How do you experience the true essence of a city? Is it through the nightlife? The activities? The people? Well, though it’s a sum of all those parts, I can tell you that the best place to start is by experiencing the food that the city has to offer. The food experience transcends just taste and matters of the palate; the experience itself facilitates an enlightening exchange between you and the identity; social and economic dynamics; and communities of the city.
Long Beach, California (LBC) is the seventh largest city in California and according to a recent study, is ranked the 10th most diverse city in America. This diversity gives Long Beach a unique vibe unparalleled by its Los Angeles or Orange County neighbors. In particular, cultural influences have a significant impact on the burgeoning food scene.
To showcase the beauty of the cultural and culinary influences of the LBC food scene, the local organization Long Beach Fresh has developed the first-ever Foodways Summit in the city. From June 1 through the 7th attendees can purchase tickets to a series of food events hosted by locals ranging from neighborhood farms to hidden gardens, famous chefs to food equity. The events series consist of talks, tastes, and tours of good food practices and topics range from reducing food waste and chef culture to urban gardening.
The summit kicked off with the first event: an exploration of the plant-based food revolution in the Afrocentric community hosted at the lovely Organic Harvest Garden farm in North Long Beach, a true oasis in the city. Attendees enjoyed tastes from a plant-based buffet with offerings from a variety of local chefs.
The second event was a walking tour of Cambodiatown. Located at the heart of the city, this community is the largest Cambodian population outside of Cambodia and supports one of the most “vibrant local food systems in Southern California” according to Long Beach Fresh. The array of bustling markets, gardens and farms, community healing centers, and authentic cultural eateries are all run by local residents.
As a native of this city, the Foodways Summit exposed me to the hidden gems I never knew existed in my community: such as the local community gardens and diverse group of chefs that advocate on behalf of good food practices. The most illuminating piece was the education I received about cultural, social, food, and agriculture dynamics that exist within the borders of the city. There is one thing about Long Beach: if you come here with an open mind, you’ll leave here with a fuller heart.