Gentrified, over priced, & delicious!
As if San Francisco wasn't expensive enough, Mark "money bags" Zuckerberg goes and pays almost 10 million dollars for a house worth a little over 3 million, and instantly drives up the cost of living in San Francisco's Mission district even further. Gentrification has forced many native San Franciscans to look for "cheaper" digs across the bridge in the city of Oakland and the surrounding areas. "As of June 2014, the median rental price of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was $3,120. According to Zillow, a real estate website, that number spiked to $3,800 in San Francisco's mission district in August of 2015. Oakland is not far behind San Francisco, and is also succumbing to gentrification as millionaires get priced out of San Francisco by billionaires. With the über-wealthy, like Zuckerberg, paying more than 3 times the value of a property - it's safe to say that many native San Franciscans will end up displaced, homeless, or moving away from the SF Bay area because they can no longer afford to live in the city in which they were born and raised.
This phenomenon is not unique to the San Francisco Bay area. It's happening all over the United States and the entire world. It's happening in Berlin; it's happening in Venice, California; in fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find an area of the world where gentrification isn't taking place. What does this mean in terms of food? It means bodegas and 99-cent stores are out and gourmet coffee shops serving up expensive soy lattes, cafe's serving organic free-range everything (with sauces whose names we can't pronounce), and chain restaurants are in. It means the vibrant Latino community in San Francisco's Mission district is vanishing, and along with it, a food culture that is as American as apple pie. It means $2 taco Tuesday's are out and truffle French fries and degustation menus are in. I live for taco Tuesday's. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a Michelin starred meal (I could have died a happy woman the first time I ate at a Michelin starred restaurant - thanks Mike), but for the average person that's like planning a holiday in a foreign country: there's a lot of saving & sacrifice involved; little Penelope might have to give up piano lessons and Timothy can forget going to sleep-away camp this year. And to be quite honest, some of the best freaking food I've had has been in some little hole-in-the-wall with a mama somewhere in the back of a kitchen cooking recipes handed down from generation to generation.
At German Juice, we believe that everyone has the right to good food, great service, and of course - German beer. But the more I travel, the more I'm beginning to realize that just like good places to live, good food is steadily becoming a thing only the rich can afford. On gloomy and cold winter day like today, I reminisce about my past trips to San Francisco and what I love so much about the city: the people & the food.
The first time I visited San Francisco, I was 19. My mom bought my then-boyfriend and I two airline tickets from Los Angeles to San Franciso & paid for a 3 night hotel stay. Our hotel was located on Market st. within walking distance of San Francisco's artsy Haight-Ashbury district. Since we didn't have a car with us, we walked everywhere or took public transportation. On our first night, while standing at a bus stop near our hotel, these kids pulled over in an SUV and asked us what we were up to. We said nothing much, just exploring the city & then they told us they were going to a party in Petaluma and asked if we'd like to join them. Petaluma is about 80 km from San Francisco. We got in their car and they drove us to the party. We stayed out all night and partied with them and then they drove us back to our hotel and the next morning we had some of the best and most disgusting dim sum dishes I've ever had. This is my San Francisco. This mix of people, cultures, and openness.
The ability for you to be almost anywhere in the city and have homeless people around, artist districts, Chinatown, wealthy neighborhoods, and two perfect strangers invite you to a party because you had a random chat and hit it off is priceless. Society was right there in front of your eyes for you to take it in; all of it! Something about that allows people to see each other and interact with each other as human beings. This is what gentrification often deprives us of; the opportunity to encounter, engage with and interact with people that you normally might not have the opportunity to meet because of your social class, ethnic background, sexual orientation, or skin color. It deprives us of learning how to co-exist and creates an even larger divide, further separating us into two distinct groups of people: the haves & the have nots - as if the number of zeros behind that digit in your bank account has anything to do with your character or whether or not you deserve a life of dignity and a right to share the resources which simply exist and shouldn't be the exclusive property of one group.
San Francisco was a welcome contrast to my parents neighborhood in the South Bay, which is largely homogenous and homeless people are picked up by the police and driven to the ghettos of downtown Los Angeles. We've become so accustomed to shoving things in closets. We reinforce the barriers that separate us and convert fiction into pseudo-facts by pretending that "if you don't see it, it doesn't exist." When San Franciso's Mission district becomes entirely WASP and the working class, poor, and colored people are pushed out, they are being deprived the benefit of sharing in the success and beauty of a city built on their very own backs. Furthermore, the new inhabitants of previously diverse neighborhoods are being deprived of the food, culture, art, exchange of ideas and perspectives that a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse community has to offer.
While my last trip to San Francisco, is a far cry from my first, I still ate some good food and shared some great moments with perfect strangers. One of those strangers was Jack, a San Francisco native. I met him in the Ferry building while I was taking photos of all the different shops. I stopped at a wine shop and he came up to me and asked me what I was doing and wanted some help with the settings on his camera. I helped him with his camera, we walked through the Ferry Building together while I had some tea, and he gave me a list of his favorite restaurants and food related places that I should visit. He also invited me to his weekly camera club which was taking place that evening. I would have loved to go but I had to drive back to Los Angeles and I wanted to head out before sunset. For a moment, it felt like the old San Francisco that I loved so much. After chatting with Jack, I went down to Fisherman's wharf and had a cup of New England clam chowder, a 2.5lbs Dungeness crab, and a nice cold Bitburger (don't judge me. German beer isn't easy to come by, especially when you're buying from a street vendor or seaside food stand). And as I sat at a table on the sidewalk overlooking the cars driving by while taking in the salty air and carefully dissecting and savouring every morsel of that sweet delicate crab meat - I couldn't help but remember that my $50 roadside meal probably cost me half that amount nearly a decade ago. Fisherman's Wharf is a bit of a tourist trap, but I wanted to relive old times and it still represents the mix of cultures that is San Francisco. And I don't care where it is, if the seafood is fresh, I'm in. I'm so in!
Tips for eating at Fisherman's Wharf
1. Eat at one of the Sidewalk stands.
2. A cup of New England clam chowder is a must.
3.You have to try lobster or crab with drawn butter. In November, the California Department of Public Health advised that people abstain from eating any Dungeness or rock crab caught in Caught in California until further notice. The toxicity levels in Dungeness and rock crab were reported to be above what is considered safe for human consumption. Due to a change in water temperatures, Pseudo-nitzschia, has flourished in the waters off California's coast. Pseudo-nitzschia is a toxic form of algae which produces Domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can cause nausea, dizziness, short term memory loss, siezures, and can be fatal; all of which depend on the levels present within the body.
What we eat is more than what we put in our mouths: it's the people who make it, the experiences we have, the stories, the neighborhoods, the taste, the memories, and so much more. I hope one day we will have as much respect for the people who build the cites as we do for the people who buy them. I hope we can create communities like Michael Moore describes in his memoir, Here Comes Trouble; Communities where a milk man and a doctor can afford a home in the same neighborhood. Everyone deserves dignity and a fair share of natural resources like land and food, which simply exist and shouldn't be accessible to only the extremely wealthy.
I hope the future doesn't see us standing on the sidelines, watching, as people get tossed out to make room for the bigger, greedier, richer. After all, our existence depends on people from all walks of life. If you don't have garbage men, we'll be buried in our own filth and without out technological advances, we'd all still be in the dark ages. In a world of many, how much does one person really need? Can't we all just get along? Let us know how gentrification has affected you in the comment section.
If you're interested in reading a bit more about the topics discussed in this article, click the links in the body of this post to read the sources. Check back next week for part two and the recipe for our Southwestern black bean soup - made with some delicious black beans I bought at the Ferry Building. Eat well and drink your German juice.
All photos were taken by Lexie.