When food is really good, people tend to say it "tastes just like homemade."
Soon, Californians might be able to (legally) buy home-cooked meals.
A new California law would allow preparation and sale of meals in private homes, according to a fact sheet handed out at a rally at the State Capitol building Friday morning.
A small, passionate group of cooks, food and small business advocates gathered to promote Assembly Bill 626, which would amend the state's Health and Safety Code to allow "microenterprise home kitchen operations."
The law would be especially beneficial to economically disadvantaged, minorities, women and single parents who can’t afford childcare, said the bill’s author, Eduardo Garcia.
It would simply provide more opportunities, he said.
"At the end of the day that’s really what this bill is about, is making sure that opportunities for everyone in California are before them to be able to take care of their family and ultimately achieve what we refer to as that California dream -- unique opportunities to be able to take care of themselves and their family and contribute to our local economies," he said.
Although some health officials have expressed reservations about the ability to protect people from foodborne illness, Peter Ruddock of California's Slow Food movement said those fears were unfounded. The bill has provisions for regulating private kitchen practices, and home cooks would be held to the same standards of food safety as other commercial cooks.
But the bill is about more than just economics -- it's about community, said Brandi Mack, one of the event's organizers.
"Know your neighbor," was a big part of her message
Home kitchens can bring people together, she said. And it can provide food to people in areas underserved by grocery stores and restaurants.
"So I also want us to think about, how can we support even rural communities that are disconnected from their food and their farmer?" she said. "So this bill will not just support individual farmers and foodies it's going to support the eaters, it's going to support the earthworms, it's going to support what we call local food..."
Several of those in attendance were cooks who hoped to be able to pursue their fashion outside traditional venues.
Akshay Prabhu of Davis, one of the event's organizers, is a lifelong cook who started out by throwing a pop-up dinner.
"It turned out to be a really big hit and people really loved the food," he said. He and some other Davis cooks formed a cooking community, and word spread.
"We had over 15 cooks in Davis serving all kinds of delicious food," he said. "In March this year we got shut down by the health inspectors you know, not for causing any sickness. It was just a preemptive strike on our operation."
He said AB 626 would "bring a lot of economic prosperity and community development."
Gesche's Gourmet was on hand to cater the event, drawing an appreciate lunchtime crowd.
The bill would be a substantial boon for Gesche Langen, who rents kitchen facilities to prepare her catering spreads.
Langen started out cooking as a teen in her aunt's restaurant. She went into catering after she found that the cost of childcare ate up most of a paycheck when she worked outside the home.
"This will really enable to do what they're really good at doing and they'll also be able to do it safely -- so it's a win-win for everybody," she said.
It wasn't just about the money, though, Langen said. Decreasing her bottom line would free her to take smaller, sometimes more satisfying jobs.
In 2016, Mariza Ruelas was facing possible jail time for selling ceviche from her kitchen on Facebook.
"They would always tell me you should open up your own restaurant," Ruelas said. "'I would buy from you all the time' so when I joined the group I decided to give it a try and it worked."
She didn't get jail time but agreed to 80 hours of community service for operating a food facility without a permit to sell.
Ruelas is working with people and an advocacy group called the Cook Alliance on AB 626. She says she has no regrets for selling her food in a Facebook group because she's hopeful change will happen."
"I'm glad it happened," Ruelas said. "Everybody they say if I had to do it over would I still be going it? I would and I'm glad this whole investigation happened."