10 Things I'll Miss About Seattle, No. 10: The Free Food

?Last in a farewell list of foods, people, and things about the Seattle food scene I'll miss most when I move to San Francisco next week.

No, not the meals I expense every week. The gorgeous food that friends and loved ones have given me, plucked from their gardens and the landscape around us. This year, for example, I've cooked the following gifts: apples, red plums, Italian plums (two different batches), wild elk meat, dried morels, mustard greens, fresh porcinis, kiwiberries, herbs aplenty, innumerable varieties of heirloom tomatoes, quinces, and onions. A homebrewing friend passed me a bottle of one of the most complex cask-conditioned ales I've ever tasted. Last week I made a great kir with the blackberry liqueur another friend concocted.

San Francisco may be one of the country's best restaurant cities, but Seattle's broader food scene is unparalleled. Our network of neighborhood farmers markets is one of the best in the nation, and Seattle was the first city where "locally grown" signs became common in produce sections. Few people live more than a half-mile away from a supermarket stocked with organic vegetables. We're seeing a surge in butchers and mobile slaughter units helping small farmers bring humanely raised, local meat to market. Despite a restrictive state liquor control board, some of the country's best wine and beer is made within 150 miles of home.

What's has struck me the most is how Seattleites' love of food emerges directly out of our love for the land. A city of hikers, fishers, hunters, and gardeners feels that connection viscerally. Despite being as confirmed a city-dweller as they come, since moving here I've gotten to dig into the wintery sands, chasing after speedy razor clams, and dyed my fingertips purple picking blackberries in Magnuson Park. Come next September, my sister is going to need help stripping the plum tree in the vacant lot behind her house, as we've done for the past three years -- as good an excuse as any for a visit.

In Seattle, free food is everywhere. And I'm grateful so many of us know it.

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