What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, March 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Scientists are scratching their heads over the mysterious dropoff of fall run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River. Things are so bad that a federal advisory panel is looking at putting a complete ban on California salmon fishing.
There are several possible environmental factors that may be to blame; ultimately it's evidence that our oceans are a complicated ecological web, and that mismanaging a river (one possible cause), or building diversion dams (another possible factor) can have serious effects, sometimes several years later.
March 18th addition: Sea lions pay the price for human foul-ups. Now greenlight has been given to killing sea lions in order to protect the few remaining salmon.
Posted on Mon, March 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Products boasting "authentic food court flavor."
Posted on Fri, March 14, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
'Tis the season for CSAs!
"What's a CSA?" you ask.
"CSA" stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and refers to a mutually beneficial relationship between a farm and its customers in which consumers buy a membership to the farm at the beginning of the season. This is great for the farmer: rather than bringing in a lot of product and wondering how much of it will sell, the farmer has sold a certain number of shares, they have been paid for in advance and he/she must simply bring that exact amount of product to the drop off/pick up location each week. It's also great for the consumer–or "co-producer" as we like to say–because for an entire season (anywhere from 3 - 7 months) he/she has a weekly pick-up of fresh, seasonal food and a relationship with one farm. Many CSAs invite share-holders to come visit and/or come work during the high season, so there is an opportunity to learn, in the most direct sense, where your food comes from.
Curious, you wonder, "if it's still the tail end of the bleak season, how is it already time for CSAs?"
CSAs are popular, and often sell out all their shares well in advance of the beginning of the season (end of May or early June). If you begin thinking about this now you can find one near you, be in touch with the organizers, and snag yourself a share!
Convinced, and interested, you ask, "How do I find one near me?"
The best place to start is by checking out Local Harvest. They have an entire page dedicated to describing CSAs and a mapping mechanism for typing in your zip code and finding a map and list of the CSAs nearest to you.
Posted on Thu, March 13, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Does Thursday count as mid-week? Let's say it does.
Movie #1: GMO corn ruins a perfectly good party.
Movie #2: Taste Education.
Posted on Tue, March 11, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
A few weeks ago we began to explore the intersections of art and agriculture while reflecting on "Slow Design." Today we pick up that thread again to discuss Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, the book portion of an art project by Fritz Haeg.
Haeg is an artist, trained as an architect, who likes to explore "poetic provocations on the street that force us to examine the world we're living in and the systems that support us, like food." Those are his words, scribbled down while he spoke as the moderator of a panel about his project at the New York Public Library last Friday.
Haeg's project reclaims the front lawn–the most barren green thatch we've got in this country–and tries to turn it into a "space of agency." So far he has helped nine families turn their front lawns, generally suburban, into edible landscapes, home gardens if you will.
These projects are sponsored by museums–they are living art projects–ones that have the potential to unify communities, provoke conversation, and help to feed a family.
The NYPL brought together a rockstar panel of experts on art (theatre and opera director Peter Sellars and Whitney Biennial curator Shamim Momin), urban planning (Yale professor and author Dolores Hayden), and gastronomy (Frederick Kaufman, author), to discuss this piece and its intersections with each of their disciplines. The surprise sustainable food activist and expert? Peter Sellars, who in addition to being a world famous theatre auteur, is also apparently extremely well versed in the politics of food.
With a project such as this, that explores the convergence of some big issues including: suburban landscapes, our relationship to our neighbors and our community, our relationship to food, and the question of: is art a form of activism(?), there is potential for truly interesting discussion, and this event did not disappoint. Especially fun was seeing Frederick Kaufman try to pitch the benefits of GMO crops and the audience booing him.
Soon you'll be able to both listen to the panel and view a video on the NYPL's website.
Posted on Mon, March 10, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
What do you do when your favorite sustainable pork producer packs up shop, feeling that the farmers' market is not profitable enough to be worth the trip? You could cry into your Smithfield Ham, sure, or you could dream up an alternative that works for the farmer and works for the community. That's just what the leadership of Slow Food Pittsburgh did five years ago when they began their "Laptop Butchershop" program.
Susan Barclay and Virginia Phillips wanted to find a way to make quality meat available to their members, and they have succeeded. The project started small, but now they have four pickups a year, and offer beef, poultry, lamb, goat, humanely-raised veal and pork. It's all just a few clicks away; place your order online (hence "laptop"), and then go pickup at the farmers' market (in season) or at a local church (in the off-season). While you're there, you can also take advantage of the local foods such as honey and prepared Lebanese food.
All of the producers are vetted by the Slow Food convivium leadership; they visit each farm (all within an 100-mile radius), and taste the product. And the customers seem to agree that it's delicious, so much so that the only problem the organizers are having is over demand!
Laptop Butchershop Pick-up/Winter Market.
Left to right:
Dave Heilman, Heilman's Hogwash Farm; Henry Nazarian, Najat's Cuisine; Susan Barclay, SFP Co-leader; Terry Seltzer, Sonshine Farm; Pam Bryan, Pucker Brush Farm (seated); Bill Brownlee, Wil-Den Family Farm.
Posted on Fri, March 07, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Back in August, in the New Yorker, John Seabrook wrote about the world's first global seed bank that was being built inside a mountain in the Arctic, in Norway. Lo these many months later, The New York Times reports that the seed bank has just received its first shipment of one million seeds, describing the bank as a "Fort Knox of Food."
It's interesting to note that the majority of the article discusses the dangerous effects of extreme weather on our food supply's biodiversity; it's only at the very end that they mention the fact that "economics encourages farmers to drop crops." A further explanation is probably necessary here for the average reader–it's a pretty big/deep sentence to unpack.
They do mention that a hard core vault isn't the only way to save seeds. Regular people all over the world have seed banks of sorts, using boxes and bags and minimal refrigeration to do their best. In addition, there are organizations that focus on preservation of a particular region's biodiversity; a notable project is Navdanya's Seed Bank in Champaran, India.
Here in this country we have Seed Savers Exchange, and Native Seeds/SEARCH. These two are meant to be resources–not just as giant refrigerators to remain untouched but as a way to reinvigorate our food supply by helping to distribute these seeds and grow them out.
Posted on Thu, March 06, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
For those of you still charmed by the simple pleasure of ye olde radio, please take note of "The Food Chain," (not to be confused with Slow Food USA's monthly email newsletter of the same name).
Each week, host Michael Olson explores topics ranging from farms in the city to humanely raised animals, and encourages listeners to call in and get engaged in the conversation. You can listen live on the radio, or via your computer, or download a podcast after the fact. It's good stuff, but you might want to think twice about listening to the recent show about what happens behind restaurant kitchen doors…!
As described on their website:
The Food Chain is an audience-interactive newstalk radio program that airs live on Saturdays from 9am to 10am Pacific time. The Food Chain, which has been named the Ag/News Show of the Year by California's legislature, is hosted by Michael Olson, author of the Ben Franklin Book of the Year award-winning MetroFarm, a 576-page guide to metropolitan agriculture.
Check it out.
Posted on Wed, March 05, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
This blog post over at Plenty Mag made a few references we'd like to pass along. The first is a mention of the sense-making and practical French phrase for sustainable agriculture — "agriculture raisonnee," which translates as "rational" or "reasonable agriculture." Not bad, right?
The next is the post's reference to GOOD magazine's food issue, out on stands right now. The issue includes a Q and A with Slow Food USA Executive Director Erika Lesser. Some of you may know that Slow Food USA is one of GOOD's charity partners; this means that when you buy a subscription, you can choose us to receive 100% of that subscription price, and do your part towards building a food system that is good, clean, and fair.
Posted on Tue, March 04, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
When people call us here at Slow Food USA asking about undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Studies/Gastronomy, we've in the past only had a few directions in which to steer them.
First, there's the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG), Slow Food's University with campuses in Pollenzo and Colorno. One can go there for the undergraduate degree, or the one-year English language Masters degree.
There are also programs at NYU (School of Food Studies), Tufts (Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy) and University of New Hampshire (where there's a Food and Society initiative).
Now there's a new school to add into the mix! Slow Food Bloomington co-leader Christine Barbour is an affiliated faculty member with Indiana University in Bloomington, where there is a brand new Food Studies PhD. It's always interesting to see under whose auspices these programs lie, and at Bloomington, it's the Anthropology department.
Professor Barbour was kind enough to answer some questions for us about her involvement in Slow Food and how it affects her work in the classroom, as well as to share two wonderful articles with us–one from Indiana's Research and Creative Activity publication, and one from the Indiana University Alumni Mag, which explains how she got interested in Slow Food and began the local chapter.
Q: What is the relationship of the Bloomington convivium to the University? Have there been opportunities for connection in the past?
CB: No formal relationship, though as I am a professor at IU as well as Slow Food co-director, there are informal connections. For instance, my "Food and Politics" class is very much Slow Food-oriented.
Q: What do you teach?
CB: The new program is a graduate program and I teach undergraduates (though graduate students can audit my class.) I am talking to the incoming Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education about putting together a food studies minor for undergrads.
Q: Have you found that the students have heard of Slow Food?
CB: Not so much, really, even among the students working on our sustainability task force. Out of 25 students in each of my "Food And Politics" classes, typically 4-5 have heard of it, and that is among a group self-selected for its interest in food.
Q: There aren't many food studies programs in the country right now. How did this one come to be at Bloomington?
CB: The Anthropology Dept. looked at its faculty research interests and realized that many of them had food-related interests. Since many faculty outside their dept. also focus on food issues, they decided to bring them together in a food studies program for grad students (mainly because there is far less paperwork involved than beginning a new undergrad program.)
Q: Why do you think there is a demand now for coursework like this?
CB: Food is trendy, the "eat local" movement is gaining traction in popular culture and becoming more mainstream, books like Fast Food Nation and Omnivore's Dilemma as well as films like "Supersize Me" and "King Corn" are making people think about the implications of where their food comes from.