What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, April 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
How can you take a bite out of climate change? It's something we address, either directly or indirectly, almost every day here on this blog. And as of this week, there is another site you can visit for the skinny on direct actions you can take: The Small Planet Fund's Take a Bite out of Climate Change website and blog. On the site you can Learn (facts about global warming and our food system's contributions), Act (on policy alerts, letter writing campaigns etc.), and Eat (ideas for a climate friendly diet).
The Small Planet Fund, based here in NYC and founded by Francis Moore-Lappé and Anna Lappé, funds "citizen-led solutions to hunger, poverty, and environmental devastation around the world." Since 2002, they've raised an impressive quarter of a million dollars.
Posted on Mon, April 14, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Riots in Haiti, in response to the inflation of food prices, have brought this issue of rising food prices around the world to the front page. Riots such as these have taken place in Egypt, Cameroon, Senegal etc. and are at risk of occurring in 33 more countries, The Wall Street Journal reported today. The IMF Board of Governors is calling for an "integrated response" from the World Bank and the IMF to what has become an untenable situation for many poor countries. Although, as we mentioned in last Tuesday's post, there are several contributing factors to this rise in food prices, everyone seems to agree that the United States' obsession with biofuels is partly to blame.
* This article on WSJ.com is only able to be viewed by non-subscribers for a few more days.
Posted on Thu, April 10, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Earth Day (April 22) is coming up, a welcome reminder each year that the Earth is our home and provides generation after generation with life itself. Did you know that our current food system is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gases? Protecting our planet requires action by everyone, and supporting local food systems and sustainable food production will help value and protect the land that feeds us all. So what can you do?
Organic Valley, the family-farmed owned organic dairy cooperative, encourages people to host "Earth Dinners" with homemade, local food and conversation centered on the origins of what is being served. They've created a deck of conversation-starter cards to be used at Earth Day Dinners. More details and sample cards can be found on the Organic Valley web site.
If you live near one of these Slow Food Local chapters, you can participate in their Earth Day events, including:
Slow Food Monterey Bay will participate in the annual Central Coast Vineyard Team Earth Day Food & Wine festival in Santa Margarita, CA on April 19
Slow Food Huron Valley, Michigan will host Capuchin Soup Kitchen's Earth Day Commemoration on April 22, featuring speakers on sustainability, the soup kitchen's Farm Stand, and the establishment of a local monastery's organic farm. Proceeds will benefit the Soup Kitchen and Earthworks Urban Farm.
Slow Food Miami will host a Seafood Picnic in honor of Earth Day on April 27 to benefit their Pre-K school garden program.
Slow Food Spokane River's Earth Dinner at Wild Sage restaurant will connect diners to the local producers who grow their food.
Or, consider the possibility of treating it as a new year of sorts and making an Earth Day resolution. What will you do this year to help take care of the earth?
Posted on Tue, April 08, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Makalé Faber Cullen
This month's Harper's magazine features an excellent article by Nathanael Johnson who takes on the North American black market in raw milk and it's odd bedfellow… high tech "bio-active" dairy.
The defense of the fresh stuff (aka "green top milk") has been a steady, under-the-radar activity and a 20-year Slow Food campaign since the US Food and Drug Administration banned interstate sales of unpasteurized milk in the 1980s. Most of us, in fact, have been raised to believe pasteurization is a good thing. It protects us from salmonella and E-coli poisoning. It prolongs the shelf life of dairy products, which means more people in more places have access to them.
But as Johnson explains, it's not the fresh milk from a Holstein grazing on grass that's producing health threats. It's the other way around. To put it simply, grass-grazing cows eat in a way that allows them to produce milk containing enzymes that are often beneficial to us humans. "Dirty milk," an insider's phrase, comes from modern dairies which, in their clamor for high volume and high profit, use pasteurization as license to be unsanitary, to feed inappropriate food to cattle and engage in other unsavory activities. Ever colorful, Johnson says, "After a century of pasteurization, modern dairies, to put it bluntly, are covered in shit. Most have a viscous lagoon full of fit. Cows lie in it." And with that, Johnson navigates us through the public health thicket of industrial milk production and the volatility of raw milk markets, with regular tours through the anatomy of cattle and how we try to alter it.
The issue is far, far more complex than I've described above and Johnson remains respectably objective. Please read the article. Johnson is an entertaining writer. His piece is reference quality and yet doesn't compromise a bit on good storytelling.
I support the idea of people's right to sell and buy raw milk and raw milk products—often of finer quality since the proteins and sugars haven't been altered by heat. To reference Gil Scott Heron's potent and poignant 1971 release, The Revolution will not be Televised is to commit to taking the investigation and the story a bit further. Slow Food USA's Raw Milk Cheese Producers Association is trying to do just that –change by the producer for the producer.
While thinking about Gil Scott and the fight for justice, I'm reminded of a February post about the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. debacle. Industrial food workers, whether they're in dairies or meat packing plants deserve humane treatment as much as animals do. What's the story on dairy workers forced to put in 19-hour days in these "lagoons?"
Posted on Tue, April 08, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
We here at Slow Food USA have been saying for quite some time now that food in this country is too cheap, and have been urging people to think about the true cost of food. No one could have predicted, though, how quickly food prices would rise around the globe, changing the conversation quite significantly. In the NY Times last week, Kim Severson talked with Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and other sustainable food advocates about this rise and what it could/will mean for the average consumer. The title of the article? "Some Good News on Food Prices."
Good news? Not so fast, say some. Tom Philpott over at Grist took issue with their analysis/predictions and got some good conversation going in his comments section.
Meanwhile, over at Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviewed Raj Patel, the author of Stuffed and Starved: the Hidden Battle for the World Food System. The title, of course, refers to the paradox of the twin epidemics we face right here in our own country but also around the world: obesity and hunger.
He explains the rising food prices as a "perfect storm:" the combination of last year being a bad year for crops, the rise of interest in biofuels, developing nations eating more meat (which uses much more grain than it would to eat grain directly), and the rise of oil prices. He calls ethanol as an alternative to oil as "madness," and comes down hard on the U.S.' free trade agenda as being partly responsible for the present food riots in the developing world.
Posted on Mon, April 07, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA Regional Governor Gerry Warren
In the 1980's an unknown fingerling potato was recognized to be a staple in the diet of Pacific Coast Native Americans of the Makah Nation. The Makah occupy the region around Neah Bay, Washington, that is the most northwesterly point in the United States. Tribal lore reported that this potato had been used by these people for about 200 years. The Makah had named this potato the Ozette after one of their five villages located around Neah Bay.
All potatoes originated in South America and it was thought that all potatoes now in the Americas were first taken to Europe by Spaniards before they came to the Americas with the European colonization. However in 2004 phylogenetic analysis conducted at Washington State University showed evidence that the Makah Ozette potato was certain to have been imported directly from South America. How did this happen?
After their conquests in South America the Spanish began a mission to further establish their empire on the western shores of North America. In the spring of 1791 they established a fort at Neah Bay and as accustomed a garden was planted that surely included potatoes they brought directly from South America or Mexico. Over the winter of 1791 the Spanish found the severe weather conditions at the forts harbor was unsafe for moorage of their vessels. The Spanish abandoned the fort in the spring of 1792.
The Makah people, who were in need of a carbohydrate source either traded or found volunteers of this rather weedy plant left in the garden of the abandoned fort. They quickly adopted the potato and became its stewards, growing it in their backyard gardens for over 200 years. Not until the late 1980's was this potato catalogued and seed was grown outside the Makah Nation. There has to date been very limited commercial production of this potato although it is noted to be grown by a few small farmers in several regions of the U.S.A .
The Makah Ozette potato boarded the Ark of Taste in September 2004 and a presidium application was submitted in November 2006. The partners in the presidium were SFS, the Makah Nation, several farmers who supply restaurants and sell at farmers markets, a laboratory which produce potato seed, USDA at an Agricultural Research Station, and the Seattle chapter of the Chefs Collaborative.
In the early development of this project Slow Food Seattle (SFS) used a portion of its treasury to purchase five hundred pounds of certified seed potato. One hundred pounds was sold to home gardeners and 400 pounds of potatoes that were sold to farmers interested in growing this crop. The growers sold to the fresh market in the greater Seattle area in the fall of 2006.
SFS received enough potatoes to sell to cover the cost of the seed and to mount a public relations campaign that produced considerable press and demand for the Makah Ozette. In addition 9 chefs featured the potato on their fall menus.
Our 2006 activities produced a significant demand for the potato but the primary seed growers had a crop failure and seed was very limited in the spring of 2007. This prompted us to call upon Pure Potato, a laboratory who worked to certify the potato as virus fee and are beginning the three year process of becoming a local seed source. We have found that based on our publicity many small farms did a limited planting of the Makah Ozette for the 2007 harvest. In the fall of 2007 we again mounted a campaign to further regional awareness of the Makah Ozette potato, featured it as a menu item for our RAFT picnic, and continued the development of a local seed source.
Posted on Fri, April 04, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
By Slow Food USA staff member Winnie Yang
In the Spring 2008 issue of the Snail (coming soon to a mailbox near you, if you're a member), Candelario Velazquez describes the struggle of farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida, and the work the Coalition of Immokalee Workers is doing jointly with the Student/Farmworkers Alliance (SFA) to fight the fast food industry's unjust practices. For decades the industry "has used its power and leverage to demand cheap produce, translating directly into lower wages and poorer working conditions for the workers picking that produce."
The Snail article goes on to describe the remarkable successes CIW and SFA have realized, but their work is far from finished. And now, you can help.
SFA's Meghan Cohorst wrote to let us know that CIW has recently launched a petition campaign to urge Burger King to work with them to end sweatshops and slavery in the fields. The campaign is based on a similar one used by 19th-century British abolitionists, who began their movement to abolish slavery with a petition drive. The CIW petition will be delivered to Burger King on April 28.
(photo by Meghan Cohorst)
Posted on Wed, April 02, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staff member Jerusha Klemperer
Actually, I hesitate even to mention microwaves since we have this problem here in our office of getting calls from people wondering about our stance on microwaves (we don't have one); this will mean that Google searches will start turning up "slow food" and "microwave" in the same textual vicinity and our office will get even more confused callers. Ah well.
As a city dweller who has lived with mostly teeny, tiny kitchens, I got rid of my microwave years ago when I moved into a studio apartment. Counter space was precious and a big plastic box meant no room to chop veggies, so I gave it to a friend, wondering as I did so if I'd miss it terribly. I never did.
Once, about three weeks after I moved, I wanted to melt some chocolate for brownies. I unwrapped the chocolate, put it in a pyrex bowl, and cast my eyes about the small kitchen, confused and forlorn. So I pulled out a pot, put the chocolate in the pot, and once I realized that "hey! You can, like, heat stuff on the stove!" I never looked back. In four years I haven't felt cramped at all (well, maybe physically but my style, no my style has not been cramped).
It seems like Bittman and McGee, though gamely trying to find the virtues of a microwave for the sake of their articles, agree with me. I think, deep down, they do. No, Slow Food isn't about being anti-microwave, but I do think it's about knowing your food; McGee talks about pine nuts cooking on the inside but not browning on the outside, and the strangeness of needing to keep opening and closing the microwave door to assess the state of affairs, and it makes me think that a microwave gets in the way of that knowing.