The Eat Real Festival, founded in 2008 in the San Francisco area to showcase sustainable and artisanal foods, brought its fun for the palate to LA on July 16-17 and drew huge crowds. A two-day extravaganza set in the pedestrian only area of Culver City, the turn-out was so unexpected that one vendor packed up at 4 on Saturday having sold out for the weekend. The empty booth area on Sunday was a testament to the fact that folks are hungry for good, sustainable fare.
As luck would have it, or maybe it was the reward of virtue of purpose, the fuss about "Carmageddon" only helped the Eat Real Festival. By thinking about sustainability from the get go, free shuttle bus service and a bike valet made it a perfect Westside activity for those who were chomping at the bit to get out in the beautiful weather and enjoy a family outing but who did not want to risk the freeways. Local interest turns out to be plenty to sustain sustainability.
The Eat Real Festival had the air of a state or county fair - in a much more manageable size. Booths, demonstrations, crafts, entertainment, and a beer garden. There were even animals there, thanks to one family business that helps folks get backyard chicken coops for urban areas that allow them. There were plenty of foods to taste and workshops to try. There were demonstrations and hands-on workshops all weekend. Me, I made some pickled watermelon rinds. The fixin’s, the jars and brine along with the instruction were all free. I’ll let you know next week how it tastes. The watermelon innards that we had to cut out were yummy, I can tell you that.
There were indoor and outdoor booths and food trucks. One of the things I loved about the event is that almost all the vendors, with the exception of a few national “organic” brands like Whole Foods and Pete’s Coffee, were family businesses or best-friends businesses. These were not PR people enthusing over the product because it’s their job. These were people who are doing what they love and hoping to share it with you. And yes to make a profit. But it is so clear that the motivation that started them was love and then a wish to make a living. Sustainable is often expensive, but this made me want to spend.
I can also tell you I had a few surprises. There was a vendor of gluten free baked goods that sold some of the BEST brownies I have even eaten. Moist. Chocolatey. Perfect. And the folks selling meat, Lindy & Grundy, are a family - a couple and a brother - sell meat that is pastured right through the “finish.” (As opposed to cows that get to eat grass young and then are stuffed into feedlots to be fattened on corn before the slaughter.) The meat was freshly slaughtered and chilled, not frozen. They provided “meat valet” service so you could buy the meat and keep it chilled in their fridge until you left the fest.
The sustainability issue was taken seriously. Beer was served in glass mason jars, not plastic. Cooling inside was provided by a giant misting fan, not A/C. And every trash/recycle station had a volunteer making sure the contents went in the right container.
The Eat Real Festival was such a success, I imagine they’ll be back next year. If they are, check it out. Local and sustainable never tasted so good.
Founded in 2008, Eat Real is a social venture business with an affiliated non-profit focused on promoting and teaching food craft. Eat Real’s mission is to help revitalize regional food systems, build public awareness of and respect for the craft of making good food, and to encourage the growth of American food entrepreneurs.
For more information about the festival, please visit www.eatrealfest.com.