My name is Chris Taylor and I have directed a documentary about food culture in America called FOOD FIGHT. Francesca was nice enough to list it in her “Recommended Documentaries” and I am grateful for that, because I know the people logging into “Healthful Living San Diego” will share the same beliefs I do about locally grown, organic, sustainable food. Since the film is listed here (along with a number of other excellent food films) I thought I would add a little bit of information about it.

I will start by answering the two most important questions that you might have about FOOD FIGHT: 1)What’s it about? And 2) Why did you make it?

The fight in FOOD FIGHT is between two food cultures. One arose out of WWII, and used WWII technology to create an industrial packaged food system that prized convenience over taste and nutrition. (And I show how that food system marketed its products, to the detriment of the American public).

The second of these food systems arose out of the protests against the Vietnam War. Interesting to note how food and war are intertwined, and I take some time in the film to explain that. But this second food system as it arose in California in the 60’s and 70’s became a chef and restaurant partnership with the farmers, and this partnership (a bio- feedback loop really) has become what we now call the organic sustainable food movement.

So FOOD FIGHT is about the clash between two antithetical food cultures, and how the search for taste, flavor, sensuality, and pleasure in our food has now become political.

In a sense, the organic food movement has come full circle, because it started as a political protest (or perhaps a withdrawal from the Establishment) and is now fully engaged in seeking political change. And for the first time in recent memory, we can have hope that this political change is good news for the health of the American food consumer.

WHY DID I MAKE THE MOVIE?

I am an eater—I love food and restaurants—and in California we have great food and great restaurants. Like Francesca, I love the food of the Mediterranean. Most of our best restaurants cook in the tradition that Francesca grew up with in Italy. But as an eater, I should say as a passionate eater—I wanted to reach out to other eaters and make our presence felt in the food chain. This is a movie for food consumers who love great tasting food—food lovers who want their food experience to take the next step from the supermarket, past Whole Foods, and directly to your doorstep or to Local Farmer’s Markets. You could say that I want to grow customers for small local farmers, and I want them to know that there is a way to get taste back in our food.

I also want to develop the idea that chefs and restaurants are major partners in the agricultural economy, and that chefs have developed into a major influence in the direction and development of our food supply.

FOOD FIGHT tells the story of how that came to happen, and what the effect of that has been on our food culture from the 60’s until today. Here is an editorial from the NY Times that details the relationship of restaurants and consumers, and how that can affect food production in the US:

NY TIMES EDITORIAL

Mr. Puck’s Good Idea
Published: March 26, 2007
From time to time, consumers are reminded of the power they have, and the power of the choices they make. There is no better example than the rising popularity of organic food — a matter of conscience and of taste. More and more people are buying local, organic produce and trying to find meat and eggs and dairy products from farms that are not part of the horror of factory farming.
Not surprisingly, people who shop that way also like to dine out that way. That will now be easier thanks to Wolfgang Puck, the universal restaurateur. He has decided that his culinary businesses will now use products only from animals raised under strict humane standards.
Mr. Puck is not the first chef and restaurateur to decide to forgo factory-farmed meat and eggs. You can find a few restaurants upholding these standards in nearly every major American city. But Mr. Puck runs an empire, not a restaurant. His outreach is enormous, and so is his potential educational impact. In fact, he has come late to this decision, perhaps because it affects a corporation, not the menu of a single restaurant.
For one thing, Mr. Puck’s new standard will help correct a misimpression. Many diners assume that most of the cruelty in factory farming lies in producing foie gras and veal. But Americans consume vastly more chicken, turkey, pork and beef than foie gras and veal, and most of the creatures those meats come from are raised in ways that are ethically and environmentally unsound. Until recently, most Americans have been appallingly ignorant of how their food is produced. That is changing. And Mr. Puck’s gift for showmanship will help advance Americans’ knowledge that they can eat well and do right all at the same time.

Many times the first organic meal that a person has is in a restaurant. Many times the BEST organic meal a person has is also in a restaurant.

Here are some facts:

  1. Wolfgang Puck served 10 million ORGANIC meals last year.
  2. 50% of American food dollars are now spent in restaurants.
  3. It takes 60 farmers to grow produce for the Chez Panisse restaurant. So the growth of organic agriculture depends on the nurturing of the chef-farmer relationship.

In addition to the historical survey of food culture (did you know that WWII K-Rations were the grandfather to the modern TV Dinner?) and the pushback against industrial food, I also wanted to cover the work of important food activists who are in the vanguard of current progressive food initiatives. So I went to Milwaukee to interview urban farmer Will Allen (who has subsequently been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant) and his daughter Erika, who together are bringing healthy delicious produce to underserved minority populations in the inner cities of Milwaukee and Chicago.

I also went to Berkeley to show the Edible Schoolyard and the work being done there to re-introduce children to healthy local food. And to round out the political side of the story, I went to Washington, D.C. to interview Congressman Ron Kind, a reformer who tried unsuccessfully to reform the 2007 Farm Bill. I saw Ron yesterday (4/7/10), and he promised me that the next Farm Bill will be much different, in a good way, for food consumers who are into Healthy Living.

So ultimately I made the film to inform an audience, but more importantly to seduce them with taste and flavor of great organic sustainable local food—to get them to realize that they can do well for their families, their communities, and the planet by eating a great meal.

Please feel free to stop by our website: www.foodfightthedoc.com.