My Local Food All Star Team

As a kid, I spent countless hours, days, weeks, months - heck, even years - thinking of nothing but baseball. With 2 brothers and 3 step-brothers in my family hanging around each summer, it was easy to get a game going any time, and each night was spent in front of the TV, watching our beloved Yankees (I'm from New York) attempt to destroy the competition. My brothers and I developed special cheers for Don Mattingly, Ricky Henderson, Dave Righetti, and the rest of the team. When I moved to Minnesota, I helped my family adjust to the idea by telling them that Dave Winfield was born in St. Paul.

These days, baseball is less than compelling to me. I've had a hard time accepting the Twins as my home team, and the amount of drugs, money, and controversy in the game has turned me off, big time. Still, the fact that my 7-year-old son is now willing to play catch with me - even at 50 cents an hour - thrills me. When we covered his baseball glove in neatsfoot oil and wrapped it in twine the other night, it took me all the way back to my childhood.

Maybe it's all this reminiscing that's got me thinking about putting together my own "local food all star team," or maybe it's the fact that the Major League Baseball All Star Game is recently behind us. Either way, I've been noodling on who might be on the team, what position they'd play, and where they'd hit in the lineup. Michael Pollan is likely to pitch, I'm thinking, given his tendency towards fastballs straight down the middle (insert joke about "mowing down" opposing batters). And who else but Will Allen could bat cleanup? I propose the following lineup:

CF - Nina Planck, whose book Real Food turned me on to all sorts of new foods and ways to approach them.

P - Michael Pollan, about whom much is said, but whose The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food were, for me, gateways to a big, wide, new world.

C - Alice Waters, whose ongoing local food work and the creation of Chez Panisse have paved the way for many restaurants and eaters across the country.

1B - Will Allen, whose Milwaukee-based Growing Power organization acknowledges that good food is a class issue, and provides urban farming training - and fresh produce - to inner city kids all over the country.

LF - Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, the book that turned me into a pescatarian for the first time, back in 2002.

SS - Joel Salatin, farmer extraordinairre, owner of Polyface Farms, quoted in nearly every local food book and movie out there. Off the wall at times, hilariously funny, and spot on more often than just about anyone I can think of.

3B - Mark Bittman, clever, thought-provoking New York Times food writer, author of Food Matters and other great things.

2B - Lucia Watson from Lucia's, who made it her prerogative to serve local food in Minneapolis more than 24 years ago, when it was a weird thing to do. I could easily create a Minnesota team, but I've decided to reserve just one spot for now. I was also tempted to give it to Brenda Langton of Spoonriver, Cafe Brenda, and the Mill City Market. I'm sure Brenda's equally deserving, but Lucia's was where Tracy Singleton of Minneapolis' Birchwood Cafe got her start, and Tracy's food and attitude continues to foster the spirit of local, sustainable food within me. Plus, she keeps encouraging me to take silly chances in support of a greater goal, which I really appreciate.

RF - Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, whose documentary King Corn takes a look at an industry that's totally screwed up without pandering, sugarcoating, or making anyone look (too) stupid.

As I mentioned, I haven't even scratched the surface of the Twin Cities, and the local food heroes I've got here (I'm saving that for another post, maybe my NBA all-star team). And I've yet to crack the cover on MFK Fisher's The Gastronomical Me, Novela Carpenter's Farm City, or Marion Nestle's What to Eat. I loved Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Ana Sophia Joanes Fresh the Movie, and many other pieces. And I'm very excited by the new food thinkers and sites I follow on the web, like Farm to TableFood Renegade, Every Table, and La Vida Locavore. It's almost painful to think of the numerous great books, chefs, farmers, movies, and thinkers I've left out.

So now it's your turn. Who plays centerfield in your local food all star team? Who bats clean up? Who pitches? Who has the home team advantage? Please let us all know. Play ball!