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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - June 2015


Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - June 2015

Now that the roses are bursting out all over Sonoma and the summer season has officially begun, it’s well past time to write something about the “savory” side of Sonoma. After all, we’re one of the great food capitals of the world, aren’t we? We’ve got a live farm tradition here, despite the overwhelming turn toward vineyards that many decry, and what unites wine with farming is in the cooking. 

Over Memorial Day weekend I had the good fortune to wander over to a presentation at Williams Sonoma by Kathleen Thompson Hill who displayed some of her vast collection of antique cooking implements while Pastry Chef Elizabeth Payne prepared two recipes from Chuck Williams’ book about a lifetime spent introducing the region to such modern inventions as the Cuisinart Food Processor.

The carrot soup was delectable, but the madeleines, fresh from the oven, were indescribable, crisp around the edges, soft and light in the midsection and just scrumptious altogether.

Chuck by the way is still alive at 95 years old.

We left armed with copies of the recipes, delighted by the ambience and well-reminded of the prevailing abundance of both food and dollars in our beautiful Valley.

Food is plentiful, and not just here. It turns out that food is superabundant almost everywhere on the planet, even in India. Jonathan Latham in his fascinating article, How the Great Food War Will Be Won, explains that food insufficiency is a myth curried up by industrial ag to justify the bizarre aberrations it has been cultivating – from Round Up to GMOs – to feed the starving masses. In reality, according to the World Bank Institute, we already have enough food to feed 14 billion. Writes Latham, “Granaries are bulging, crops are being burned as biofuels or dumped, prices are low, farmers are abandoning farming for slums and cities, all because of massive oversupply.” 

Who knew?

It’s not Monsanto’s PR that one billion people all over the world go to bed hungry, a great many of them children. Good-hearted people do what they can to rectify the situation, at least in part. Charity unfortunately will never make up for the inequities of a system that throws away 40 percent of the food it produces, but some projects work directly with farmers to help them make affordable nutritious food available. 

Todd Evans is Founding Director with Operations Director Annie Bauer of a new organization based in Sonoma, End World Hunger 2030. On April 29, they held a fund-raising event at 45 restaurants in Sonoma County to help two organizations, Gardens for Health in Rwanda and One Acre Farm in several other African countries. Both help people learn to grow food more efficiently. 

“Through our work,” says Gardens for Health on its website, “we are changing the way that malnutrition is treated by…equipping families with the knowledge and resources to grow their own nutritious food and improve their health. We envision a future in which the key to lasting food and nutrient security for vulnerable families lies in their own backyards.”

Gardens for Health was started in 2007 by three young women, then college students; in 2010 it took up its core project, the Health Center Program. 

The objective of Gardens for Health “is to integrate agriculture into the clinical care of malnutrition in Rwanda…ultimately eradicating, chronic malnutrition among vulnerable families.”

The restaurant fund-raiser netted about $12,000. “We had higher expectations,” said Todd. “We learned a lot. A lot of restaurants are very close to the bottom line.”

Todd Evans is not new to international nonprofit work. He worked for 20 years for another organization he founded, Seeds of Learning, which built schools in Latin America.

He’ll be 80 this month. “This kind of work preserves people,” he chuckled.

Todd is also on the Advisory Committee for the Sonoma Garden Park, where he can be found almost every Saturday weighing out fresh organic produce for shoppers.

Another group that raised money last month to end hunger was Crop Walk, put on April 26 by a consortium of churches under the auspices of Church World Services. About $10,000 was raised here, of which 25 percent will be donated to local nonprofits working to combat food insecurity here at home, including F.I.S.H. (Friends in Service Here), the Sonoma Overnight Shelter, and Meals on Wheels. About 140 people walked 1-3 miles to demonstrate their commitment to food for all.

May hunger end here, in this fertile valley, and everywhere around the world!

Stephanie Hiller is a writer, life coach and personal historian. She lives in Sonoma. Contact her at