What a whirlwind of a weekend I just had. I experienced so many amazing things, I hardly know where to begin. Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?
I had been invited to Institute Day on Friday, ahead of all the public festivities for Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions event. The Aquarium was so kind to invite me, and I was thrilled to be in the room with so many big name media people. I definitely felt like a teeny, tiny guppy in a sea of very, very big fish.
The day opened up with breakfast hosted by Earthbound Farms, which was amazing. First I had to get myself there. Here is the story:
Because I was driving to Monterey on Friday morning, with a target time to arrive at 7:30am or 7:45am to catch a shuttle down the street from my hotel, I had to get up at 5:15am.
Yep. That’s called “oh-hell-no” o’clock in my house. Le sigh.
So I packed the night before, charged all necessary electronic devices (computer, iPad, smartphone, etc.), and hauled myself out of bed at 5:15am to drive into Monterey to make my shuttle. Luckily, traffic was very kind to me (as I suspected it would be…southbound is generally “against traffic” in the morning), and I pulled in at my hotel at around 7:40am. I had spotted the shuttle pick up point at the Monterey Plaza on my way in, so I knew that there were three shuttles taking everyone to breakfast. I ran into my hotel, was greeted by the lovely people at the front desk, and dashed out the door to walk approximately three blocks or so to the Monterey Plaza Hotel. As I walked down the street, I saw one shuttle pull away…followed by the second shuttle. I began to panic. I was only about a half block away, so I began to sprint the last bit of it…waving my arms frantically at the people loading everyone into the third shuttle: “I’m here for that shuttle…WAIT FOR MEEEEE!“.
I made such an embarrassing display of myself that they did indeed wait for me. I totally lucked out because the person who had invited me to the breakfast that morning was actually on that third shuttle. They checked with her, and she graciously invited me to sit next to her near the back of the shuttle.
Here’s how that seating pans out: Me…Alison (lady from the Aquarium)…and…Chris Cosentino.
I was totally dumfounded to find myself sitting in such close proximity to Chris. Let’s just say I’m a bit of a fan and leave it at that. He was discussing his admiration for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a man I am embarrassed to say I only barely knew of. In any case, he was talking about how he was such a fan of Hugh’s…how brilliant Hugh is…et cetera. I tried to be all cool and act like I was supposed to be there, but man oh man, I was intimidated right from the start. Alison tried to get me to talk to Chris, but all I could muster the courage to do was give him a word he was searching for when he randomly switched topics to talking about steampunk (he was looking for the word “steampunk”).
We arrived at Earthbound Farm, a relatively short drive from Cannery Row in Monterey, where we were served a completely organic buffet-style meal. It was a bright, sunny day out…just perfect for this event. I managed to introduce myself to Vikram Vij while I was there, as well as a few other media people that were there from the likes of Sunset Magazine. My head was truly spinning.
After breakfast was served, there was a discussion about organic food in relation to health issues (namely, how good eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies can be good for you…all grown organically, of course), featuring a physician/dietician and an OB/GYN from Kaiser Permanente. (Note: I am nailing down the names of the people from this discussion, and will update this post when I get that information straight. I know, I’m a terrible journalist).
It was fascinating to hear about all the wonderful things that eating a more organic diet can do for your health. Of course, the discussion did cover the obvious point about how not everyone can afford to buy organic food, or they simply don’t have very good access to it. I appreciated the point they made about organic food, and how they are working to bring it to more communities and make the cost point more accessible as well. Kaiser Permanente has instituted weekly farmer’s markets at many of their campuses, which might be a good way to begin to bring it to more people. I myself have been to farmer’s markets at my local Kaiser campus, and I can tell you first hand, they always do a beautiful job.
Even though the discussion was largely about organic food, they were equally passionate about getting people to eat more at home as much as possible, as well as a more diverse diet. Sure, there are several arguments floating around about how “cheap” it is to eat fast food (or heavily processed food) for meals on a regular basis, and that is why a lot of people shy away from taking the time to visit their farmer’s markets or grocery stores to buy food and cook at home. But in reality, the cost to buy food and cook at home is actually cheaper, as shown effectively by Mark Bittman of the New York Times in 2011.
After breakfast, we were all shuttled back to the Monterey Plaza Hotel to begin the day of panel discussions. I’ll tell you guys about them in the coming days, but I have a lot of notes to sort through before I get to that. Seriously, I can’t believe how much was covered…so stay tuned!