More than 41 cities around the world have been designated by UNESCO as “Creative Cities.” In categories from literature to design to music to film to gastronomy, these cities have been recognized for their contributions to promoting local creative industries and fostering worldwide cooperation for sustainable urban development. Here at Edible Baja Arizona, we think Tucson—and its surrounding Baja Arizona communities—should become a UNESCO City of Gastronomy in 2014. This honorific designation can literally put a city on the map for its cultural contributions. We asked 13 local leaders to weigh in on those contributions. We’ll keep you updated on the process during the year.
The quest to make our local food system more resilient, sustainable, and diverse relies on the hard work of farmers willing to weather the many challenges and travails of making a living under the sky. But as young farmer Debbie Weingarten notes in her feature story, “Today’s family farmers are faced with challenges that not only endanger our operations, but strike at the well-being of our families. The sustainability of our local food supply depends on famers being able to continue producing food. As such, the physical and economic well-being of our family farmers is essential to the sustainable food conversation.”
Founded 10 years ago by Phileppe Waterinckx, the Tucson CSA was a pioneer in supporting local food production. With nearly 500 members, the CSA fosters vibrant community and encourages its members to make a shift to shopping and cooking patterns that are aligned with our Sonoran seasons. It’s a model that has spread all over Baja Arizona. Joining a local CSA in 2014 would be a great New Year’s resolution to make and keep!
In South Tucson, a program founded by Cheralyn Schmidt, with the support of the University of Arizona, has become “a weekly minor miracle.” Promoting gardening and healthful cooking, the Garden Kitchen has become a locus for people from all over Tucson who flock to classes and demonstrations. It’s a great example of how to empower people to change how they think about food and the ways better choices can make a world of difference in our overall health and well being.
Three profiles of local chefs show a range of approaches to notions of locality and sustainability. At Acacia—named after the resilient desert tree—Chef Albert Hall and his wife Lila have built a loyal following with a menu that focuses on seasonality and local sourcing. Rising culinary star Ryan Clark, just 28 and formerly the chef at the Lodge on the Desert, has opened Augustín Kitchen. He’s built a farm-to-table menu that relies on local sourcing without sacrificing innovation. And at Zona 78, chef Kevin Fink, 29, continues Zona’s long commitment to local sourcing with his new in-house charcuterie program, the first restaurant in Pima County to legally do so.
From charcuterie to entomophagy: Maybe it’s time we consider adding creepy crawlies to our food supply. You could start with a backyard grasshopper harvest and do like our writer Marci Tarre and make tacos!
We head south of the border for a taste of food stands along the road to Magdalena, just 10 miles farther from Tucson than Phoenix, but a world of culinary discoveries away. And Gary Nabhan heads north to St. Anthony’s Monastery near Florence and discovers a literal oasis in the desert.
There’s much more to read and discover in this first issue of the New Year. As always, we heartily encourage you to patronize the amazing array of advertisers that support our mission of celebrating the foodways of Tucson and the borderlands. We’ll see you around the table!
—Douglas Biggers, editor and publisher