Not that San Franciscans need to get any more proud about the local food movement originating here, but SF Weekly critic Jonathan Kauffman points us to an essay from 1980 in which Ruth Reichl describes what she saw as a turning point in California getting on the foodie map. “Consider 1980: Something has happened. Suddenly you can’t walk down the street without bumping into cheese stores that stock eight kinds of blue cheese and ten varieties of chèvre,” she writes. “Coffee, freshly roasted, of course, is tenderly brewed in all kinds of contraptions, and the home espresso machine is quite commonplace. Pâté is purchased at the corner store.” Of course, in many parts of the country outside of blessed San Francisco and Berkeley and certain neighborhoods in L.A., you still can’t buy pâté at the corner store, but the point Ruth was making thirty-one years ago had more to do with the people who were just beginning their effort to win the nation over, one farmers’ market at a time.
“Why has this happened?” she asks, rhetorically. “We are more widely traveled than we used to be; we know more about more parts of the world (even if it’s only from television or Time)… But, most of all, it has been the food people. People who love food and have made it their business.” She goes on to name-drop a number of people and places still around and among us, like Alice Waters, Cecilia Chiang, the Beverly Wilshire (“the hotel is extremely hospitable to local wine and food circles”), and a then brand-new food critic on the S.F. scene by the name of Patricia Unterman, whom she credits with “bringing the city its first decent newspaper restaurant criticism in years.” We still find it strange that S.F. couldn’t find itself a restaurant critic who didn’t own a restaurant herself, but at this point that would be moot.
Food Power by Ruth Reichl [Restaurant-Dining Critiques via SFoodie]