It’s all about the story. A good one can make you forget your everyday worries for a few moments and think about something bigger, more important. While we don’t always think about food as having a story, it does. Sometimes an intriguing story rich in history; in other cases a boring or tasteless story.

Going to the market has become a search for food with a good story. Chain stores, in general, don’t offer this type of experience. The produce section might have grapes with labels that tell you the fruit came from the USA or that the tomatoes are from Mexico, but that’s as specific as it gets.

Cat Neushul

If you take a trip to the Isla Vista Food Co-op, however, you’ll find that the place is filled with stories. The eggs come with a story about the farm, the chickens, and the treatment of the animals. The blood oranges sitting in the produce section have a great tale to tell. Ojai Lavender Lemonade’s website bio explains that many years ago, on a hot summer day, the children of a woman named Lori dragged a table out to their driveway and asked their mother to make her “fancy lemonade,” so that they could sell cups of it. She answered her children’s request, and popular demand swelled for the unusual lemonade. The recipe is short and simple: 13% organic lemon juice, with pure filtered water, organic pure cane sugar, and lavender.

If you ask Melissa Cohen, the general manager, she can tell you where all the food comes from, and why a particular brand was chosen over another. You can find more information by Googling the items’ brand names.

A recent addition to the co-op is a large display containing rows of seeds produced by Seed Savers Exchange, an organization promoting the preservation of heirloom species. The Seed Savers Exchange has a great website to explore. You can watch a video about preservation efforts, browse through a catalog of available heirloom varieties, or participate in a seed exchange. The names of the heirloom varieties are particularly interesting. There are tomatoes called Black From Tula and a watermelon variety with the name Orangeglo.

If you are looking for food with a good story, take a trip to the co-op, but plan on spending some time there. There is a lot to look at, read, and think about.


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