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« Cafe Gratitude. Vegan Un-Cookery At Its Best | Main | p o e t r y m o n t h »

26 April 2006


Thumbs up, Shuna. I'd say more but I'd go off on a tear, and wind up in tears.

Right on. Very good entry. Thank you. Since I've never been to Cafe Gratitude, only heard about it through the grapevine, I just have a gut reaction to it based on a lifetime of trying to differentiate between eating and living ethically and being woo woo hippie dippy. (as in, trying to avoid the latter) But what you're talking about here is the real stuff.

Have you done any research on the independent bodegas around here in the mission? I bet you have stories and information on them too. There are some very nice ones within a few blocks of my apartment that I go to pretty frequently and it would be interesting to hear your take on their role in the bigger picture.

It is true. Americans spend a smaller% of our income on food than just about anyone else. We are both spoiled and ruined, as our expectations have been manipulated.

There are not very many people of low income who see it this way though..Because their expectations have been manipulated, like everyone else's.It is in the interests of chemical companies and agri-business to make real food seem weird, elitist, yuppish, overpriced.

It is an important task to get the word out that real food is what we all deserve, not an eccentric indulgence for the rich.

Real people deserve well made excellent products of all kinds, but we do have to get used to the idea of having fewer things, and not a bunch of junk we don't really want or need. Kid's toys, eh?

Thank you darling thank you.

I do however, live high on the hog. That is, the natural high of eating some damned good pork from our local pig farmer, Old Mill Farm.

I too am a little sick of post-modern whiny hipsters unwilling to actually take action. And I live in the country where they're in short supply.

Right on. This was thought provoking and intelligent, as usual. I personally am kind of annoyed by Cafe Gratitude and find it kind of creepy, though the food's pretty good. More than anything I'm wigged out by the founders' affiliations with the Landmark Forum, which sounds like a pretty destructive cult from everything I've heard or read.

One more thing... I think this begs another question, which is: Are the workers these restaurant owners are paying good wages to actually residents of their neighborhoods? Is the money actually going back into the community? Are they employing local Latino workers, or just middle class dreadlocked white hipster kids? I think that is another question that needs to be asked, because the two times I went to Cafe Gratitude in SF, every single worker there appeared to belong to the latter category? I think there is an unfortunate tendency for supposedly progressive businesses that pay fair wages to only hire workers from their own (mostly white, hip, over-educated, middle class) communities. Which does not make a business a responsible contributing member of the community if you ask me.

Shuna, you bring a great perspective to conversations like this, and I am really glad that you decided to write about it. You have so many life experiences that have helped to form these well-stated opinions and I think that the rest of us have a lot to learn from you.

I still have a post saved on my computer that you wrote on CH years ago -- it was a response to people who said that the FL was too expensive. I think about it every so often because, like this post, you really bring an eye-opening point-of-view to the discussion.

Thank you.

(My head is flooding with a lot of different thoughts about this as well - but this is about all I can manage at the moment)

Fantastic post and subject...I always am intrigued by discussions about who should and shouldn't work where and do what...the judgment of the "white, hip, over-educated, middle class" who look down on me because I "sold out" to do corporate work with my middle-class education and privilege- although I genuinely enjoy what I do, vs. the people who look down on the middle-class people taking jobs from the poverty stricken...Does it ever end? Does anyone remember that most of us middle-class folks all make and have choices that shouldn't have to be justified because most of us are doing our part whether that is working for a co-operative or in corporate america (which has been used to fund 2 boys through College and donated to countless non-profits, fundraisers, etc...) or a yoga teacher. Can people live their lives, contribute where they can and still be respected? What is enough? How many parades do we attend and causes should each person support with our time and money to justify our mortgages? How many latino single mothers are yoga teachers? Does that make the white yoga teachers bad because they chose to take a very low paying but rewarding job that they enjoy? Can that salary sustain a family? Are we asking the right questions?

How about supporting people and recognizing that our society now has a billion more ways than our parents did to make a difference and for the most part most of us are making a difference in small to large ways, especially in San Francisco. Balance the discontentedness and recognize people's efforts (like Cafe Gratitude) is more productive than tearing everyone down who doesn't live according to some very narrow view of what a true giving person looks like...There are many paths to the road of contributing, building and sustaining a community. Limiting the scope of that for everyone by requiring you live, eat, farm, make love in a 5 block radius in order to be considered "contributing to the community" isn't fair or realistic. Wish it was that black and white, wish that there were easy answers but judging everyone else for what they don't do is alot easier than honoring what they are doing. It’s much easier to tear down than to build...

Bravo, Shuna. This is an intelligent, well-thought-out, beautifully expressed view of the other side of the coin.

It's quite apropros considering that Eat Local month is upon us, and we're bound to hear plenty about how "elitist" it is to try to eat locally, and how the Farmers Markets are for "yuppies".

I totally agree with you on this one, Shuna. Gentrification in the Mission? Please!

This discussion is shooting off a lot of sparks. I would like to put my 2 cents in for several of the issues at hand.

First, I am offended when people use the umbrella term "white middle (upper) class" to describe an overall source of evil in our society. I am white, and I am middle class. I am not evil. I am extremely grateful to be able to afford to pay for my basic needs and be economically self-reliant. This does not mean I am a detriment to society. I have as much control over the color of my skin as the Asian or Latina woman sitting next to me. People should be judged according to their actions, not their color or financial status.

Before moving to California, I belonged to a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, in which I paid an organic farmer to grow crops for me and the other shareholders. For roughly $20 a week, 3 friends and I were supplied with a whole crate of organic fruits and vegetables. It was a great way of building community, supporting farmers, and eating healthfully and sustainably. And it made economic sense.

Now, I understand that prices at farmers' markets need to be higher than a CSA to account for the labor it takes to work the stand, as well as the rental cost for the stand itself. But does this warrant selling produce for more money than the prices charged in places like Whole Foods?? I find it hard to justify spending more money for the same produce when I am buying directly from the farmer. It was always my understanding that farmers' markets were supposed to be a boon for both consumer and farmer - no middle man means more profit for the farmer and less (or same) cost to the consumer. Not until moving to California did I experience such price gouging. I am speaking specifically about the Ferry Plaza market.

It is sad that the US government has corrupted our food supply so much that now the most affordable foods are GMOs and other frankenfoods. But I don't think that overcharging consumers at boutique farmers' markets is the answer. If the prices at the farmers' markets were the same as those at places like Whole Foods, I would be much more likely to shop at them. But I can't help feeling as if I'm being robbed, and as if the farmers are taking advantage of the high-end clientele and tourists who frequent the markets. A $3 pear (not even necessarily organic!) is not a feasible purchase for the majority of households.

If there is something that I don't know regarding the high price of these markets, please let me know. I am always open to learning more. But, based on my current knowledge, I find myself unable to be anything more than bitter about the prices being charged at markets like the Ferry Plaza.

I'm kind of confused by how some of the commenters came away with the idea that being white and middle class is bad? That's not what I read in Shuna's post, or in my responses. I just read a questioning of what makes a business a responsible member of a community, and what the dynamics are that make food more or less expensive, and a questioning of the commonly held ideas about gentrification. Fascinating how everyone has such a different interpretation of this, and it obviously touches a nerve with many.

i've never posted before but i just had to weigh in on this one. food issues are really complicated because food of coarse should be free and yes food should be expensive because it cost so much to grow especially in california. it's really is about people owning and controlling their own food systems with cooperative farms in and out of the city and people creating their own distribution systems. that was the idea of the people's food movement that rainbow came out of even though it is not so much about that anymore. if the people that own gratitude would give their money to set up cooperative country and urban farms and a distribution system then all kinds of people really could eat that good food for minimal participation in the cooperative. then the people who participate in cooperative growing could open their own cooperative restaurant in the marina and sell the food they grow to yuppies for a profit. the gratitude people really just want to make money and spread all their cult bullshit and think the whole time about how fucking cool and revolutionary they are. there is a people's food movement going on right now in Oakland they would sure be thankful for some cash from all the rich raw food nuts.

1. i hate cafe gratitude
2. erica b is super smart and right on
3. cafe gratitude is run by a fucking cult
4. make your own shake, it's cheap
5. i hate the cafe gratitude food cult
6. the raw food movement is chock full of neurotic yuppies
7. i want a hamburger
8. i don't need no cafe gratitude
9. grow your own wheat grass, it's cheap
10. i hate cafe gratitude

Wow Shuna, yes, thanks for pointing out some stuff we should all be
keeping ourselves up on... really that's one of my favorite things
about Gayrods and alla my SF friends, is we keep each other up on good

but I wanted to take issue with one thing... and I haven't really
thought this out enough to know exactly where I stand (ie, discussion
welcome, just let's all keep it respectful, eh?)...

which is about gentrification... yes it's true that queers and artists
are typically the first influx of gentrification, making former poor,
communities of color safe for obnoxious yuppies to buy houses and flip
them or even live in them eventually...

BUT really truly not every white hipster who moves into a "ghetto" is
fronting downward mobility... and I think it IS okay for us to move
into poor neighborhoods... yes it's starting the evil process of
gentrification... but in the past these 'hipsters' have just as often
been poor disowned queers or punks unable to rent anyplace else or
artists seeking space big enough to make their art and seeking artistic
community... I would guess even more than they've been 'downwardly
mobile' trustifarians trying to gain street cred...

and while we're on the topic, hey, plenty of us in fact ARE
trustifarians, and guess what, that doesn't endow one with capitalist
taint anymore than owning one's own business or any of the myriad other
ways we freaks try to get by in this world... most of the
'trustifarians' I know are fucking righteous folks bent on doing as
much good in this world as they can to make up for their guilt for
being born into a rich family... including giving all the money to
righteous causes or whatever other way they work out...

and if you think about it, we are ALL trustifarians, on a global level
anyway... compared to poor folks in countries with fewer resources &
power than even the poorest of us Americans have... I was raised in a
friggin single-wide trailer in the backwoods of south Georgia on food
stamps, and I am fully priveleged, and working against it, imperfectly

(btw I LOVE your idea, Shuna, of offering our services to Latinos who
want to march on May 1st...)

so basically it's complicated. Gentrification sucks, if by that you
mean soulless yuppies taking everything cool we've created and turning
it into a mall. But ask the poor folks who live here in Cabbagetown,
Atlanta, if they mind that their houses are now worth 5-6 times what
they were 10 years ago, if they mind that the parks are now fixed up
and the crack zombies have moved on... and while we can bond on
yuppie-hating, because it makes us feel displaced in our worlds,
economic opportunity is a real life improvement for many.

just my 2 ¢, comments welcome, really...

I'm just catching up on my reading after being away...This post just reminds me of why you are so fucking awesome. I'm with you 100% on this.

hi yes its me the original sh*t stirrer - ok theres something that is really driving me up a wall - really driving me crazy - why would ANYONE into food say that food should be more expensive?!!

or into people or humanity or anything? i dont get it? because of cash cropping? why would it make sense to charge more for food?!!!
so that globalization would be less obtrusive? so reducing the access to good food or any food is the solution? why not the solution be shifting our society so that gardening is more accessible and we are growing our own food in local ways? i feel like if you really believe that food should be more expensive you must be totally out of touch with poverty in the world.

Heres what i think - cash crops should be abolished - and food should be traded.



Just a quick response to the anonymous poster who was talking about CSAs and the price of the Ferry Building.

Here's the thing - Ferry is, well, somewhat "special". I, personally, shop there rather infrequently. Instead, I prefer to frequent the Berkeley market - there are plenty of markets besides Ferry in the city, too.

CSAs are readily available in these here parts, too - several organic ones, in fact (here's two to check out). And like you're used to, they're about $20/week.

On the other hand, if you want the CHOICE and flexibility that come with shopping at the Market, then yes, you're going to pay a bit of a premium for that, since the farmers can't be sure of what they are going to be able to offload on a given day at the market, where with a CSA, they know exactly what their yields need to be to fill all the boxes.

Sing it!

for all those interested still--

Americans pay less for their abundant food supply than almost any other country in the world. IT IS BECAUSE OF GLOBALIZATION, not the other way around. because Organic and Sustainable farmers do not get stipends from the government, their crops are pricier. So when you are paying $4 for a burrito it's because all the ingredients are mono-cropped and/or stolen from other countries. That $4 burrito would be worth a whole lot more if the people picking the produce were paid a living wage etc. etc.

Look at the Mexican food at Mijita, for example-- the workers get paid a living wage with access to health Insurance and the produce and protein is mostly Organic and Sustainable, from small local farms when possible. The owner is a queer Chicana person and many of her workers have been with her for 5+ years: the mark of a good workplace. Yet everyone complains that "for Mexican food" it's "too" expensive. (and that's a whole other discussion--- how host Americans have economic hierarchical judgement about which "ethnic cuisines" need to be cheap and cheaper than others.)

When I say that "food should be expensive" I mean that we as Americans are paying a great price for our cheap food. Environmentally, with humanity, and overall for the long term.

Think about how much less food we'd waste and destroy if it really pulled a chunk out of our pocket.

I, too, have ideas about how the world "should" be, but I am incapable of changing the whole world. This does not mean that I spew what should and should not be, this means that I take action in my immediate world. I educate, work at the farmer's markets, make food in the SF women's jail, I advocate for non-English speaking people in my workplaces (I've gotten a lot done through OSHA, The NLRB and The Labor Board), I pick my own fruit at farms and I volunteer all over the place in my industry.

I'm glad there have been lively discussions and arguments. So often we surround ourselves with people who have such a same opinions we forget there are others, not necessarily extremist or fundamentalist, but just different, close-by. Our opinions are different because we have seen and experienced the world so far differently.

Not because we are enemies. In fact most of are making the same points over and over in different ways.

to the young womon who thinks food should be free and can't imagine food costing more: There needs to be a major distinction between resturant food and food we eat at home. Food at home can be free (if you don't count the cost of the first seeds, the water, the time to maintain, feed for the animals etc) but when you have the luxury of eating out you should be paying both the cost of the actual product and the cost of preparation, including those who grow, pick, etc, as well as those who cook, serve, etc as well as the overhead costs (power,water, equipment) of the business establishment you are eating at. Unless you have run an eating establishment of any kind, the thought boggles the mind, but to be successful, you have to consider all the details and all the costs. If we americans paid what it actually cost to prepare the item of food, there would be no would be an interesting concept.

I stumbled upon this site as I was in the process of doing some online research. There should be a lot more Cafe Gratitudes around - responsible stewardship in every direction.

Amen, sister.

Actually 7 out of the 8 dollars goes to the cult.

right on siter! i dont live in america i live in australia and i can see the point your trying to make so keep at it!

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