Coyote + Oak is a printed magazine, created by and showcasing California artists and entrepreneurs. After Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Wallace realized there were very few outlets for creative folks to share their stories and projects in a tangible, detailed form, the idea of her self-published magazine began. Her non-profit magazine features artists who are following their passions—whether they are creating a business, or simply finding moments in between family and work to make their creativity come to life. 

I'm honored to be featured in Volume III, enjoy!

Writing by Caleb Wiseblood
Photography by Tina Loveridge

When someone texts me: “Farmers?”, I automatically assume that person is inviting me to farmers’ market—specifically the one held every Thursday evening in downtown San Luis Obispo. But from now on my response to such texts will not be, “I’m down” or, “I can’t make it”. Instead I’ll reply with: “Which one? Tuesday afternoon? Saturday morning? Sunday morning?” And that’s only the tip of the iceberg! There isn’t a single day of the week that SLO County doesn’t host a farmers’ market. My text continues: “Monday in Los Osos?…Wednesday in Pismo?…Friday in Avila?!” Upon double checking page 8 of The San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market Cookbook, I realize I’ve excluded: Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Cambria, Cayucos, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Nipomo, Paso Robles, and Templeton.

The book itself isn’t divided according to location, rather it’s organized by season, starting with summer recipes. Coincidentally, this happens to be author Kendra Aronson’s favorite time of the year. “August and September are great because absolutely everything is in season, from stone fruit to winter squash,” Aronson told me at Linnaea’s Café, where we met and discussed the book over a pot of Earl Grey.  

As I’m typing this article weeks later, it is 90 degrees outside and hot tea is the last thing on my mind. Iced tea, on the other hand (specifically “Jerry’s Double Citrus Iced Mint Tea”) sounds great! Lucky for me, there is a recipe for it on page 29. But now I’m left wondering who this Jerry person is. In the bottom right corner it states: “Recipe contributed by Jerry Rutiz, Rutiz Family Farms (p. 180)”. I flip to the page and find the Jerry I’ve been looking for. I’m given a brief, but insightful glimpse into his life. A verbal snapshot of over 30 years of farming experience. Jerry is 1 out of the 40 mini biographies featured in The SLO Farmer’s Market Cookbook, hence the subtitle: Simple Seasonal Recipes & Short Stories from the Central Coast of California.

Aronson spent more than 2 years compiling these tales, getting to know as many farmers’ market vendors, farm-to-table chefs, and food artisans as possible. The cookbook features 60 recipes total and every person included contributed at least 1 recipe. Each seasonal section is broken down into 5 categories: Breakfast, Light Bites, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert. Aronson strongly recommends the Grilled Salmon with Broiled Apricot Jalapeño Preserves for lunch. Her favorite light bite recipe is the Garlicky Blackened Brussels Sprouts with Meyer Lemon Aioli. As for dessert, it’s a tie for her between White Peach & Olallieberry Crumble with Whipped Cream and the Pistachio Crust Honeyed Goat Cheese Cheesecake.

“I remember the first time I ever went to the downtown SLO farmers’ market. It was right before my first year at Cal Poly,” Aronson fondly recalled. “It was during WOW [Week of Welcome]. What I remember most distinctly were the strawberries—I was blown away.  I’d never tasted strawberries that good before!”  she said excitedly, as if it was happening all over again.

The same nostalgic enthusiasm manifested when Aronson described growing up in San Diego and her first job at age 12. She worked as a hostess at Tony’s Jacal, a family-owned and operated Mexican restaurant. Aronson got hired due to the fact that Tony is Tony Gonzales, her grandpa, who opened the Jacal in 1946. “I’m not sure what the labor laws were back then, but I was getting paid $5 an hour, under the table,” she said. “I would usually work 4-hour shifts, so my aunt would just give me a 20 from the cash register at the end of the night.” My right hand freezes. “Wait, how do you spell Jacal?” I naively ask her, before jotting down my best guess. “J-A-C-A-L, it’s Spanish for little shack,” she said politely.

Speaking of Spanish, Spanish is only 1 out of the 3 languages Aronson studied during college, along with French and Italian. She graduated from Poly in 2009, with a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literature. Then Aronson moved to San Francisco in 2010 for graduate school at SFSU. “That’s when I really got into the food scene and food blogging,” she revealed. “I did the Big Eat SF, it’s a list of 100 things you must eat in San Francisco that is compiled by the lifestyle magazine 7x7. I ate my way through the list and documented everything on my blog.” Aronson received her M.A. in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in 2012. She moved back to SLO in 2013 and got a teaching position at Verbling, an online language learning platform. It was April of that year that she began work on the cookbook.

Between then and now, Aronson’s life sounds like an elaborate balancing act. In 2014, she launched Kendra Aronson Creative Studio, which provides various services such as writing, photography, graphic design, and web design. Aronson became particularly immersed in designing websites for small businesses. Notable clients include Ember, SLO Provisions, and Noonan’s Wine Country Designs. In 2015, she founded The Central Coast Creatives Club, which meets monthly and is meant to facilitate collaborations between local creatives from every medium. Keep in mind—as all of this was going on—Aronson was simultaneously writing, photographing, designing, and self-publishing The SLO Farmer’s Market Cookbook. How does one juggle any of those things with a full-time teaching job? “What keeps me sane is scheduling, even free time. It’s important to schedule breaks for yourself. I literally calendar out everything: going to a coffee shop, reading, walking my dog,” she replied calmly. I’m nowhere near as organized—except when it comes to shopping lists. My latest one: water, sugar, orange juice, lemon juice, citrus, fresh mint, tea bags… and yes, those are the ingredients for Jerry’s Double Citrus Iced Mint Tea.

Originally published in-print in Coyote + Oak Volume III