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Food

'Ingredients' Documentary Screening and Slow Food LA Panel Discussion

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Photo by Eli Sussman for LAist


Photo by Eli Sussman for LAist
By Eli Sussman/Special to LAist

Last night at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, Slow Food Los Angeles and Area 23a presented a screening of the documentary Ingredients, which was followed by a panel featuring some of L.A.'s most respected voices in the farming and food community. Written and directed by Robert Bates, Ingredients focuses on the concept that establishing relationships and buying locally from independent farmers can foster positive social and economic change while providing fantastic health benefits.

While this model of embracing fresh local produce has been presented before, perhaps most famously by Michael Pollan who said, “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants”; Ingredients focuses on the growers who love cultivating their own pesticide and chemical free produce. The film is almost entirely free of the usual talking heads suspects even though Alice Waters does make an eloquent and graceful appearance. Many of the farmers profiled in the film exude romantic notions while they speak passionately about searching for a slower lifestyle with greater connection to the land, their food and their community. Their love is never more evident when throughout the film several farmers grab handfuls of their soil and deeply inhale the earth with glee and surging pride.

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After the conclusion of the documentary, Lisa Lucas Talbot, co-leader of Slow Food Los Angeles moderated a panel that included cookbook author and New York Times columnist Martha Rose Shulman, LA Weekly “What’s In Season” writer Felicia Friesema and Alex Weiser of Weiser Family Farms. The panel spoke at length about their experiences at farmer’s markets as writers, buyers and sellers (Note: Alex Weiser wants to know what you cook with his produce!).

For many in L.A., shopping at farmer’s markets year round is so commonplace it’s easy to forget that in entire sections of L.A. (and the nation) fresh produce is completely inaccessible. These produce free zones - often referred to as food deserts, occupied much of the early portion of the panel’s discussion. Felicia Friesema surprised much of the audience when she shared how in a city with over 50 farmers markets on any given Saturday, there areas of LA where finding fresh produce requires upwards of a thirty minute bus ride. Martha Rose Shulman provided the most exciting prediction of the evening when she wondered if the food truck trend would extend to a “mobile produce truck phenomenon.” Alex Weiser shared that he is already actively trying to bring produce to remote and under served portions of L.A. in conjunction with Gleaners.

Ingredients makes it clear that by supporting local farmers, people can invest back in their neighbors and community while standing in defiance of the current state of produce delivery - a current state where goods are often unnecessarily shipped thousands of miles to reach your kitchen counter. From Portland to Erie, Ohio to New York City, there are independent farmers that work hard to make fresh produce accessible and affordable to as many people as possible. And while they deserve to be commended for their efforts, the best thing to do is simply buy their goods and support them financially so they can continue to do what they do best - grow. While the crowd last night was probably as well educated on the topic of buying local as any sample group in America (not a single person raised their hand when the question “have any of you not been to a farmer’s market” was posed by the panel) it shows that this localized model can work.

So this weekend, instead of lazily driving to your closest Ralph’s or Whole Food’s, head to one of L.A.’s magnificent farmer’s markets and support Weiser Family farms and the dozens of other high quality local farmers who are growing the most delicious food around. Feel free to ask the farmers what’s in peak season. Learn their name and let them learn yours. L.A. is your community so embrace the wonderful year round accessibility that many take for granted.

More information on the documentary can be found at: http://www.ingredientsfilm.com/.

Eli Sussman is one half of the Freshman in the Kitchen duo. LAist spoke with him in April 2009 about his own cooking adventures and philosophy.

Previously on LAist: From Market to Menu: An Interview with Chef Evan Funke of Rustic Canyon; An Interview with Chef Akasha Richmond; An Interview With Chef Ben Ford; An Interview with Chef Neal Fraser