Ten years ago, partners Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian felt unfulfilled, even though their graphic design and marketing firm won many awards. Writing and designing annual reports, logos and producing other corporate communications wasn’t cutting it.
Outside of work, they gravitated towards organic, seasonal gardening and cooking. The two had a boatload of talent. Ryder has degrees in graphic design, journalism and psychology, and graduated from a professional chef school in Los Angeles. Topalian is an acclaimed photographer.
Their answer was to launch Edible Ojai (near Santa Barbara, CA) magazine in 2002. Today they spearhead a network of more than 70 Edible magazines across North America, dedicated to celebrating local food, farms, and seasonal, sustainable eating.
I’m sorry to admit I didn’t know much about Joan Gussow, 82. But once I heard her speak, I admired her wit, plainspokenness, and long career as a nutritionist who rails against industrial food. Now I know where Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle got some of their ideas, considering that Gussow has been teaching nutrition and ecology for more than 30 years.
Here’s a well-written piece about Gussow’s talk and the conference. My favorite part is this line: “I do think you have the obligation, while telling your readers of the glories of what they can eat where they live, to remind them gently from time to time that they need to look up from their plates and take some stands for economic and social justice.”
The most touching part of the conference came when Ryder and Topalian surprised Gussow with an award for being one of two authors who had inspired them to start the magazine. Ryder held up an underlined dog-eared and yellow Post-It marked copy of This Organic Life: Confessions of a Surburban Homesteader, by Gussow. The other book was Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods, by Gary Nabhan, a conservation scientists and also a speaker at the conference.
I was lucky enough be at the conference to
- Teach a class about food writing and blogging to the Edible publishers
- Be part of a panel on the future of food writing with author Molly O’Neill; Russ Parsons, head of the L.A. Times’ food section; and Terry Walters, author of Clean Food
- Teach a well-attended blogging class to the public.
I also got to eat superb local food, walk along the beach, visit a farmer’s market, and hobnob with smart people.