What California Eats, So Does the Nation

A lot of great ideas start in California and spread east. Maybe it’s that Pacific breeze pushing innovation across the country, and to Europe and beyond. From semiconductors to cannabis weddings to emissions standards, the Golden State is often the birthplace of the next big thing. But as Chris O’Brien writes in the current issue of Alta, there’s at least one California concept that hasn’t been so well received.

The state’s foie gras ban, confirmed when the United States Supreme Court refused to hear a case contesting it in January, forbids California restaurants from serving the fatty goose livers. Animal advocates claim that the force-feeding required to create foie gras is inhumane. Die-hard fans of the delicacy maintain that it’s as harmless as any other animal product. Former Bay Area resident O’Brien, writing from his current home in Toulouse, near the heart of France’s foie gras country, details the process for making foie gras, explains its significance to French culture, and talks to farmers who insist that their work is misunderstood. Read O’Brien’s piece here

Will you miss ordering foie gras in California restaurants? We want to hear what you think. Email to tell us which side of the foie fence you fall on—and why.

California’s outlawing of foie gras isn’t the only food movement making waves: Alta contributor Michael Bauer appeared on our podcast to discuss sustainability trends and $70 chicken, Gustavo Arellano took to our site to boldly announce his ambivalence toward In-N-Out Burger, and our Winter 2018 cover story heralded Los Angeles as the state’s culinary capital (ruffling some San Francisco feathers in the process).

California’s organic farming community is so storied, there’s concern that its farmers are getting too old to tend the land, and a new generation of real estate–strapped cultivators are learning how to grow produce (wait for it) vertically. The Golden State is even producing some of the world’s finest coffee beans—and one of the world’s most expensive cups of coffee.

Great culinary concepts and creators to emerge from California include Korean tacos, Alice Waters’s entire oeuvre, fortune cookies, martinis, the Mission burrito, Julia Child, It’s-Its, green goddess salad dressing, Irish coffee, farm-to-table dining, the Cobb salad, hot fudge sundaes, decent U.S. domestic wine, smoked-salmon pizza, the Impossible burger, and so much more. After all, what California eats prompts order envy in the rest of the country. While no other state has yet to take up the foie gras ban, if history is any indication, it’s only a matter of time.

                                —Beth Spotswood
We’ve begun experimenting with the style of Alta’s weekly newsletter by adding commentary on recent news (see above). We’d love to know what you think. Please send us your feedback by emailing Alta’s editors directly at
An Author’s Broken Heart
Wolf House represented Jack London’s ambition and success, but the Sonoma County mansion burned to the ground before the author could move in. It was an emotional loss London never recovered from—he died three years later at age 40. In the latest issue of Alta (and in a panel discussion on May 19), writer Joy Lanzendorfer examines the first and last lives of one of the world’s most treasured authors. READ MORE
Alta at the L.A. Times Festival of Books
Thank you to the Southern California literature fans who turned out for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books—especially those of you who visited the Alta booth, toasted Alta’s latest issue at our cocktail party, and attended the “Future of Print Journalism” panel with Alta publisher Will Hearst. We <3 L.A.! 
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Altatude: This Week’s Cartoon
“It was in that moment that Kevin realized…print truly was dead.”

Like to laugh? Visit the Alta site for more Altatude cartoons. SEE MORE
Our recommendations for this week’s best writing about California and the West.
Lost at Sea: Poverty and Paradise at the Edge of America — Harper’s Magazine

• The Life and Death of Aida Hernandez — Longreads

• It’s Tennis, Charlie Brown — Racquet

• What a Major Earthquake Would Do to San Francisco — San Francisco Chronicle

Which of L.A.’s Members-Only Clubs Is Right for You? — Los Angeles
Support Alta and our event partners at these upcoming events:
Sunday, April 21: Join SFFILM Festival 2019 for its Closing Night screening of Official SecretsGavin Hood’s rousing and riveting new film tells the true story of whistle-blower Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley), a British woman working for the U.K.’s intelligence service monitoring foreign correspondence. Morally distressed by a confidential staff email about coercing small countries to vote for a United Nations Iraq War resolution, she leaks the email to the British press and, after her identity is revealed, is charged with treason. With a powerhouse supporting cast, including Matt Smith (The Crown), Matthew Goode, and Ralph Fiennes, Official Secrets joins films like Vice (2018) and the miniseries The Looming Tower (2018) to present the now undeniable case that the run-up to the Iraq War involved a disgraceful web of deception, coercion, and lies. Details: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco, 8 p.m., $25.
Monday, April 22: Join the Mechanics’ Institute and the Tuolumne River Trust for a screening of the documentary The Unruly MysticThe film explores the connection between nature and spirituality, using the life and wisdom of John Muir, an ecological preservationist and the guiding force behind the movement to establish Yosemite National Park. Muir played many roles in his life: mystic, prophet, author, poet, conservationist, and radical—all of which helped him succeed as an advocate for nature. Director Michael M. Conti will be in attendance for a short Q&A after the film and will be joined by producer Heather Boyle. Details: Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post St., San Francisco, 6:30 p.m., $12.
Tuesday, April 23: Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine and renowned public speaker, will discuss his groundbreaking book, Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. Based on several years of research, personal experience, and interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, and countless people at different stages of their careers, Late Bloomers reveals how and when we achieve our full potential—and why today’s focus on early success is so misguided and even harmful. Details: Books Inc., 1875 S. Bascom Ave., Ste. 600, Campbell, 7 p.m., free.
Tuesday, April 23: A group of Book Soup employees have decided to host an evening of poetry readings and discussion. Featuring work by both booksellers and emerging local poets (and wine!), this event offers a fun new way for some of Los Angeles’s most promising up-and-coming poets to share their work. Details: Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 7 p.m., free.
Sunday, May 19: He was the most popular author of his day, but there’s still a lot you don’t know about Jack London. An activist, a two-time candidate for mayor of Oakland, an alcoholic, a rancher—London was a literary icon and a complicated character. Join Alta as writer Joy Lanzendorfer and Jack London scholar Iris Jamahl Dunkle dig deeper into the story of one of the Bay Area’s most legendary authors. Details: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 1 p.m., free.
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