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Grow, Cook, Savor explores Sacramento’s smorgasbord

Sacramento doesn’t have a signature dish. 

Cioppino? Try San Francisco. Cheese steak? Fly to Philadelphia. Barbecue? Go fight over your preferred section of the South.

“We don’t have a regional dish that says, ‘Sacramento,’” said Elaine Corn, the Sacramento cookbook author, teacher and food journalist who unsuccessfully set out to find Sacramento’s signature dish when she was food editor at the Sacramento Bee in the mid-1980s.

Thirty years later, Corn’s given up the search. She found the truth: The fact that Sacramento lacks a signature dish doesn’t amount to a hill of beans from Boston.

“We have the ingredients,” Corn said. “We are a hub that feeds the world. We have the goods.”

That’s the philosophy behind Sacramento staking its claim as the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America, and it’s what inspired Corn and local writer and historian Maryellen Burns to create Grow, Cook, Savor, a daylong event at the downtown public library on Saturday that surveys and samples the history and the modern thriving culture of the Sacramento region’s agricultural and culinary diversity.

Corn calls it a food midway.

“This isn’t a fund-raiser,” said Corn, who reports on local food for Capital Public Radio. “This is educational outreach made fun.”

Hosted by Sacramento wine expert and radio personality Rick Kushman, Grow, Cook, Savor will feature cooking demonstrations by home-grown chefs such as Kurt Spataro and Corn’s husband, David SooHoo; moderated wine and craft beer tastings; and panel discussions with culinary professionals and food historians such as Sacramento specialty grocer Darrell Corti and University of the Pacific professor and author Ken Alaba.

Attendees will also have the chance to record their own food stories at the event’s Story Station. These audio recordings will be archived on DiscoverWhereWeEat.com, along with other stories from people Corn and others have recorded over the past year.

“Food is the one thing that connects us,” Corn said. “Food tells Sacramento’s story. Our food and our stories help us share our sense of place.”

More than 50 local historical societies are involved, and recipes gathered by these groups have been compiled – most from the late 1800s through the mid 1950s — and will be available for purchase and on-demand printing in book form through the library’s I Street Press community publishing center.

Grow, Cook, Savor and DiscoverWhereWeEat.com, are funded by a grant from Cal Humanities and are sponsored by the Sacramento Public Library and Capital Public Radio. The event takes place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday in the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria at the Central Library, 828 I St. Admission is $25. 

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