Oakland’s Jack London Square was the setting for this year’s Eat Real Festival, held Friday through Sunday of the weekend before last.
Friday was beautiful — the kind of weather that makes a person all puffed up and snooty about living within the confines of the best 75 square miles on earth. You don’t think the SF Bay Area is the best place on earth to live? I’ll debate you on that anytime, anywhere.
It was breezy and crystal clear at Jack London Square, which was looking all spiffy. Seriously, if you don’t come here to enjoy the bay and all the restaurants, you’re nuts. There has been lots of work done done over the past few years to make Jack London Square and environs inviting and pedestrian-friendly. I know some people are afraid to come to Oakland. People, please. Don’t wait for the Jack London Marketplace to open – come now. (I’m not linking to the market website on purpose — the site has a plug-in that keeps crashing my browser!)
Because I had OysterFest on Saturday and was spoken for on Sunday, Matthew and I trekked over to see what was what on Friday.
Now, a food festival needs some level of critical mass to “work,” so I was worried about it being DOA on a work day. While it wasn’t as active in terms of people and events — and there were less food choices — it was a respectable scene, so we had a fun time.
I liked that this event was named “real food,” because this is a term I use all the time. Real, as opposed to produced in a lab or processed to the point of oblivion. Eat Real promotes awareness of, and respect for, the craft of making good food and all that is associated with that concept, such as positive impacts on local food economies, and universal acceptance of “real food” values. To bring it all home, it means that real food should be accessible to everyone. A right.
There were no chain concessions here! All the food was sold by small, local vendors. Yay! The little guy or gal making good food rules!
The festival is a reflection of these values:
“We believe that good, fresh, delicious food is something to be celebrated, so we created an annual party called the Eat Real Festival. With a focus on food craft, street food, artisan beers and local wines– all featuring sustainable local ingredients — we showcase food in all its different forms. But eating is only part of the fun — we’ll show you how to make it and grow it! From cheese to kombucha, we’ll have demonstrations galore that highlight a do-it-yourself lifestyle. And all food is only $5 and below!”
The vibe was matter of fact. Lots of real fast food from vendors — trucks, carts, stalls, what have you. Demos from coffee roasting to butchering a goat. Reps from homesteading-related enterprises. My favorite among these was the combo chicken and coop operation, sponsored by Wooley Egg Ranch and Holland Hen Houses. These people told me all I need to know about keeping hens in my yard. Cool.
People at the stands were friendly and fun, too. I didn’t come across one person selling me food or telling me stuff who wasn’t having a good time.
It makes all kinds of sense to know our food — like people did 100 years ago. There is really no arguing that we need to reverse some of our “modern” food practices. Events like this — meaning more “carrot” and less “stick” — could have real impact. People don’t want to be lectured or told they’re evil. If you want to get a person to do something different, it’s best to be upbeat.
Check out some of our photos below to see what we ate. The best thing I had was the pork belly bao from Chairman Bao. Bao are steamed Chinese buns. Matt’s fave was Whole Foods’ hamachi (young yellowtail) ceviche. The ceviche was only 2 bucks!