Planets made of food floating in outer space.
MacGregor Campbell, AI Illustration/MacGregor Campbell / OPB


Superabundant dispatch: Our favorite food stories of 2022

By Heather Arndt Anderson (OPB)
Dec. 30, 2022 2 p.m.

The year in Northwest food (and blackberry BBQ meatballs)

Editor’s note: OPB’s video series “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest. Now we’re taking the same guiding principles to a new platform: Email. We’ve brought on food writer Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian and ecologist, to highlight different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem every week. This week she shares a roundup of 2022′s most captivating food stories from around the Northwest.

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Here we are again, between the solstice and perihelion, or what we like to call The Hunkering. At this time every year, between our sips of gløgg and nibbles of cookies, we like to take some time to reflect on all the things that were not terrible over the prior year. Even when it seems like there’s been nothing but a lot of grim news, there will always be stories that inspired us, piqued our curiosity, or stoked our gratitude. This week we give you the Northwest food stories of 2022 that had us craving more (and a fun party recipe to help ring in the new year).

Small bites: 2022′s five arcs of food reporting in the Northwest

Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:

Representation mattered.

Last year, OPB’s Crystal Ligori reported on the changing face of Portland food — and happily, that face is more brown, queer, and disabled than ever. The new restaurant group Win Win specifically aims to prioritize BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ food makers, as well as the new Latinx, gay, and deaf-owned restaurant Pah!. Vogue Magazine even highlighted the new queer- and BIPOC-owned bar Sports Bra, where the only sports on the televisions are played by women athletes.

Food equity also mattered.

Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan spoke with news outlets about the need for political support in ending hunger — both in the form of federal aid, as reported by the New York Times, as well as on the ballot, as mentioned by Willamette Week. For food insecure Native communities, however, the problem is more pressing; pollution has impacted salmon — a staple food of Pacific Northwest Natives — in the Columbia basin, and tribes in Washington have had to start their own assistance programs, reported OPB.

To the surprise of no one, Indigenous people were fish and wildlife heroes.

B. “Toastie” Oaster recently reported for High Country News that Chuck Sams, a Cayuse and Walla Walla man enrolled in the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, plans to take a different approach to his new job as director of the National Parks Service, to which he was appointed last year. Coincidentally, Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Dori Luzzo Gilmour reported on the remarkable efforts and headway made by Umatilla people in preserving the habitats that support their traditional foods besides salmon. OPB’s Sage Van Wing reported that the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission formally agreed to give the Coquille Tribe more power to manage fish and wildlife in a large area of southwest Oregon.

Oregon’s food producers learned to adapt to a changing climate.

Researchers at Washington State University began working with wineries to develop techniques for removing the flavor of wildfire smoke from wine grapes, but last April’s freak snowstorm and ensuing long, cold spring had fruit growers struggling. Our local hazelnut crop was pretty good (especially considering the brown marmorated stink bugs plaguing orchards), but that didn’t help market prices, which meant growers got roughly half of what they’d earned the previous year.

Restaurants took new approaches to weathering the pandemic.

From pivoting to full-time packaged food production, employing robots as wait staff and adding permanent outdoor dining, restaurant owners found increasingly creative ways to survive COVID’s ensuing economic downturn. In The Dalles, entire swaths of downtown are getting a facelift. Persistence has paid off; not even sweeping wildfires in the Rogue Valley could stop Ashland’s MÄS from the New York Times’ list of 50 favorite restaurants (MÄS even managed opened a sister restaurant in 2022, the raw bar Nama).

Recipe: Party meatballs with Oregon blackberry barbecue sauce

A pot of meatballs with blackberry bbq sauce.

Everyone's favorite crock pot meatballs get more Oregon-ized.

Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB

This tangy, zippy sauce is so much better than the grape jelly and barbecue sauce of 1980s party tables, and not even much more work. Feel free to use your favorite store-bought meatballs (or meatless balls) for this; it’s also sublime with mini smoked sausages. Makes 64 tiny meatballs.

(This blackberry barbecue sauce recipe, by Heather Arndt Anderson, originally appeared on the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission website.)


Barbecue Sauce

2 cups fresh or frozen Oregon blackberries (thaw first if using frozen, reserving juices)


¼ cup honey

¼ cup ketchup

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 clove grated garlic

2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo (or smoked paprika)

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon fine sea salt


½ lb ground pork

1 lb ground beef or bison

1 egg

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1 tsp soy sauce

¼ cup minced onion

1 clove minced garlic

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground black pepper


  1. Make the barbecue sauce: Purée the blackberries, then strain through a sieve, pressing out the pulp and juices with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. [Protip: scrape the pulp and seeds into a pint jar and fill the jar with apple cider vinegar. Affix a lid and set on a sunny shelf for two weeks. Strain the blackberry vinegar into a bottle with a stopper.]
  2. Add the strained purée to a small saucepan with the other ingredients, whisking until thoroughly blended.
  3. Simmer over low until reduced by about a third (or until it’s as thick as you like) stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  4. Make the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 350º and line two rimmed baking sheets with foil.
  5. Mix the meatball ingredients until combined, then form into ¾-inch meatballs. (This is way easier if you use a 1 tablespoon-size portioner.) Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the sauce to the slow cooker, then add the meatballs, taking care to make sure they’re evenly coated. Cook on low heat for 5 hours, then serve with cocktail picks or toothpicks.

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