I met Diane Mina last fall as she poured generous amounts of Bloody Marys at a 49er Tailgate party held at Levi Stadium. Let’s face it, when someone hands you a bloody Mary–the likes of which you have never tasted before–you’re going to have a spirited connection right from the start.
Diane Mina’s from-scratch, raw and magical tomato cocktail is intensely flavorful without any added sugars or salt.
I discovered that the fresh and unique combination of flavors my mouth was cheering about was hand crafted by this happily married, pretty, outgoing, smart, great wife and mom—yes, the kind we love to hate but love instantly anyway. Diane Mina, Bloody Mary enthusiast and founder of Bella Mina Gardens.
Then it struck me. Mina, as in Michael Mina, the two time Michelin Star award-winning chef, Mina? Yes, Diane Mina, wife of chef and restaurateur Michael Mina, or as she calls him “my cheffie” has scored a touchdown with her brand of a tasty tradition she and Michael began 25 years ago.
Mountain View College is making great inroads in the sustainability and slow foods movement in an area known for fast food joints. (Photo courtesy Mountain View College)
There was a time in 1980s San Francisco, when a reporter could let an apartment from a woman out in the Sunset District and be surprised that there was a garden out back, a patch of land sprouting carrots, lettuce, beets, and luscious tomatoes.
Today, gardens are everywhere seemingly, even as water shortages, zero lots and high-density housing curtail gardening plans. Communities are filling in the gaps, though, and shared gardens are blossoming.
Whether one talks to a university garden manager in Dallas, an urban gardener in New Haven, or a 79-year-old community garden coordinator in New Hampshire, one thing’s clear: the shared garden movement has grown beyond just ‘tree-huggers’ and into the community at large. Kitchen gardens preceded the modern supermarket, and now we’re turning back the clock to reap greater health benefits and social nourishment.
Several months ago the US Postal Service released a five-stamp series honoring trailblazing chefs; the beatified included James Beard, Julia Child, Joyce Chen, Edna Lewis, and Felipe Rojas-Lombardi. Alas, this comes too late in our history to provide what would have been a literally delicious irony—since stamps are now self-adhesive, we no longer need to lick them, and thus have lost the chance to taste the gustatory giants themselves (not to mention the critical appraisals that might have followed: “Edna Lewis leaves a sheen of mint on the tongue”).
What the new series does provide, however, is an opportunity to consider the phenomenon of celebrity chefs itself. As a signifier of national fame, the postal service is more the last lap than the initial nod; by the time your mug makes it to a stamp, you’ve already dyed yourself pretty deeply into the cultural fabric. So the fact that these five icons are now smiling out at us from the covers of our electric bills is a pretty clear indication that they’re already comfortably—and permanently—settled in our national pantheon.
Which raises the question: how do chefs, of all people, manage that? It’s an easy call when it comes to athletes, actors, musicians, and fashion designers; their work is accessible not only by multitudes, but pretty much in perpetuity. Miles Davis might play a club date in 1957 to 30 people, but you can still hear it today on Spotify. Similarly, your coffee mug may well have Andy Warhol’s Marilyn on it. Thanks to technology, the visual, literary, and performing arts aren’t bound by considerations of immediacy and impermanence.