As the executive director of Just Food, Jacquie Berger is the metaphorical mayor of New York’s local and sustainable food movement.
Last week, she presided over the organization’s annual benefit Let Us Eat Local, a gathering of the city’s advocates and top farm-to-table chefs—like Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony and The Green Table’s Mary Cleaver.
Berger’s passion for programs that connect farmers and consumers and increase access to super-fresh foods started with environmental concerns, but she’s quick to point out the far-reaching impact of each person’s food choices on lots of different levels.
“It’s about what you put in your body,” she says.”The decisions you make three times a day can make the food better for you, and better for the world around you.”
Here’s what Berger chooses for herself and her family when she stocks her Clinton Hill refrigerator.
What’s with all of the plastic bags in the middle? Those are all bags of organic produce from my the Clinton Hill CSA. The distribution spot is out of a school two blocks from my house. I’ve been a member since I moved to the neighborhood; this is probably my fourth or fifth year. I think there’s corn, beans, carrots, and broccoli rabe.
Do you ever have trouble using all of the produce you get? No one joins CSA and doesn’t end up saying “I eat so many more vegetables!” You’re getting a lot of produce, and you figure out how to use it. One of the other side effects is that you do a lot more inviting people over to eat the vegetables.
Other than your CSA, where you do you get the foods we see here? In my neighborhood, there are a couple of small shops that are great for local meat and local dairy—The Greene Hill Food Co-op, Cinnamon Girl, and Brooklyn Victory Garden. And then two blocks from my house there’s an amazing bakery called Scratchbread. They have a wheat bread that looks different every time they make it because they use the spent vegetables from their juicing. Sometimes it’s green, sometimes it’s orange.
I really have to try that. Speaking of, what’s the orange liquid in the container on the top shelf? It’s an Indian-spices carrot spice. Full disclosure though, my mom actually made it.
Ha! But you do cook, right? I do. My stove is definitely turned on once a day, ideally more than that. I like to cook, but I’m not a fancy cook. There’s a lot of olive oil, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. It gets a little more exciting right now because we have fresh herbs growing outside of our window.
Nice. What’s going on with those green beans in the jar? It’s my very exciting solution to green beans! Were not big green bean eaters, but I put together a brine jar. It’s apple cider vinegar and dill and garlic and chilli peppers and salt and pepper. I put the beans in there and then they become pickled really, really quickly. It’s a great way to make instant snack food.
That’s brilliant. Finally, I have to ask: Any non-sustainable food habits you’ll admit to? Like my own year-round addiction to avocados? I do love avocados. Coffee, and definitely a winter citrus habit. It’s seasonal but not local. And chocolate. Year-round essentials. —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information, visit www.justfood.org