by Jeff Niesel
To put the documentary Food Fight into proper perspective, the Cleveland Museum of Art (11150 East Blvd., 216.421.7350. clemusart.org) has enlisted local food writer Michael Ruhlman (pictured) to introduce the movie. The Clevelander has written several books about food and helped Lola chef Michael Symon pen a cookbook. He's also a friend of travel writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain and guested on Bourdain's No Reservations when the show stopped in Cleveland.
"I plan to talk about the food issues we're facing today," says Ruhlman, who admitted he'd been traveling and wasn't sure exactly what he's say about the film. "Food Fight is a good movie. It's the kind of thing that if you are really deep into the food scene now, it won't offer any new information. I mean, we know a lot of this stuff already. But if you're sort of curious or just getting into it, it's a great primer for what's going on in the food world. That's why I like it and support it. It's a good documentary, and I'm glad they're showing it here."
Directed by Chris Taylor, the film begins with a look at how the "industrial food system" has failed us. The filmmakers maintain that World War II created the need for new forms of processed food (namley, the "TV dinner") that have now exceeded the government's ability to manage food production. The radical politics of the '60s, however, brought about a change, at least in some locales.
A local, sustainable, organic food movement began in Berkeley, specifically at Alice Waters' restaurant Chez Panisse, which introduced local ingredients into its menu. Originally, Waters was looking for taste. That quest, however, led her to locally produced organic vegetables and meats. Initially California-centric, the film then shifts to restaurants in Washington D.C. and New York that have also introduced healthy items onto their menus. While Cleveland isn't mentioned in the film, it certainly could have been, since our city has become a culinary destination with new local, sustainable, organic restaurants.
"What's happening here is happening in a lot of places, as chefs are able to move back to their hometowns and open restaurants that serve good, local food," says Ruhlman. "We have a ton that do it. The Greenhouse Tavern just opened. There's Fire Food and Drink and, of course, Lola. Those folks who are really into these issues are coming back to cities across the country. They're not stuck in New York anymore."
The film screens at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, at the CMA's Lecture Hall. Tickets are $8.