Good Food for Everyone!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

- Confucius

I live in Minneapolis, where eating lots of local food is not at all strange. Many of my neighbors are CSA members, and we have been known to share ingredients, recipes, and restaurant recommendations. On my block, nearly everyone seems to know how to cook kale and how to grow tomatoes. It's easy for me to think that this is normal. It isn't.

In the past two weeks, I've had the opportunity to attend two events focused on good food. Both were excellent, and left lasting impressions.

The first event was held at Cooks of Crocus Hill, a St. Paul based company (its owner is also a partner in this website) that sells gourmet foods, high-end cooking supplies, and crop shares, and hosts cooking classes and other events. The event, a "duck dinner" featuring Christian Gasset from Au Bon Canard and his foie gras, cost $75 per person, and included a delectable four-course meal with wine pairings.

Christian Gasset and his duckChristian Gasset and his duckThe second event was not exactly an event -- it was more like a meeting. In fact, it was exactly like a meeting, held in a conference room belonging to a ginormous food manufacturer, attended by a roomful of smart employees and agency partners. The meeting was about a new website that exists to help people make healthier food choices. If the project succeeds, it will help hundreds of thousands of people get a teeny, tiny bit healthier.

I'll admit, I can be a little bit of a food snob. The event at Cooks, featuring super tasty food described by the man who raised the ducks himself, is right up my alley. I love to taste foods I've never tasted, and to get the "behind the scenes" story about the food on my plate. I love good wine, sitting with ambitious like-minded people, and finding ways to feel good about eating foie gras.

I also love the fact that most of the people in the room at Cooks were not local food fanatics, but "good food" seekers. These were not (mostly) people who spend their lives with farmers, thinking about the sustainability of the earth -- these were people who love to eat delicious things and have unique food experiences, and who have the means to spend $75 on a fancy meal. And now these are people who have been educated by a farmer and by their tastebuds: they know that local food can be adventurous, and that it tastes great. Hopefully they will eat more of it. 

I found the business meeting to be at least as encouraging. For a full hour, the 14 of us sat around a big table, thinking of ways to help people make healthier food decisions. Should we provide a calendar or a stop watch? Some sort of "good eating" guides? Should we connect people with "food coaches"? Send them encouraging emails?

We spent most of our time discussing people for whom a $75 meal was unlikely, people who could improve their health by eating just one or two more servings of vegetables each day. How would we get more vegetables into these people? We didn't discussing our feelings about the industrial food system, GMOs, or how to feed kids more corn syrup. We didn't look for ways to get people eating healthier by feeding them more vitamin fortified breakfast bars. We just, geniunely, tried to figure out how to help people eat better.

The back-to-back events got me thinking about how lucky we are to be in a place -- and at a time -- where people are actively discussing how to make good food choices. These discussions happen on multiple levels, of course. My neighbors might not need or want a "good eating guide" -- they might prefer to eat a dinner on a farm, or a class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. But my neighbors are only a very small part of our food system.

For whatever reason -- marketing, good will, court order -- even major companies are looking for ways to help people make better food choices. This is, on balance, a good thing. Because each time we question the motives of a large company making its way into the "good food" space, we also need to ask ourselves a question: is it possible to make real change in our food system without them?



Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. Email him at