This past weekend a 10 mile portion of a major Los Angeles freeway was shut down so an overpass could be removed. The news outlets had been relentlessly hyping the event for weeks, inciting panic about what would become of a city dependent on cars. Someone coined the stupid term Carmageddon.
Turned out to be the easiest weekend for traffic—there was none! So what did we Angelenos do since we thought we couldn't waste gasoline? We ate!
An upside of a major freeway shut down was the free bus rides around town. And one of those buses just happened to stop both immediately outside my house AND the Eat Real Festival a few miles down the road at the old Helms Bakery.
It’s high time to revitalize and reenergize American food – making better quality, healthier, and less processed food available is an urgent priority for our country. To make more real food readily accessible to Americans, we need to support the continued growth of farms practicing sustainable agriculture, we need to demand the production of better food by our country’s large food manufacturers, and – above all – we must support the regrowth of regional food systems with strong connections to our community and culture. Supporting this regrowth means bringing back foodways and food craftsmanship skills that disappeared decades ago and relearning the ancient arts of preparing, processing, and conserving our food.
All that AND free entertainment, plus bike valets and a free shuttle for those who opted to drive over. The festival was completely free and all food sold was $5 or less. Which meant we dined on flat iron steak (courtesy of the Flat Iron Truck) and bacon mac & cheese for a mere five bucks each. Lots of other food trucks were there as well the Roaming Hunger guys: the Nom Nom Truck of Food Network fame, Temaki Truck, Crepe 'N Around, Let's Be Frank, just to name a few. Our friends from Food Forward had a booth, Reride Ranch brought piggies and ducks, and even Culver City's finest came to grab a snack.
Inside, vendors hawked their wares. The guys from Homeboy Industries were selling bread, the Cast Iron Gourmet was doling out samples of her bacon chutney, and people were lining up for Mother In Law's Kimchi. Spicy!
The festival coordinators had a jam-packed schedule with activities going on constantly, but they did a really great job at spreading them across the complex: there was a DIY area for learning to make sauerkraut, pickled lemons and bacon, a Craft Stage (replete with bales of hay for seating), two Beer Gardens (inside and outside), and even live entertainment in two areas. The surrounding retail shops offered discounts to festival goers, and some even hosted talks (like Food Writing 2.0, which I unfortunately missed *sad face*).
Signs all over touted the area as a "waste-free zone." Volunteers helped separate trash for recycling and composting. The event was full, yet there was no litter, and no frenzied impatience like most food festivals with their Disneyland-esque long lines. We didn't wait longer than 10 minutes in any line and the community spirit and support that Eat Real's manifesto aims for was present everywhere.
As for Carmageddon? It was a completely boring non-event. The bridge destruction even finished a day early, so we all went back to driving again on Sunday. The news outlets deemed it Carmaheaven.
Us Angelenos rolled our eyes.