Some spurred lots of comments, others pointed to national trends or local enterprises, some profiled well-known people who garnered awards for their culinary pursuits, still others focused on little-known folks who worked without fanfare on worthy food causes.
Feel free to check out a post you may have missed, chime in on your favorite piece, or comment on those featured in this list.
And don’t be shy about letting me know what you’d like to see more (or less) of on this site.
Here’s wishing you, my loyal readers, a healthy, well-read and well-fed 2011.
The Lettuce Eat Kale 2010 Top Ten List
1. D.I.Y. trend: It was fun to feature local foragers, fermenters, canners, jammers, urban homesteaders, and cooks all living the D.I.Y. life in the Bay Area. Highlights include wild man Iso Rabins, preserver Shakirah Simley, pickle people Alex Hozven and Kevin Farley, city farmer Jim Montgomery, and D.I.Y. Delicious diva Vanessa Barrington.
2. Food Security: My social justice journalism roots tend to steer me towards stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the common good. Consider: gleaner Anna Chan on a mission to feed the needy, Delana Toler, a parent and garden teacher who started a school produce stand, the team behind Operation Frontline (cooking classes for the underserved now run under the Cooking Matters banner), the folks at Let’s Preserve, which combines canning with community service, and the green thumbs who staff Spiral Gardens, a nursery-education-farm stand in the ‘hood.
3. Meat Matters: For a girl who eats mostly greens, meat mattered this year. There was that culinary confession (spoiler alert: vegetarians may be disappointed), a spotlight on the growing Meatless Monday campaign and a profile of Kim O’Donnel, author of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook.
4. School Food: On the school food beat I covered celebrities trying to improve what our children eat at school, including a report for The Atlantic on Alice Waters (and a critique of the controversial Cultivating Failure story by the same outlet), an examination of the Limey Lad’s lunchroom antics in a post on Jamie Oliver, and a Q&A with anonymous newcomer to the school food scene, undercover school lunch sleuth Mrs. Q.
I also offered up the accessible academic perspective of Janet Poppendieck, author of Free For All, reported on ten teens bringing about change in school cafeterias, listed five reasons for optimism on the school food front, and reported on the new administration‘s nascent efforts in the school food fight.
Look for a long overdue update on school food news in early January.
5. Street Eats: Pavement cuisine continued to excite eaters and readers. I chronicled the adventures of two moms who launched a sandwich truck, delved into why Berkeley isn’t very street-cart friendly, and reported on the Eat Real Festival Lit Fest, a forum for writers to talk about grub on the go.
6. Hospital Food: Quite unexpectedly I became a hospital food expert. I profiled my pal Lucia Sayre, who works with local healthcare groups trying to fix hospital food, went behind the scenes to learn more about the makeover in food in medical institutions, reported on a hospital food forum featuring Michael Pollan and Mollie Katzen and conducted a Q&A with the father of the hospital farmers’ market movement Preston Maring.
7. Honor Roll: Kudos is due to Hodo Soy Beanery founder Minh Tsai, named one of Food & Wine‘s 40 Big Thinkers 40 and Under. Ditto to the dudes behind Gather Restaurant, Ari Derfel and Eric Fenster. The restaurant’s top chef Sean Baker earned Esquire‘s chef of the year award; the mag also named the eatery one of the 20 best in 2010.
8. Budding Berkeley Food Businesses: It turns out a flurry of new food enterprises are thriving, despite the economic downturn, including the award-winning Mushroom Guys, a cafe that donates profits to underfunded projects, a new student food cooperative, a single mom who turned a soulful family recipe into a successful food product, and a former UC student who runs a nonprofit cooking club for kids.
9. Community Cooking: Chronicling neighborhood efforts to break bread together I stumbled upon the Multi Culti Grill and Birdland Jazz Club, a weekly gathering that garnered gobs of support when I broke the story that the City of Berkeley threatened to close down the event, brainchild of artist Michael Parayno. And I bid adieu to another quirky Berkeley underground food venture, Frugal Foodies, calling it a night after more than five years.
10. Food Films and Books: Michael Pollan picked my pal photog Anne Hamersky’s Farm Together Now as his favorite food book of the season in a list on Grist, saying “it consists of interviews with a wide range of farmers (and activists) who you haven’t heard of. Inspiring without being romantic in the least, it advances the whole conversation about sustainable agriculture and access.”
Many of you had opinions about the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love and your favorite fiction and non-fiction food films. Interviews with food writers continued to resonate with readers, while, perhaps not surprising, my most popular posts proved to be monthly book giveaways (everyone, it seems, likes a free cookbook as well as a free lunch.)