This concept is not limited to the soil. In trying to describe what made his West Marin oysters so special, Kevin Lunny grasped at a number of adjectives before settling on the term AGUOIR. He coined the word by combining the principle of terroir with agua. Never mind that his term to describe a distinctly Californian estero steeped in aquaculture traditions was comprised of two incongruous words—one French and the other Spanish—bolted together; for Lunny, the estero’s aguoir is unique to America’s West Coast, being the only inlet totally protected from pollution by urban storm sewers and farmland runoff.
I remember that oyster farm from my own childhood. Years ago it was run by the Johnson family, who often served oysters the local way, set atop a barbecue grill, steaming until they popped open on their own, a tradition updated in recent years to include a dab of Tapatío sauce.Oysters have long been a fixture of West Marin life. Most weekdays, when the tourists aren’t around, locals still gather a few miles up the road from Point Reyes Station at the Marshall Store for a dozen Kumamotos and a beer.
Europe has long-held traditions that bind food to geographic regions. Champagne comes from Champagne; Armagnac from Armagnac. In addition to wine, cheeses and some types of meat are specifically defined by the regions—or appellations—where they are produced. Italy’s Reggio Emilia region provides us with both prosciutto di Parma (a Parma ham) and Parmigiano Reggiano (a Parma cheese). Both are geographically protected foodstuffs, and their product names are protected from misuse and imitation by international courts of law.
In the United States these ideas are less formal. A stamp may certify that Vidalia onions come from an area in Georgia, but such geographic identifiers are largely reserved for marketing-speak. We have Idaho potatoes, Washington apples, California cheese, Florida oranges, and corn from, well, everywhere. Still, where food comes from matters.