I am a local food economy writer, speaker, organizer, advocate and consultant hailing from the Peoples Republic of Ballard, an occupied territory within the City of Seattle. I sleep, breathe and even eat food. When I travel, I am a food tourist. I spend my time tracking down the places to eat the best represent an area’s food culture and heritage, and I search for the most innovative and old school farmers and food artisans.
For me, an afternoon well spent is one canvassing a neighborhood in a big city scoping out restaurants and food purveyors, collecting menus, checking pepper mill sizes and pizza ovens for conveyors, getting a feel for a place’s welcomeness, and giving it a good smell or two. When it comes to finding good food, I trust what my instincts tell me on my menu walks.
I served seven years as the executive director of the Washington State Farmers Market Association, and I spent eight promoting the farmers markets of the Seattle Farmers Market Association. I also served four years as the president, and 16 years on the board, of the Seattle chapter of Chefs Collaborative, which I helped found. I have written about food and farming for numerous publications. I organize events that showcase local food. I am a certified barbecue judge in the Pacific Northwest Barbecue Association and the Kansas City Barbecue Society.
My dad’s mom and sister and my mom’s dad taught me how to eat. My Grandma Lyons and my Aunt Joyce taught me to appreciate good home cooking, from my love of beets and lima beans (not together, mind you) to adding rutabaga to my pot of corned beef. The beautiful artisan bread, campagnon, that I get from Tall Grass Bakery here in Ballard reminds me of the Italian bread my grandma used to serve us with lots of butter and a bowl of creamed corn. I think creamed corn is one of those things few people admit openly to liking, but to me it is a true comfort food. My Grandfather Naigles, or Poppop as we grandkids called him, introduced me to the wonders of Chinese food, and he taught me to befriend my favorite restaurateurs. Everywhere we used to go, he would be welcomed by name by our hosts.
I spend a lot of time hanging out with farmers and chefs and researching food. It is not just about being a foodie. While I do live to eat, we all must eat to live, and unless we invest in our local food producers, supporting and encouraging them, we soon may find ourselves without much food to eat, save for Soylent Green. With strong local food systems, we also have stronger local economies and closer communities, and we eat better food. My intent in these pages is to share the stories of many fine food people, and the foods they are creating, I have encountered throughout my travels. If you have made a great discovery yourself, please share it with me, too.