Long before the term hit the national lexicon and social consciousness, Santa Barbara County has been a locavore heaven. The diversity of agricultural and seafood products available here is astounding. Everything from bananas and cherimoyas to the various berries and the once presidentially mocked broccoli is right at the fingertips of area residents. The means to share this bounty are plentiful, whether a trip to one of the burgeoning Farmers Markets, a membership in a CSA (community supported agriculture), or a stop at a roadside stand. However, all this foodie gold-a recent report put the county’s crop value at more than $1 billion-has often been taken for granted. One Santa Barbaran wants to change that and, to paraphrase Eule Gibbons slightly, show that many parts of Santa Barbara are edible. Meet Krista Harris and the literary mantra to her mission, the new magazine Edible Santa Barbara, which is just hitting Farmers Markets and coffee shops now.
Food appreciation came easily and early to Harris, having grown up in the San Diego area with a fisherman father. She learned the importance of knowing the source of foods and the comfortable familiarity of having a human face and name associated with a food item. She gleaned the delectable rewards of creating meals on her own from the lack of culinary skills of her can opener-wielding mother. “It was either that or starve,” she says. A talent for wordsmithing and a sense of design also came early in Harris’s life. With various jobs held at La Jolla Light, she did anything and everything pertaining to putting out a weekly newspaper: filing, working with advertisers, graphic design, and writing. Harris always had a hand in helping out, feeling inspired by the Light‘s publisher, Phyllis Pfeiffer. “She was truly a mentor to me,” Harris reminisced.
College beckoned and Harris made her way up the coast to attend UC Santa Barbara. Influenced by the writings of M.F.K. Fisher and Alice Waters, she was on the organic bandwagon early and frequented the Isla Vista Co-Op and Farmers Markets, enjoying the vast array of food stuffs the area offered. She came to believe that Santa Barbara provided the artistic and literary atmosphere on which she thrived, but most importantly it “fostered a foodie culture” that she so enjoyed and desired. And, like so many UCSB graduates, she decided to stay.
Michael Pollan’s ubiquitous tome The Omnivore’s Dilemma has inspired many to rethink their lives and habits, including Harris. “I felt it was a call to action : I could no longer just be satisfied with going to the farmers markets,” she explained. She pondered her choices, even starting a blog to share her thoughts on food and travel, but it was while flipping through a copy of Edible Finger Lakes that she had her “Ah ha!” moment. The opportunity to publish a magazine like that would combine a number of her loves. She then enlisted her husband, Steven Brown, who himself was a foodie and well-versed in graphic design and publications after having worked in the UCSB’s artworks department for 30-plus years, to accompany her on this journey as copublisher. Her quest became their incredible edible adventure.
They contacted Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, the driving forces behind the Edible Communities, an award-winning publishing hub that started with the publication of Edible Ojai about seven years ago. Armed with a dogged belief that knowing where one’s food came from is empowering and the desire to change the way consumers related to food sources, Ryder and Topalian have connected with like-minded individuals, including Harris and Brown, and the Edible Community publications stable has grown to nearly 50, Edible Santa Barbara being one of the most recent additions. In culinary regions throughout North America, each celebrating the distinct flavors of their regions such as Edible Hawaiian Islands, Edible Green Mountains, and everywhere in between, people are finding their omnivorous dilemmas not so solitary in nature.
Harris hopes that Edible Santa Barbara will promote awareness of our region’s foods and vendors that have been here throughout the years and also discover new ones just coming to fruition. She is even “looking forward to sponsoring local food events like Edible Pursuit,” a food trivia game night that is immensely popular with Edible San Francisco readers. If the overflow crowd at the launch party held at C’est Cheese or the fast-disappearing issues at distribution spots are any indication, Santa Barbarans are hungry for a publication like this one. Savor the deliciousness of the premiere spring issue, especially the recipes provided by Pascale Beale-Groom and Laurence Hauben. Use the magazine as a culinary road map to discover or rediscover your inner locavore foodieness. Edible Santa Barbara provides plenty of food for thought, so grab a copy and mangia!
For more about the quarterly magazine, edible blogbits, and resource information, go online to ediblesantabarbara.com.