BOARD THE EAT WELL BIO-FUELED BANDWAGON, MAKING ALL LOCAL STOPS!

Guest bloggers Melissa and Larry Jordan

(Sustainable Table, a non-profit organization that highlights the dark side of industrial agriculture and builds community through sharing fresh, wholesome foods, is hitting the road in a bio-fueled bus to go coast-to-coast making stops at some of our nation's most sustainable farms and restaurants, and seeking out America’s best pies. Guest bloggers Melissa and Larry Jordan covered the road trip’s launch for Eating Liberally:)

Swimming pools! Movie stars! Well, not exactly, but I’m sure Jed and Jethro would have been beaming with delight at the launch of Sustainable Table’s “Eat Well Guided Tour of America” last Thursday at Kings Road Park in West Hollywood.

Diane Hatz, the organization's Founder/Director, is traveling across country with her crew of real-food revivalists on a big green bio-fueled bus in search of the best pie ever. Passing through more than 25 cities, the team will stop along the way to celebrate healthy, homegrown foods with farmers and chefs who promote sustainable cuisine. The tour, which wraps up on September 9th in New York City at the Farm Aid Concert on Randall's Island, has a daily blog for those interested in following Sustainable Table’s adventures.

Diane warmly received visitors and shared the positive encounters they’ve already experienced in the early phases of the tour. "There are more sustainable practices going on than people realize and we just want to expose the world to it. We received more support than we expected from the communities we contacted also."

Sustainable Table's “Eat Well Guide” is a rapidly growing web directory which enables the public to easily search for farmers, restaurants, stores, B&B’s, caterers and more who sell or provide sustainable and local meat, poultry, dairy and eggs in the United States and Canada. Sustainable Table also created and produced the award winning “The Meatrix Trilogy”. These are hip, smart, funny Flash animation shorts that spoof The Matrix films--the perfect introduction to some of the biggest threats we face from industrial ag.

But back to the celebrities! Traveling with the tour are those cute and lovable toons from the Meatrix: the perky porcine hero Leo, and his trusty farm sidekicks--Moopheus the Ray-Ban clad cow and Chickity, Leo’s love interest and, well, the chicken.

This and several other stops on the tour are being hosted by the good people at Food & Water Watch, a sister organization of Sustainable Table, dedicated to ensuring we have access to fresh, safe and healthy food; protecting our oceans; alerting the public to the lack of seafood inspections; and keeping our public water supply public.

Enjoying a summer day in the shady park, D.C.-based Executive Director Wenonah Hauter and senior organizer C. Noelle Ferdon from San Francisco greeted people and shared their insights into the problems arising from poor federal regulation of food labeling and inspection. Currently, the Food & Drug Administration only inspects 1% of the food they are responsible for inspecting, which includes all foods except red meat and poultry.

"People need to be food aware and gain more control over what we eat and drink.” Hauter told us, adding, “This is especially true since almost half of the food we eat now is imported. We really need country-of-origin labeling, so that people know where their food has been produced. Unfortunately, agribusiness and the giant food processors have been able to delay this from happening. Currently, only seafood in grocery stores is labeled with its country-of-origin. Last year, 81% of the seafood we ate was imported, but if you bought seafood at a restaurant or a seafood market--no labeling was required."

Hauter believes the public needs to be informed so that everyone has access to healthy food; a two-tiered food system, whereby only the "better off and better informed" folks are educated about food being a profit center for large multinational corporations, is unacceptable and threatens the safety and quality of foods served in less affluent households across the country. Food and Water Watch is "working to create a food system that produces nutritious and healthy food for consumers, keeps the environment safe, and allows family farms to survive."

The launch lunch was graciously catered by Evan Kleiman, Chef/Owner of Angeli Caffé on Melrose Avenue and Host of KCRW’s “Good Food.” Kleiman was on hand to oversee the lunch and chat with the guests, who were treated to heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with a garlicky parmesan vinaigrette over locally grown greens. A beautiful and tasty roasted beet and fennel salad alongside a zucchini frittata showcased what Kleiman does best: simple, comforting food as well as "…streamlined rusticity for the sophisticated palate." Friendly catering staff noted that Angeli Caffé incorporates locally produced food into the menu. Kleiman is also the California Governor of Slow Food, leads culinary trips to Italy throughout the year, and continues her commitment to educating the public on food sustainability issues through her appearances and the radio show.

Amelia Saltzman was there signing copies of her new book, The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Cookbook. Sustainable farmer Jim Churchill, who grows tangerines and avocados at his Ojai orchard, gave us samples of his magnificent pixie tangerines while his wife/partner Lisa Brennis screened clips from her latest film, “Eat at Bill’s", a documentary about Bill Fujimoto and his pioneering work for family farmers at the Monterey Market. Farmers market “legend” Alex Weiser, as the LA Weekly has dubbed him, brought some beautiful sustainably grown heirloom carrots, potatoes and melons.

Why kick off the road tour in Hollywood? Why not? Hollywood, much like the rest of the country, has lost many of its individually owned businesses and become depressingly corporatized over the last 20 years. Long gone are tinsel town’s maverick, pioneering founders; it’s now run by a handful of mega-monolithic corporations (General Electric, Time Warner, Viacom, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s FOX) who force feed their wares (advertising and the swaying of public opinion) down our collective throats.

Most insidiously, in its never ending zeal for profit, the “entertainment” industry has made a Faustian bargain with almost every major industrial food provider to exploit our children’s eating habits with advertising onslaughts that “tie-in” their digitally created mice, ogres and superheroes with some of the biggest offenders in the Super-Sizing of our food systems. The Eat Well Guided Tour of America stands as a small but wonderful antidote to this. So it’s entirely appropriate that this tour got off to a heavenly start in the city of angels.