What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, January 15, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
OK, so we think we have figured out the problem. The reason that Capitol Hill has not been showing the love to small farmers, of late, is because they don’t know who small farmers are.
Remember years ago when George Bush Sr. (supposedly) went into a grocery store and had no idea what the scanner was at the checkout? As though he was Marty McFly (Back to the Future II) catapulted 40 years into the future—only problem was, he was in the present and totally unfamiliar with what the present looked like.
Well now we’ve got Pat Roberts (of the Senate Ag Committee, no less) at Tom Vilsack’s confirmation hearing, coming out with this gem—as out of touch as a Bush at a supermarket, I’d say:
The “small family farmer is about 5′2″
and hes a retired airline pilot and sits on his porch on a glider reading Gentlemans Quarterly he used to read the Wall Street Journal but that got pretty drab and his wife works as stock broker downtown. And he has 40 acres, and he has a pond and he has an orchard and he grows organic apples. Sometimes there is a little more protein in those apples than people bargain for, and hes very happy to have that.
What the @#$%^&*??!!
Check out the full scoop on Ethicurean, and then do as they say, which is to upload photos of yourself or farmers you know to Flickr, with the label “roberts_meet_small_farmers.” Let’s politely let Pat Roberts know that his vision of the small farmer may be a bit off.
[n.b. a quick look at Snopes revealed that the Bush/scanner story is…false! An example of media manipulation. Whoopsie.]
Posted on Thu, January 08, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Two ways to take action—act soon!
Posted on Thu, January 08, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Our newest team member at Slow Food USA is Nathan Leamy. Nathan came to us from San Francisco where he was working to help organize for, and subsequently, clean up from Slow Food Nation. Prior to his adventures there, Nathan wandered the globe with a Watson Fellowship studying the impact of the Green Revolution on grain consumption in Mexico, India, France, and Egypt. A graduate of Oberlin College and Deep Springs College, Nathan grew up in Portland, Oregon. Here he starts what we hope to have as a series on his passion, hobby, and means of sustenance bread.
by Slow Food USA staffer Nathan Leamy
Though I have been a voracious eater all my life, my breaducation (cause that’s what the cool kids are calling it these days) started while I was living on a ranch in Eastern California. Since then, the works of Nancy Silverton, Julia Child, and Steven Kaplan have inspired me to find, produce, and eat better baked goods. Work in various quasi-professional kitchens, an apprenticeship at a bakery in Paris last spring, and the dedicated consumption of carbohydrates have rounded out my working knowledge of bread.
While I respect all breads, my passion goes out to traditional French loaves made with sourdough. Sourdough is a wild yeast which has been caught and tamed to produce slow developing, flavorful bread. Contrary to the term, sourdough breads need not be sour. Many breads labeled as sourdough in the US are still made with commercial yeast and actually just have extra acids added to them to make them taste sour, but traditional bakeries nationwide are seeing a resurgence of sourdough use. Sourdough breads can be made in any shape or size, but the traditional shapes are the boule, baguette, and epi.
Even where crusty, artisanal breads can be found, many fall flat in flavor. How can you tell if a loaf of artisan sourdough is good? For your reading pleasure - and perhaps even the first part of your breaducation heres an attempt to summarize the five easy indicators of good bread.
Judge a book by its cover. Ugly bread is rarely good. Pallid, dimpled, and dull bread should turn you away. Good sourdough should have a dark, caramel crust with weight to it. The bread should be aesthetically pleasing - well formed, balanced, even. It is saggy or looks over stuffed, no good. The crust shouldn’t shine like it’s been lacquered - but it should have a healthy amount of texture to it. If you’ve got a real winner it will have a pinhead sized, light bubbles evenly spread about it. Slashes across the top should be pronounced and should have prevented the bread from ripping at the seams during baking.
Listen to your bread. When picking up a loaf of good bread, it should have an even feel it should not be lopsided or off-kilter. Knock lightly on the bottom with your finger tips and you should hear a hollow thump like you are striking a drum. Squeezing lightly, the bread should have some give and make a crackling noise.
What’s on the inside counts too. The inside of the bread (called the crumb) should have air holes in it. Unevenly spaced, unevenly sized, with stretches of gluten on the edges. How dense or light you like your crumb is all a matter of personal preference, but you need to see some holes to show that there was some action inside the loaf.
Dive in, nose first. Good bread shouldn’t be just a neutral medium to pile other things atop. It should have a flavor and smell that complement what you are eating. Breaking open a loaf and pushing your nose in it should give you the best idea of what’s going on in there. Depending on the sourdough used, flavors can run the gamut - but most importantly there should be some sort of fragrance and not the dull, sweet, hollow smell of industrial yeast.
Eat it. Since the point of bread is eating, a bread should be, well, good to have in your mouth. Biting into bread you should have a bit of pull on the crust, but not have to fight with it. The crumb shouldn’t just dissolve, be so dry as to make you feel parched, yet not so soggy to make you feel icky. It should feel good to loll around in your mouth for a little bit before you finally get to eat your good bread.
That’s how you identify good bread. The most important matter is to stop and think about it. Though eaten nearly everyday, people often settle for something mediocre without giving it a second thought. These indicators arent prerequisite for good tasting bread but every little bit helps. Whether buying from a bakery or making your own sourdough treats at home it takes all of your senses to find that which is good.
Posted on Wed, January 07, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Patrick Keeler
Good Luck, and Good Fishin’
Those were the words of Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin on opening day of salmon fishing season in June of 2007 to the communities along the Nushagak river and the headwaters of Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska. These waters represent the largest wild salmon runs in the world, where over 60 million red sockeye salmon return each season from a single spawning event. Last night a few of us from the Slow Food USA office went to a screening of the new film “Red Gold”, which documents these shimmering fish, their fragile place in the food chain, and the livelihoods of the indigenous and small family fisher communities that depend on this resource.
The wild salmon industry represents over $300 million dollars of Alaskas economy annually, and the sport fishing industry $60 million. However, both the ecosystem and economy of this region are at risk due to a mining company’s proposed excavation of the largest copper (and gold) deposits in North America, and the second largest of its kind in the world worth an estimated $345-500 billion. In territory prone to earthquakes, the company (Pebble Mine) will need to build a toxic runoff catchment dam (FYI, the EPA ranks open pit mining the most polluting industry in the nation); the proposed dam would be larger than the controversial Three Gorges Dam in China! All of this is possible because the land in question is state-owned.
“Red Gold” is a cinematographically beautiful, and emotionally moving film that presents the natural beauty of this relatively untouched landscape, and the peoples that survive and make their livings off the land, rather than approaching it as community protest. Were to fall in love with the natural world here first, in order to realize how precious a resource this would be to squander on a few years return on metal.
Posted on Mon, January 05, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
For The Future
by Wendell Berry
Planting trees early in spring,
we make a place for birds to sing
in time to come. How do we know?
They are singing here now.
There is no other guarantee
that singing will ever be.
That Wendell Berry, always keeping an eye forward, asking: are we doing now what we need to do to assure there will be a tomorrow? In yesterday’s NY Times, Berry teamed up with The Land Institute‘s Wes Jackson to talk about soil, and investing in it long-term. They point out that soil has no technological substitute and that more of it cannot be purchased it with money. It seems like basic stuff. Right?
Yet, meanwhile, over at the Chicago Tribune they’re also talking agriculture on their opinions page. In what seems like a rebuttal, former Senator George McGovern and Marshall Matz express doubts about sustainable agriculture’s ability to be all things to all people, with sustainable ag and commerical ag each having their place in the world. It ends with:
“We need to get beyond ideology and depend more on science. We need to develop a new understanding of agriculture based on our larger goals if we are to craft a long-term food and farm policy that works. Agriculture has a responsibility to adjust and contribute to improving the environment. But let’s stick to science and avoid an ideological debate about agricultural practices.”
Posted on Sun, January 04, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Sam Levin, one of three coordinators of Project Sprout. Project Sprout is a student led and inspired onsite garden that supplements food served in the Monument Mountain High School (in Great Barrington, MA).
The best part of the beginning of a new year is when everyone makes their resolution. Every New Years Eve, sitting around the table, my family and I set our goals for the coming year. Tasting roast leg of lamb and swallowing bites of chocolate cake, we throw out suggestions like trying to do something that scares us once a month or doing something special for one of our neighbors every two weeks. Most of the time one of my brothers suggests something that cripples us with laughter, and someone else tosses out a hallmark card suggestion that gets dismissed with a little disgust. Usually after dinner, in honor of an old Latin American tradition, each of us eats twelve grapes to bring good luck to every month of the coming year. However, its not just that I love setting goals for myself, or hearing Will tell me with a grin that his goal is to cover his clothes with duct tape every day. That piece of it is great, but this year, I discovered something even better. That piece of it is great, but this year, I discovered something even better.
On New Years Eve I decided that I would resolve to get garden projects initiated in six other high schools. And as I thought about what that meant, I have to admit, I started to get a little excited. As I sat at the table listening to my family members laugh and eat and talk, I began to think about all of the other people in the world sitting at their own tables, counting down to 2009, and resolving to accomplish their own goals.
Posted on Fri, January 02, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Allen Katz
Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.
Now that the election is finally over us there is one thing we can all truly celebrate. We will soon have a President who enjoys a tasty tipple. Hallelujah!
And in that Presidential vein there is no better time to hail Rye Whiskey, Americas true native spirit, the source of pleasure and profit of our very first Commander in Chief, George Washington. For all of Washingtons accolades in military and political accomplishment, he spent his final years at Mount Vernon adept in a multitude of businesses, among them the distilling of rye whiskey. So successful, in fact, was Washington that from 1797 1799 (when he passed away) he sold in excess of 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey each year an extraordinary quantity.
After the Revolutionary War rye whiskey was the likely beverage of choice as it was both plentiful and cheap, rye being the chief grain of the mid-Atlantic states, principally Maryland and Pennsylvania where the distillation of rye was most prevalent. As the cocktail renaissance in United States continues, rye whiskey has regained more than a cult following among bartenders and whiskey devotees. And to our great fortune the distilleries (now primarily in Kentucky), which preserved the tradition of producing rye during the lean years post-Prohibition, have begun to release greater quantities and variety of aged marks as well.
If you have never tried a rye whiskey Manhattan, there is probably no finer cocktail. Savory, silky and refreshing, the addition of rye (rather than bourbon) adds a rather smooth finish that is even more noticeable on the second round.
Heres hoping your candidate was victorious. Either way, celebrate our heritage and enjoy a tipple grand American rye whiskey.
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir ingredients over ice until exceedingly well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
By profession, Allen Katz is the Director of Mixology & Spirits Education for Southern Wine & Spirits of New York. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Slow Food USA. [ed. please note that Allen is also newly-famous for growing an incredibly lustrous and absorbent beard, in the name of charity.]