Photo by Jon Sullivan/Wikimedia
I was born in 1956, smack in the middle of a pretty unpleasant era for American eating. There are a thousand examples of where things went awry. Some are incredibly sad--loss of family farms, steady disappearance of wild stocks of seafood, strangely unhealthy school lunch programs, super-sizing, and all that other stuff we're all too familiar with. Others examples are, by now, just sort of silly: I grew up thinking Tang was pretty much the same as orange juice, Space Sticks were a very special snack (eat like an astronaut, baby) and Pop Tarts pulled from the box were one of our top choices for breakfast pastry (cinnamon frosted were my favorite).
Somewhere back in the '70s, the American culinary tide started to turn. Chez Panisse had popped up in Berkeley all the way back in 1971--more power to Alice Waters for being willing to take a stand for cooking with great ingredients long before any other restaurant I know about had put such significant emphasis on it. A few years later, Bill Niman began selling his naturally raised beef from his Point Reyes ranch north of San Francisco. One of his first customers was...Chez Panisse.
Back in the Midwest Justin Rashid founded American Spoon Foods up in Petoskey in 1981, foraging for wild berries, tree ripened stem fruit and other hard to find specialties and turning then into jams and jellies. That same year, right here in town, Monique Deschaines started producing handmade egg pasta at Al Dente. Tom Isaia began roasting coffee locally in 1982, the same year we started up the Deli. Looking at things more widely, Neal's Yard Dairy in London had started up in 1979.