Erin Roan MacDonald

Eat Real Festival in Oakland

How does this fit into the poverty food challenge? It doesn’t exactly. My parents asked me to take a diversion from my project to purvey the Eat Real festival last weekend in Oakland’s Jack London Square.  They want to participate in the future as conscientious food producers. Eat Real is a food festival that celebrates sustainability, localism, and food trends such as food trucks, which don’t strike me as very sustainable but are fun and popular right now. Even Whole foods had a food truck at the festival. It occurs yearly in Oakland and Los Angeles, maybe soon coming to a city near you.

Vesta Flatbread Food Truck
Wood Fired Oven at Eat Real Festival

When I was at the festival besides buying and eating some of the fine food available, I did do something radical from a poverty perspective depending on your point of view. I ate abandoned food. I watched a young man leave a half eaten container of fried squid right in front of me . I knew that he left it on top of the trash for someone who was homeless or willing to eat it. I passed and did a double take, then turned around and grabbed it. It was still warm from the fryer. I could have left it for someone less fortunate than me. But all I could think was, I get to try something else here at the festival and will not have to pay for it. He could have had cooties, but I didn’t use the fork he left in it. I threw  that out and ate the rest of the squid with my fingers. It was tasty.

Modern Organic Filipino Cuisine Food Truck
Falafel Food Truck
We Grow our Cows but not our Buns

Food that I purchased included a natural beef taco from Chipotle–a chain restaurant whom I didn’t realize features naturally raised meats and organic dairy foods. I really appreciated some their tag lines: Fresh is not enough anymore and their menu/price list: The price of the desire. Really, how much is it costing to in our lust for local, sustainable, ethically raised food?

Chipotle’s Naturally Raised Meats

I listened to a NPR interview podcast last week from early September with Alice Waters, commonly associated with being a pioneer in the sustainability food movement. Terry Gross asked her about the cost of eating at Chez Panisse, to which she replied, “It won’t ever be cheap to eat real food, but it can be affordable. Well, it’s not affordable to eat at your restaurant!

I met the owner of another newer restaurant in Berkeley at Eat Real, called Gather. I asked him about the price range, fresh from listening to that podcast. Gather is from $12-20, emphasizes local and sustainable food and on the all-encompassing side, features vegan and carnivore options at every meal. He told me, The New York Times called, Gather “the omnivore’s solution”. I call it the solution to date night.

His chef was giving a “vegan”  butchery demo. Highlighting some of the tools used in creating fine veggie foods: even a meat slicer can be utilized for creating thin squash slices.

Chef Sean Baker, Gather Restaurant at Eat Real Festival

I also enjoyed fired smelt from ForageSF who features found foods from our local eco-space. Fried and served with the garlic aioli, I didn’t even notice that I was eating fish eyeballs.


I waited in line for 20 minutes to try also tried Chairman Bao’s sandwiches, which was not uncommon to many of the booths at Eat Real, especially things like ribs and mac and cheese, this is Oakland, after all. I had the tofu with baby bok choy and sesame chicken. Both had delightful pickles on top. The chicken was a little spicy for me but delicious. The tofu was satisfying and I am digging the idea of bok choy on a sandwich.

Chairman Bao’s Sandwiches

There were some examples of different energy sources. The new Prius hosted a contest to see how quickly you could load the car. A solar energy project really impressed me, you can hire it out for parties, events or disaster relief anything where you don’t have a power source. I don’t know much about solar tech but if it’s really all solar and affordable, well then, bravo.

All in all I enjoyed the Eat Real Festival. To be more sustainable, I wish it had more focus on presentations, interactions with food procedures and crafters and less focus on eating from food trucks. Granted there were many that I missed and it is a three-day festival and I only went for an afternoon.

I liked that they were selling reusable glass jars for drinking beverages or plastic made from corn. I caught the end of the butcher contest where they broke down a hindquarter and the winners were getting their photo-op. With a family background in fermentation, I am sorry I missed the kraut-a-thon. I think a festival like this could travel the country and reach communities to whom green is still less a priority. You could take this festival almost anywhere and people would get it.

Chipotle’s Food with Integrity

One reply to “Eat Real Festival in Oakland

  1. It looks all in all interesting. Maybe agree beside the eating. a little more something. Difficult for an urban asphalt setting.

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