Let me introduce you to Kelly Siefkin. She’s vice president of communications and marketing for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. She talks fast, and is quick with numbers and statistics, so I’m struggling to keep up. Today, she’s wearing a green patterned dress, with green earrings and black flats, and carrying her cell phone. We’re touring the food bank campus on Bell Avenue—110,000 square feet on 12 acres. It’s a big facility, but the food bank feeds a lot of hungry people in and around the farm-to-fork capital.
Frank Sinatra is singing “The Way You Look Tonight.” At least I think it’s Sinatra. The music has a decided Italian vibe, which makes sense since I’m here this evening to learn how to make an Italian veggie burger dinner. What makes this meal Italian? It could be the dried oregano or fresh parsley in the veggie burgers. Then again it could be the homemade basil buns, herb and rice stuffed tomatoes, or raspberry Italian soda. It could be the instructor—Lucia Oliverio—as her parents are Italian immigrants. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For those who haven’t taken a class at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, I’ll set the scene. The school is upstairs in a light-filled space that could double as a set for a cooking show. In front of the kitchen island, with its large commercial stoves, there are rows of tables holding bottles of cold water, along with cubed cheese and crunchy breadsticks. Monitors above project images of the wooden cutting boards below, in preparation for the cooking demonstration to come. For $5 you can purchase a glass of wine. Sip it while you read through the recipes and the shopping list. Imagine how you’ll spend the $5 coupon after class (no, you can’t use it to purchase another glass of wine). There’s a complimentary glass offered with your meal, so pace yourself. You haven’t started cooking yet.
Andrea Seppinni loves dessert. About two years ago, she founded Conscious Creamery with her husband, Kevin. Their company makes artisan gelato—without dairy, eggs, mixes, artificial fillers, emulsifiers or stabilizers. Rotating crops of flavors are crafted from cashew cream, sugar, and fresh, usually local, fruit.
BOOMERANG KIDS. GROWING-UPS. FAILED FLEDGLINGS. Young adults who live with their parents have been called not-so-nice names over the past decade or so. Along with being somewhat derogatory, they don’t provide an accurate picture of this complex and growing social trend. According to a Pew Research Center report from last year, 15 percent of Millennials aged 25 to 35 were living in a household with a parent as of 2016. That percentage is higher than Generation Xers in 2000, late Baby Boomers in 1990 and the Silent Generation in 1964.
I’m inside a shipping container located in a residential neighborhood. On both sides of the aisle, rows and rows of tender plants—heads of lettuce, herbs and microgreens—grow in trays. They bask under energy-efficient LED lights, bathing everything in a red-tinged glow. A thin film of water flows past the plants’ roots, providing nutrients, while fans circulate the air. Jason Levens, 36, the founder of Aldon’s Leafy Greens, spends a lot of time in this engineered environment, tending his hydroponically grown charges, but he loves the work. “Every single plant in here I’ve seeded,” he says.
When I Google “hydroponics,” I discover it comes from the Greek words for water and work—water working. It is a way to grow plants in water, without soil.
Team USA, with local butcher Danny Johnson at the helm, is traveling to Northern Ireland in March to take part in the biennial World Butchers’ Challenge. This is the first time that newcomer USA will compete in this arena and the stakes are high.
The team—made up of Johnson and Paul Carras of Taylor’s Market in Land Park, along with four other skilled butchers from around the U.S.—will compete against 11 countries at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast on March 21. France, the reigning champ, might be the team to beat, but Johnson says their competitors are worried about what the U.S. can do. Team USA has asked for and received some rule changes. “We have them scratching their heads,” he says.
Writer Jenn Rice described the WBC “as the butcher industry’s Summer Olympic Games” in Food and Wine. Despite the hyperbole, the event has gravitas in the meat business. “This thing is a big deal for Paul and I, and for Sacramento,” Johnson says. “[It’s] the opportunity to do something in your trade on another continent.”
Room E29 at Sacramento High School is lively and slightly messy. Alumna Alicia Alves is presiding over a fragrant pot of pizza sauce simmering on a hot plate. There are dishes in the sink, colorful displays on the walls, and the floor could use a scrub. Steps to make macaroni and cheese, with a potato chip topping, are printed on a whiteboard. Three former students—the entrepreneurs behind Sangre Del Dragon—carry in boxes filled with hot sauce and sit down to a meal from Carl’s Jr. Over the PA system, someone announces free pizza in the library. A student wanders in from another classroom in search of warm water. Other students come and go.
The number of enthusiastic people who showed up in the sticky heat for Flourish Farm’s first U-pick event in West Sacramento a few months ago astonished owner Laurie Gates. She doesn’t know how many attended; she was busy handing out containers, reminding people to put their flowers in water, and making change.