Counting Our Blessings

Considering what we're thankful for in the local food scene

While it's likely most of us register gratitude many times during the year, by tradition in this country we set aside a late Thursday in November on which to consider and celebrate the bounty of our blessings. Perhaps this year more than most, we can use the time to reflect on a terribly trying year and try to concentrate on the many good things available to us. For the past few weeks, we members of the Chronicle Food staff have been scattered around the country busy with projects, making it impossible for us to coordinate our schedules for a planned pre-Thanksgiving potluck supper. Since I knew we wouldn't be bringing you holiday recipes, I posed a question to the contributing writers, asking them to write about what they were most grateful for in the local food scene. Their heartfelt answers cover everything from greater diversity in ethnic food choices to the comfort of soup, from the astounding generosity of local restaurateurs to the pristine organic produce at Boggy Creek Farm.

Last month at a symposium, a fellow participant questioned me about the paper I write for and the duties that make up my job. Looking back on that conversation, I realized I had my own answer to the question I'd posed to the contributing writers. I told the man I consider myself the luckiest person in Austin because I get paid to do something I love. As the Food editor for a locally owned alternative newspaper, I'm employed by a company that's very much involved in the community, where opinions and advocacy are encouraged. I'm afforded the luxury to write about things that genuinely matter to me, whether it's hunger in Austin, organic produce and the crucial farm-to-table connection, or the reissue of one of my favorite cookbooks. I get paid to eat in restaurants and share news and opinions about them, and my position at the paper makes it possible for me to meet interesting and talented culinary figures when they come to town. It's the best job I can imagine, and I know I'm lucky to have it.

The truth is, no recounting of my professional blessing would be complete without a word about the group of contributing writers I have the good fortune to work with. They are all well-educated and well-traveled, each eminently capable in their regular full-time jobs. Three of them are trained chefs (Mick Vann, MM Pack, and Rachel Feit), three have published or will soon publish books of their own (Rebecca Chastenet de Géry, Mick Vann, and Wes Marshall), and they all share a passionate interest in food. When we gather to plan our upcoming issues, each talented individual brings something special to the table. In addition to her chef's training, Rachel Feit has a background in anthropology and archeology that richly informs the social and cultural commentary that are often part of her reviews. Educated in Scotland and married to a Frenchman, Rebecca Chastenet de Géry leads a bi-cultural, international life. Her interest in food as an expression of culture is obvious in her skilled writing. With the explosive growth in our local Asian population over the past few years, I'd have been lost without Mick Vann's voluminous knowledge of Asian cuisines and his penchant for discovering new ethnic eateries. Barbara Chisholm spent her formative years globetrotting with a father who worked for NATO; her world travels are reflected in her sophisticated palate. MM Pack's midlife career change from computer technical writer to chef/food writer was a beneficial choice for our local food scene, and her thirst for continuing education keeps her armed with fresh ideas (she just completed an intensive short course on food styling at the CIA in Hyde Park). Wes Marshall's appreciation for and knowledge about wine coupled with his boundless enthusiasm to share what he knows are a considerable liquid asset. I am grateful for their contributions to the Chronicle food section. Here's what they are grateful for this fall.

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More by Virginia B. Wood
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