It was 12 years ago that a friend brought Gibson Thomas over the bridge for a run in Tennessee Valley and lunch at the Sunnyside Café. It was love at first sight, although almost six more years passed before Gibson actually moved to Mill Valley from San Francisco (via Sausalito). Three years ago, Gibson gave up her law career to devote herself fully to her passion for food and become the publisher of Edible Marin and Wine Country magazine. She is now a fully entrenched Mill Valleyan, walking her son Stone to school at , hiking up the Dipsea Stairs and meeting friends at for coffee. A southerner by birth, Gibson is originally from Pensacola, Florida and attended college and law school in Tennessee.
Mill Valley Patch: What drew you to Mill Valley?
Gibson Thomas: I fell in love with this town immediately. I used to drive over the bridge from San Francisco to go to the (here). It always felt so magical. I loved the village feel of it and loved it even before I knew people here. As much as I loved Sausalito, it was really when Stone got to be school age that I knew we wanted to be here. I just adore it.
MVP: What is your neighborhood?
GT: Middle Ridge - we live on Summit Ave. We have a piece of paper the realtor gave us that showed where the land was sold in 1896 for a $10.00 gold piece. I love it here. It’s very private up here, but we have a path down the hill in the front yard that lets out right onto Lower Alcatraz near the old Smith and Hawken.
MVP: What's your neighborhood like?
GT: The Magee neighborhood group is very active. Every year they organize a big Thanksgiving walk out to the Big Rock, so we do that. And there’s a holiday sing along. I had no idea who lived up here but having Stone at Old Mill has been wonderful. His two or three best friends are right here. Plus, I’m such a walker and to be able to walk downtown is really important to me.
MVP: How long have you been involved in the Slow Food Movement?
GT: Oh, for about 10 years. I started when I lived in Sausalito and I read an article about it. I joined and told them I’d be happy to help with events. I was the leader for Marin County but I was still practicing law. It wasn’t until I started the magazine about three years ago (the first issue was June 2008) that I gave up law.
MVP: And how did you decide to start the magazine?
GT: Well food was such my passion, and through Slow Food and organizing events that showcased the local cheese makers, ranchers, and farmers I kept thinking that I’d love to turn it into a vocation. Then I saw the first edible magazine when I was visiting a friend in The Hamptons, Edible East End.
MVP: I can’t believe they had one in The Hamptons before they had one in Marin. That bugs me.
GT: Yeah, I think The Hamptons was the first. The Hamptons and then Brooklyn and then Manhattan. When I went to the Slow Food Nation about three years ago, I saw that many of the Slow Food leaders were publishing the magazine. At first I thought it would just be Marin but the more I thought about it the more it made sense to do all three counties. Marin, Sonoma and Napa are completely interrelated. Marin has so many producers and is so food centric and Napa is so wine centric.
MVP: And they’re so close geographically, don’t they use the same resources?
GT: Yes, there’s so much on the border – all these cheese makers and ranchers and then going all the way to the coast you’ve got the shellfish growers. Marin has the consumer base that Sonoma doesn’t, and Marin is so close to San Francisco. We all really need each other. There was recently a very interesting San Francisco Foodshed report that asked the question, “Could San Francisco feed itself within a 100 mile radius if there was a disaster?” The answer was “yes,” and much of that is because of Marin.
We’re one long food and wine corridor. Those people flying into San Francisco and heading to the wine country, now they’re stopping at Tyler Florence’s shop on the way. Mill Valley has become a destination.
MVP: Is the point of the magazine to promote all the local farmers, ranchers and artisans?
GT: Yes, and it’s all food. Slow Food was great because I would organize events and that would bring consumers and producers together. The magazine is similar in that way, and also gives you something tangible. It’s got recipes and photographs and the names of all of the places and resources so people can refer back to it and remember. I have a website with a digital version and an app for the iPad with links to websites for advertisers and the people that we feature.
MVP: We are so lucky to live in a wealthy area with access to all of these wonderful local foods and suppliers. Can those people who don’t have a lot of disposable income afford the organic, local lifestyle?
GT: Yes, it is more expensive to eat organic and to eat locally grown. But the people you see at the farmers market or Whole Foods have made a choice. It’s not just the wealthy people. It’s people who have certain values and have made a lifestyle choice.
The U.S. is actually far below Europe in terms of the amount of a family’s budget spent on food. In this country we’ve become so used to cheap food and food shouldn’t be cheap. And of course there all the health consequences that go along with cheap, processed food.
MVP: I recently read that fast food is not actually cheaper. For under $20 you can buy a chicken, potatoes and vegetables to roast for a family meal.
GT: Growing up in the South, we had such a high priority on food and meals eaten together as a family. One of my favorite quotes is from MFK Fisher. “There’s more than a communion of our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk.”
MVP: Where do you shop?
GT: I always go to the farmers market first. I love the community feel and you can really get almost everything there. It’s nice to have and Whole Foods. I think the Canepas have done an amazing job and it’s wonderful that they have their own farm.
MVP: Do you ever go to In & Out Burger or any of those places?
GT: No. But I’m sure if I went I would like it.
MVP: And you cook a lot.
GT: Yes, but I end up going out to eat a lot. There are so many great restaurants around here.
MVP: How does publishing a magazine compare with practicing law?
GT: Well, I did not have any idea if any of my legal training and experience would translate into publishing and editing a magazine, but they do. Practicing law trained me to be a good writer and that also makes me a good editor. Edible Marin & Wine Country is a mission-driven publication, the mission being to tell the stories of the amazing local farmers, ranchers, cheese makers, fisher folk, chefs and other food artisans in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties. I think that bringing those stories to our readers not only helps those producers, but also the many people in our area who care about what they and their families eat. The gift of serving that mission gives back to me much more than any legal work I ever did. I am so grateful every day that I get to do this magazine. Those people are my heroes and I get to be their champion
MVP: When you’re not doing food-related things, what else do you like to do?
GT: Yoga. I don’t know what I’d do without yoga. I run, I do the Dipsea stairs. I do a lot at Old Mill School as Stone is in third grade. A group of us every morning drop the kids off at school and walk down to Peet’s with the dogs. I try to hold out every year until Dec. 1 for my first Egg Nog Latte at Peet’s. I didn’t make it this year.