This Crowdsourced Zine Is All About California Food Culture

Food writer Tamara Palmer launches "California Eating" through Kickstarter's Make/100 project.

Food writer Tamara Palmer has a habit of buying domain names. Last fall, she purchased — the idea that something so seemingly basic-sounding was available at this juncture in internet history caught her by surprise — and immediately began pondering what exactly to do with it. On a trip to Los Angeles, she reconnected with old friends and colleagues and began writing more L.A.-focused stuff.

“I’ve kind of developed this personal goal of wanting to write more about food in the whole state of California, because I don’t know too many people who try to do that on a regular basis,” Palmer tells SF Weekly. “It’s not easy to do.”

The idea solidified in January, just as Kickstarter rolled out its Make/100 project, which inspires creators to crowdsource funds for a passion project produced in a batch of 100. For Palmer, this meant a ’90s-style zine with the same name as her website. She’d worked with Kickstarter before, when a musician friend was scraping together a campaign to fund a compilation album, and developed a relationship with someone at the company who “ended up giving me a lot of time.”

“She was responsible for helping De La Soul raise half a million dollars or however much they raised,” Palmer says. “Everyone at Kickstarter is jazzed helping creators bring things to life.”

She opted for food over music but waited until the last second of Make 100’s month-long window to jump.

“Every day, for 29 days, I chickened out. And on the last day, with two hours before the deadline, I thought, ‘You’re an asshole if you don’t try.’ And it’s going really well: almost 500-percent funded.”

Supporters have until 9 p.m. PST on Friday, March 2 to contribute further to the California Eating zine — which will, likelier than not, generate a follow-up. In the meantime, Palmer has worked with Sean Vahey, a co-founder of Humphry Slocombe and a photographer, on a story involving pastry chef Lori Baker’s Simpsons-themed desserts at Bluestem Brasserie. She’s solicited a yet-to-be-determined recipe from Humphry Slocombe’s other co-founder, Jake Godby, and another from State Bird Provisions. [Disclosure: I made ice cream at Humphry Slocombe, way back when.]

“I’m calling it a recipe mix tape,” Palmer says. “It’s an interesting group of people and dishes. I burned out on everything, so I thought it was a time to experiment.”

As it happens, Palmer got her start in food writing in 2007 with SF Weekly. A Bay Area native who went to school in L.A., Palmer is especially eager to broaden her reach beyond the state’s two food-obsessed metro areas. She has a taco expedition to San Diego planned already, and hopes to explore and photograph the less-visited corners of the state. 

Having seen her fair share of opulent meals while covering her beat, Palmer is also paying 10 percent of the crowdfunded donations forward to various California food banks.

“These food banks have magical ways of making a dollar stretch,” she says. The L.A. Regional Food Bank takes $1 and provides four meals. In San Francisco, it’s two. Even $85 was 100 pounds of food to to the Imperial Valley Food Bank. Even if it’s not a lot, I want to drive home the point that a donation is really valuable.”

She’s also working with various artisansal food companies, such as the Republic of Tea, which gave her samples of single-serve apple-cider vinegar and green juice drinks. Palmer, who blogs heavily about celeb gossip and other pop-culture topics for, says she’s glad to be doing something different — but she’s not about to forfeit her bread-and-butter, either.

“This is the kind of stuff that the Kardashians are enabling me to try,” she says. “Thank God for the Kardashians.”

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