This weekend, food artisans from around the country are being honored in the second annual Good Food Awards, which celebrate American food producers who enhance the country's agricultural landscape and help to build community. While the awards are relatively new to the gastronomic landscape, they're already backed by some of the country's biggest food influencers, such as Whole Foods, and seminal culinary figures, like Ruth Reichl.
Ruth is currently the editorial adviser at Gilt Taste, another cosponsor of this weekend's Good Food Awards. The author, former New York Times food critic, and final Gourmet editor sat down with me over dinner at Mission Chinese Food to talk more about good food and future projects.
YumSugar: Tell me about the partnership between Gilt Taste and the Good Food Awards. How did it come about?
Ruth Reichl: I've known Sarah [Weiner, the director] for a long time, and we've been talking about this for a long time. When I went to Gilt Taste, it just seemed like a seamless, natural partnership, finding and supporting food artisans in America.
YS: You're the keynote speaker at this year's Good Food Awards. What kind of a legacy do these awards create?
RR: It's hard for younger people to understand how bad things were in America, a time when all food was essentially industrial. There were no farmers markets. I have an interview with Wolfgang Puck that I did in 1982 where he goes, "Six years ago, there was no decent food in America." Now, there's this explosion of farmers markets, and while so much of the world is abandoning their food heritage, Americans are reclaiming theirs before it gets lost . . . We have these two completely parallel, simultaneous, and opposite tracks: on the one hand, people with money who eat organic, sustainable, handmade food. But if you're a poor person, you're stuck eating stuff that's cheaper than food and that will kill you. Food safety in this country becomes a worse and worse issue; we import more and more food; 80 percent of the antibiotics in this country go to perfectly healthy animals. We have a real crisis on the one hand — and on the other hand, we have, for the first time, an awareness of it. Which is quite stunning.
I really do think American food is the best in the world right now, because of the people making the kind of food that goes to the Good Food Awards. We have to nurture it, and make sure that it doesn't just stay with us in this little enclave.
YS: There's movement toward eating a plant-based diet. What do you think of that?
To find out her answer, keep reading.