Eat Real Food Lit Fest: Writers on Street Eats, Growing Greens & More

by Sarah Henry on August 26, 2010 · 27 comments

in berkeley bites,food events,street food

The second annual Eat Real Festival, a three-day showcase of the best of the Bay Area’s street food carts, local growers, artisan beer and wine purveyors, cheese makers, urban homesteaders, and other local food crafters kicks off tomorrow at Jack London Square in downtown Oakland.

The event that promises to “Put the Food Back in Fast,” is the brainchild of Anya Fernald, the executive director of Slow Food Nation, a 2008 gathering of gourmands held in San Francisco, which featured artisan foods from across the U.S. that some food folks felt was a tad elitist (read: too exxy).

Not so Eat Real, which is free to attend, and no food item sells for more than 5 bucks. Eating delicious local cheap eats is the draw — for a taste of what’s in store read my post from last year — but there are also cooking demos, where you can bone up on your butchery skills, get the skinny on noodle pulling, or learn how to pickle produce. You’ll find a farmers’ market, music, and canning, brewing, and fermenting competitions too.

Last year I even learned about an aquaponic urban garden system called Kijiji Grows, which combines aquaculture (growing fish) with hydroponics (growing vegetables without soil) run by Eric Maundu and the Guerilla Cafe’s Keba Konte.

Check out what event organizer Susan Coss has to say about what’s in the mix this year in an interview with Edible East Bay. Last year’s event drew some 70,000 people who feasted from more than 50 food trucks. This year’s event is expected to be even bigger. (So, if you plan on attending, read this handy post full of tips on how to best navigate the crowds while you go in search of tasty morsels.)

For a peek at some of the mobile food trucks in the area, take a look at a couple of previous Lettuce Eat Kale posts on the San Francisco street food scene and another on some of the newer mobile food cart offerings in the East Bay. (Tomorrow’s Berkeley Bites profile is on some folks new to food carts who will be selling their sandwiches from their baby blue truck at Eat Real.)

But wait, there’s more than just delicious street eats this year. There’s also an Eat Real Lit Fest, what San Francisco Magazine dubbed Litquake’s Savory Spawn.

Panelists include food makers and growers who write about what they do, such as urban farmer Novella Carpenter, food bloggers like Derrick Schneider from An Obsession with Food, and book authors including Daphne Miller, who traveled the globe gathering authentic stories and recipes from indigenous people that may well help preserve health and prevent many diseases of a Western lifestyle, which she chronicled in The Jungle Effect.

The lit fest is divided into three themed events, all of which take place on the second floor of the Jack London Square Market Building (55 Harrison St., Oakland.) Friday night from 7 until 9 local writers will talk about street food both here and abroad. On Saturday from 4 to 7  wordsmiths discuss making, growing, and finding food, and the environmental and food justice implications of same. And Sunday from 3 to 5 there’s a Porchlight Storytelling Slam emceed by Beth Lisick. The event invites anyone with a good five-minute food story to share it with the crowd (sans notes). The jury is out on whether Lisick shows up dressed in a banana costume but there’s likely to be a few Porchlight regulars in the mix to keep things entertaining.

This simultaneous event for scribes was cooked up by Farmer Jane author Temra Costa, who rallied a group of local writers to plan the panels. (Full disclosure: I was one of these people, but in truth all I did was give these gals a handful of names of people to invite, some of whom will attend the event.) Kudos to Cathy Curtis, Twilight Greenaway, Cheryl Koehler, Jennifer Maiser, and Brie Mazurek for getting this food writers’ forum launched.

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, I’ll need you all to be my eyes, ears, and taste buds on the ground. As I type, I’m in Seattle for the International Food Blogger Conference, so I’ll miss the festivities back home. (Yes, I wish these two events weren’t on the same weekend, an embarrassment of food writing riches.)

But if I was home I’d be heading down to Eat Real for some food for thought as well as good, cheap chow. Let me know if you go.

[Photo of Daphne Miller: Ross Levy]

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Sheryl K August 26, 2010 at 10:27 am

Sarah, I’d love to be your eyes, ears and taste buds and would if I lived in the area. Sounds like quite a feast!

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 3:35 pm

You’ll have to make a trip one summer, Sheryl.

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Alexandra August 26, 2010 at 10:34 am

This post made me green with envy. We have nothing like this in our area. Not even close. You folks in San Francisco are spoiled rotten when it comes to food.
Alexandra´s last [type] ..Finding Inspiration at Dyer Pond

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Duly noted: Spoiled rotten indeed!

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MarthaAndMe August 26, 2010 at 10:39 am

Sounds fascinating. There are only a few food trucks in my area (actually not near me, but downtown) and I’ve never eaten at one.

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Go check it out M&Me and report back on what you discover.

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Kerry August 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

Seems as though versions of this idea could pop up elsewhere, if people get behind it as they have in the Bay Area. Sarah (and Sandy, though I think you won’t be leaving the Cape until summer’s over) do you know about how2heroes? Among other things they do every Wednesday lunchtime cooking demos, local chefs, local food, in Cambridge (at Kendall Square).
Kerry´s last [type] ..Road Trip Music- Michigan

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Hey Kerry, if you click on the Susan Coss interview link you’ll see the Eat Real folks have been hit up by lots of places that want to hold their own Eat Real Fest. They even got a query from people on the New Jersey shore.

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Vera Marie Badertscher August 26, 2010 at 11:41 am

I’m happy to say that the Tucson Book Festival, which will be three years old this coming Spring, includes food tents from good restaurants in town, AND a large food exposition tent where there are (morning to night for two days) speakers about food, authors of cookbooks and other books about food, cooking demos, etc.

But just the same, I’d like to see the one in the Bay area.
Vera Marie Badertscher´s last [type] ..ANOTHER Giveaway

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Hi Vera, The Tucson Book Festival sounds like a cool event too. Maybe I’ll get to visit one day. And if I do, you can tell me your fav food picks.

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Kerry August 27, 2010 at 10:39 am

Sarah,
if you’ve not been, add the Texas Book Festival to your list. it’s in Austin in early November, always has a good cookbook and food aspect.
Kerry´s last [type] ..Road Trip Music- Michigan

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Marc August 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm

This weekend also brings the 18th St. block party to San Francisco, running from 12 to 5 on Saturday in the Mission. 18th St is home to Delfina, Bi Rite, Tartine and other excellent food purveyors. Info: http://www.womensbuilding.org/content/index.php/events/party-on-block-18

Not really a “festival” but worthy of note is a reading by the authors of a how-to guide on starting & running school gardens at Mrs Dalloway’s in Berkeley on Sunday @ 4PM http://www.mrsdalloways.com/newsevents.php
Marc´s last [type] ..A rare sighting of cooked cucumbers

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Hi Marc, Thanks for passing on these other food-focused events in the Bay Area this weekend. So many things to choose from, only so much time.

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Melanie - Frugal Kiwi August 26, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Sounds amazing. Especially intrigued by the aquaponics…
Melanie – Frugal Kiwi´s last [type] ..New Zealand Handmade

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Ruth Pennebaker August 26, 2010 at 3:12 pm

What a great festival. Can’t believe you’re missing it this year, Sarah.
Ruth Pennebaker´s last [type] ..Shut Up- She Explained

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I know, Ruth, don’t remind me. Every time I write about it I think: “Why am I not there?” But I’m doing cool food related things in Seattle too. More on that later.

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MyKidsEatSquid August 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm

You live in such an amazing, tasty place. I’m hoping you’ll write up more about the aquaponic gardening system–that sounds so cool and inventive. What a great festival, I’m looking forward to hearing more.

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 3:40 pm

My editor at Berkeleyside, Tracey Taylor, wrote a long piece about the aquaponics for the San Francisco Chronicle, you can find it here: http://www.tktaylor.com/?p=818

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Jane Boursaw August 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Oh to live in a region of the country that’s so progressively cool. If I had the cash, Sarah, I’d fly out there and be your ears, eyes and taste buds while you’re away.

We do pretty well up here in the northern Michigan sticks, but we’ve got a ways to go to get even close to the Bay Area in terms of cool foodie stuff. I should forward this link to our local food co-op and get them to organize something.
Jane Boursaw´s last [type] ..Film Gecko Interview- Tim Roth Talks Lie To Me- Cal Lightman Stare and Columbo

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Sarah Henry August 26, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Now there’s an idea, Jane. Let me know if the food co-op is game — and I’d love it if you came to visit in my neck of the woods (but preferably when I’m in town to show you around.)

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Jennifer Margulis August 27, 2010 at 8:42 am

Sounds like an amazing festival. I was considering going up to Seattle for that foodie conference but since I’m not primarily a food writer, I couldn’t quite justify it. I can’t wait to read about it on your blog though!
Jennifer Margulis´s last [type] ..The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

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Sarah Henry September 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Hi Jennifer, I think I won’t write much about the IFBC conference per se, but loads of food writers have, so Google away and live vicariously!

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Alisa Bowman August 30, 2010 at 5:49 am

I wish we had something like this near me. The festivals around here specialize in funnel cake.
Alisa Bowman´s last [type] ..13 Communication Tips from Writers

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Sarah Henry September 12, 2010 at 2:38 pm

I keep hearing about funnel cake and I’m sorry to say that I don’t know what it is. Is it some deep-fried regional specialty I’ve not been exposed to as yet? Do tell, Alisa.

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