For the past month and a half, I have been heavily involved in promoting this year’s Dig-IN ~ A Taste of Indiana via social media. Even thought I told fellow Spoke David Feinberg that I wasn’t planning to write about the event, I’ve had no time to write anything new so… I’ve decided to re-post one of my favorite posts from April 2010!
This is one that didn’t make it in the transition from IndyHub’s old website to the current iteration (I think I’m entitled to repost, right?) Plus, this isn’t as much about Dig-IN as it is about Indy’s food scene – especially, locally owned restaurants that feature Indiana ingredients that are grown or raised according to sustainable agricultural practices.
Viva la (food) Revoluction (April 2010) — Over the last 60 years, food has become all about convenience and ease of use – think canned vegetables, the microwave, TV dinners and fast food. But now, we’re experiencing a season of change in the way Indiana consumes food.
“I think we are in the middle of a food revolution in Indiana. I really, really believe that,” says Neal Brown, local chef and the brains behind the rabidly popular Pizzology in Carmel. (Brown’s past credentials include owner of L’explorateur, chef at H20 Sushi and Brugge Brasserie, sous chef at Tavola di Tosa and commis chef at R-Bistro.)
You can witness the revolution in the popularity of farmer’s markets around town, the increasing demand for organics, in projects such as Growing Places at White River State Park, in groups such as Slow Food Indy, and a host of new, locally owned restaurants opening around Indy.
For years, Indy has been a haven for chain restaurants, and our fair city has earned a reputation as culinary-challenged. But there’s a growing group of folks (not just “foodies”) who want quality, local, sustainably grown, naturally and humanely raised food on their dinner table and on their menus.
However, the size of that group is relatively small. In particular, Brown has noticed thirtysomethings embracing the local food revolution. Perhaps this group has more discretionary income, but he also thinks it has something to do with this demographic growing up around the introduction of the microwave and during the height of the fast food era.
Brown distinctly remembers the day his mother stopped cooking and fast food arrived on the dinner table. “One day, she just said, ‘I’m done,’” recalls Brown. After that, dinners consisted mostly of McDonald’s, takeout pizza and other fast foods.
So what does Brown think it’s going to take for the twentysomethings and the next generation to appreciate and value food? His answer – education.
“It will take our generation to plant the seeds,” says Brown (Brown and I are both mid-to-late-30s). “If we keep eating at chain restaurants, those same options will be waiting for the next generation. This has to be part of a holistic solution including sharing the story and education.”
Brown is doing this at Pizzology, telling customers how they make their own mozzarella and sauces and that they cook exclusively with meat from humanely treated animals that have been grass-fed. “We tell everyone we can because it’s good for business and good for the customer.”
The educational slant of Brown’s passion for food echoes that of ABC’s program “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” (In fact, when Brown and I met several weeks ago, he pointed me to Oliver’s presentation at TED.)
It’s with education in mind that Brown has been working with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and other groups for the upcoming Dig-IN, a food festival and showcase for sustainable agriculture that will take place at White River State Park. Scheduled for August 2010, Dig-IN will feature educational discussion panels, cooking demonstration, urban gardening exhibits, local chef Q&A sessions, wine tastings, beer and food pairing classes, and more.
Dig-IN will hopefully get folks talking about where their food is grown, how it’s grown and how you can use it at home.
Another educational food event worth noting is Chew On This, part of the Food for Thought program by the Indiana Humanities Council. Chew on This will challenge neighbors, friends and new acquaintances to eat, think and talk about food issues in Indiana at 15 different locally owned restaurants or community venues around the city.
Clearly, there is a food revolution underway in Indianapolis, the ramifications of which are both environmental and economical. Whether or not the revolution succeeds will depend on each of us – which side are you on?
We’ve seen more and more local focus on food. Since this article, Brown has also opened up The Libertine and is planning another Pizzology location in Nora in the coming months. We’ve had many food trucks burst onto the scene, offering a variety of new cuisine options. I’ve been hearing great things about Bluebeard in Fountain Square and we’ve seen the openings of Black Market, Ball and Biscuit, Napolese and Winona-Lake’s Ceruleun will open up a location downtown at City Way soon (This is just a slither of the places I could mention). Indiana Humanities has organized follow-up Chew on This events and City Market has refocused its mission hosting the Indy Winter Farmers Market and featuring vendors that have raised the bar on options in that historic venue.
So what’s your favorite revolutionary food moment in recent Indy history, or which one are you most looking forward to?
*Photo taken at Dig-IN 2012 by Amber Recker
Ryan Puckett is principal of two21 LLC, a communication firm with a focus on providing creative content, advocacy and communications strategy for all things pertaining to sustainability. Ryan is an Indiana University-Bloomington grad and alum of Northwestern University’s School of Journalism. He lives in Broad Ripple with his wife, son and dog, is a veteran of 160+ Phish shows and is a long-suffering Cubs fan. Contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @rmpuckett.