why the country’s best restaurants like The French Laundry and Blue Hill Farm have their own on-site gardens and farms). San Diego’s farmers markets are world-class, and happen in various parts of the city every day of the week. And now Specialty Produce has revamped their warehouse of local farm goods so that it’s easy for locals to shop on a daily basis.
4. I’m grateful for local seafood.
San Diego fishermen and women have had a rough half century. But things are looking up with a new redevelopment plan of the waterfront that includes them as a real, working attraction. And Tuna Harbor Dockside Market, which happens every Saturday from 8AM to 1PM, is a local treasure, with boats selling the day’s catch straight to the home cook.
5. I’m grateful for the do-gooders.
There are too many good nonprofits or not-for-profit organizations fighting hunger or food waste or other food-related issues to name here, but if you’re looking for a place to get involved, some of my favorites are Feeding San Diego (they just launched an Uber-style app that picks up food from restaurants that would otherwise be wasted and delivers it to hungry locals), Mama’s Kitchen (which gets food for people living with AIDS and cancer and other critical illnesses), Berry Good Food Foundation (they’ve been establishing connections between ethical, responsible growers and makers and educating the public about good food), and Olivewood Gardens (who work in one of San Diego’s most at-risk neighborhoods for obesity, helping changing the food culture). Edible San Diego has a great comprehensive list here.
6. My readers.
Thanks for reading my weekly musings on food, drink, and culture here, guys. Happy Thanksgiving.