The second annual Eat Real Festival, a three-day showcase of the best of the Bay Area’s street food carts, local growers, artisan beer and wine purveyors, cheese makers, urban homesteaders, and other local food crafters kicks off tomorrow at Jack London Square in downtown Oakland.

The event that promises to “Put the Food Back in Fast,” is the brainchild of Anya Fernald, the executive director of Slow Food Nation, a 2008 gathering of gourmands held in San Francisco, which featured artisan foods from across the U.S. that some food folks felt was a tad elitist.

That won’t be the case at Eat Real, which is free to attend, as no food item sells for more than 5 bucks. Eating delicious local cheap eats is the draw — for a taste of what’s in store read my post from last year — but there are also cooking demos, where you can bone up on your butchery skills, get the skinny on noodle pulling, or learn how to pickle produce. You’ll find a farmers’ market, music, and canning, brewing, and fermenting competitions too.

Last year I even learned about an aquaponic urban garden system called Kijiji Grows, which combines aquaculture (growing fish) with hydroponics (growing vegetables without soil) run by Eric Maundu and the Guerilla Cafe’s Keba Konte.

Check out what event organizer Susan Coss has to say about what’s in the mix this year in an interview with Edible East Bay. Last year’s event drew some 70,000 people who feasted from more than 50 food trucks. This year’s event is expected to be even bigger. (So, if you plan on attending, read this handy post full of tips on how to best navigate the crowds while you go in search of tasty morsels.)

For a peek at some of the mobile food trucks in the area, take a look at a couple of previous Lettuce Eat Kale posts on the San Francisco street food scene and another on some of the newer mobile food cart offerings in the East Bay. (Tomorrow’s Berkeley Bites profile is on some folks new to food carts who will be selling their sandwiches from their baby blue truck at Eat Real.)

But wait, there’s more than just delicious street eats this year. There’s also an Eat Real Lit Fest, what San Francisco Magazine dubbed Litquake’s Savory Spawn.

Panelists include several writers with ties to Berkeley. In the line up are food makers and growers who write about what they do, such as urban farmer Novella Carpenter, food bloggers like Derrick Schneider from An Obsession with Food, and book authors including Daphne Miller, who traveled the globe gathering authentic stories and recipes from indigenous people that may well help preserve health and prevent many diseases of a Western lifestyle, which she chronicled in The Jungle Effect.

The lit fest is divided into three themed events, all of which take place on the second floor of the Jack London Square Market Building (55 Harrison St., Oakland.) Friday night from 7 until 9 local writers will talk about street food both here and abroad. On Saturday from 4 to 7  wordsmiths discuss making, growing, and finding food, and the environmental and food justice implications of same. And Sunday from 3 to 5 there’s a Porchlight Storytelling Slam emceed by Beth Lisick, also a Berkeley resident. The event invites anyone with a good five-minute food story to share it with the crowd (sans notes). The jury is out on whether Lisick will show up dressed in a banana costume but there’s likely to be a few Porchlight regulars in the mix to keep things entertaining.

This simultaneous event for scribes was cooked up by Farmer Jane author Temra Costa, who rallied a group of local writers to plan the panels. (Full disclosure: I was one of these people, but in truth all I did was give these gals a handful of names of people to invite, some of whom will attend the event.) Kudos to Cathy Curtis, Twilight Greenaway, Cheryl Koehler, Jennifer Maiser, and Brie Mazurek for getting this food writers’ forum launched.

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, I’ll need you all to be my eyes, ears, and taste buds on the ground. As I type, I’m in Seattle for the International Food Blogger Conference, so I’ll miss the festivities back home. (Yes, I wish these two events weren’t on the same weekend, an embarrassment of food writing riches.)

But if I was home I’d be heading down to Eat Real for some food for thought as well as good, cheap chow. Let me know if you go.

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