By Shelly G. Keller
When “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” is published next March, it will celebrate one of California’s earliest and most renowned markets and the food produced by the state’s small farms.
Written by Georgeanne Brennan of Winters, an award-winning cookbook author, and Ann Evans of Davis, a food activist and former Davis mayor, the book provides a new voice that sings the praises of the Davis Farmers Market and the local food it showcases every week, year-round.
Brennan said she and Evans had the idea to write the cookbook about three years ago.
“It was one of those projects that was simmering on a back burner,” she said. “Ann and I saw all these farmers market cookbooks coming out. Ann was a co-founder of Davis Farmers Market, and I sold seeds to many of the market’s pioneer farmers, as well as selling there myself.
“Of all the farmers markets out there, Davis Farmers Market deserves to have a really good cookbook.”
Brennan has written more than 30 books, winning a James Beard Award for “The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence,” and a Julia Child Award for “Apertif.”
Evans said the cookbook is the the story of a pioneering market and the local food movement that has swept the nation.
“As a former mayor, I understand how the market provides a lot of identity on how Davis feels about itself in terms of being a healthy community,” she said. “This market was the first to be named ‘America’s Favorite Farmers Market’ by American Farmland Trust in 2009. It was crying out for its own cookbook.”
Brennan and Evans began writing together in 2003, when they authored a cover story for San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, “Yolo County: The Next Napa?” The article looked at how a quiet farming county became a gastronomical powerhouse. Their article persuasively declares, “Living in Yolo is like living in Provence without the three-hour lunches.”
Since then, the pair have co-authored articles for the Chronicle, Edible Sacramento and The Sacramento Bee, as well as their monthly column, “From the Ground Up,” for regional newspapers, including The Davis Enterprise.
Evans said she and Brennan are organizing the book to give people a simple, easy way to cook throughout the seasons.
“We have 10 basic recipes at the beginning of the book that can be adapted as cooks see tasty things in the market — from savory to sweet — followed by four chapters, one for each season, each with about 20 recipes,” Evans explained. “Each season’s recipes will take you through the meal from start to finish.”
Brennan noted that “The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook” will be different from other farmers market cookbooks in several ways.
“Ann and I have been involved in the Davis Farmers Market for more than 30 years. That gives us a historical perspective. The book is also different in the kinds of recipes we include — recipes that are both simple and accessible but that also reflect contemporary trends and interests, such as curing your own pancetta.
“The diversity of products at our market means you can shop and get everything you need to put together a fabulous meal. These recipes will reflect that.”
The two women bring a depth of knowledge about California’s food culture that few writers possess. Both are authors and trailblazers in California’s food revolution. Brennan’s books have sold more than 200,000 copies and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She is a cooking school owner, teacher and food consultant.
In the 1980s, she co-founded Le Marche Seeds, an innovative mail-order seed company that was one of the first to supply pioneer organic farmers locally and nationwide, with imported European and Asian heirloom varieties. Local farms included Full Belly, Good Humus and Earthbound.
Evans is co-founder of the Davis Farmers Market and the Davis Food Co-op. She graduated from UC, Davis and spent 30 years working for the state of California, developing regulations for certified farmers markets, developing food co-ops statewide and publishing three books on the topic. The two women co-founded Slow Food Yolo together, and are partners in Evans & Brennan, a food consulting firm.
Evans explained that their cookbook will help cooks go deeper with their cooking skills.
“We have recipes at every level from beginner to advanced,” she said. “The book will help them bring the California food landscape right into their kitchens, whether it’s a home or professional kitchen. They’re going to feel the joy of working with farm-fresh, local food and what it means to shop the market and cook food to share.
“Our cookbook will deepen their relationship with food by inspiring them.”
Ultimately, the authors’ goal is to create a cookbook that helps home cooks reconnect with the land. Evans explained, “Working with farm-fresh food lets everyone engage their inner artist, chef and true pioneer self to find their expression.
“This cookbook may need a warning: Once you start cooking from ‘The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook,’ who knows where it will lead? Maybe to a lifelong passion.”
The cookbook will include more than 80 recipes written by Brennan and Evans, plus more than 50 full-color photos by photojournalist Craig Lee. It will go on sale March 1 for $24.95 and will be available for purchase at the Davis Farmers Market as well as in local bookstores.
— Shelly Keller is marketing and events manager for the Davis Farmers Market. Reach her at [email protected]