What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, April 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
The title of Nicolette Hahn Nimans compelling new book, Righteous Porkchop
, is honest, and indicates one of the books strengthsits exploration of the moral issues behind our broken food system. As a vegetarian rancher she is uniquely poised to be even more righteous than most. Not only has she abstained from eating meat herself since young adulthood, she spends her days sustainably raising cattle for others to eat. Who can top that?
Of course, this wasnt always the case. Not even 10 years ago she was a young single gal in the city, recruited by Bobby Kennedy, Jr. to head up the Waterkeeper Alliances new industrial hog campaign. With a background as a lawyer, she set out to take industrial hog farms (primarily in North Carolina) to task via the legal system for their gross environmental transgressions. She worked crushing hours, giving up her healthy lifestyle and her social life. But along the way, she won several important legal battles and put the issue of industrial hog farming on the map. In addition, in a story line you just cant make up, she met and fell in love with Bill Niman, an older-than-her sustainable cattle rancher and entrepeneur, and her life was changed forever. P.S. he calls her porkchop.
In addition, her work with Waterkeeper led her inside the belly of the beastor inside the poop lagoons of the beasts, anyway—and the book follows her journey. The reader makes discoveries alongside her, experiencing her righteous indignation and disbelief upon seeing those farms, as well as her heartbreak over the treatment of the animals she meets. As she explains, the assembly lines of industrial systems function well for the mass production of inanimate objects. But they are complete failures at respecting the individuality, instincts, and needs of living creatures.
Posted on Tue, April 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Were pleased to announce the election of Anson Mills Glenn Roberts and agricultural ecologist Kraig Kraft to Slow Food USAs Ark of Taste Committee, the group that reviews nominations to Slow Food USAs catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction. By promoting and eating Ark of Taste products Slow Food is making sure these foods remain in production and on our plates.
Glenn Roberts is a natural fit for the Ark Committee. While he is best known for his small-batch, artisanal, heritage grits and polenta that appear on ingredient-conscious restaurant menus around the country, Roberts spends much of his time and resources on the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, which works to advance the sustainable restoration and preservation of Carolina Gold Rice and other heirloom grains and to raise public awareness of the importance of historic ricelands and heirloom agriculture. His work as an entrepreneur and as a seed-saver has made him absolutely essential in the preservation of Southern grain heritage. (to read more about Glenn and see pictures from his mill, click here).
“I love the challenge of making relevant nearly forgotten or little known aromas, flavors and textures of the extraordinary foods of America, both past and present, says Roberts. That these foods are without exception culturally vital, local, low input, low fuel and reach perfection only with careful and slow preparation seems astonishingly fitting for our time.
Kraig Krafts expertise as a scientist and researcher make him a perfect addition to the Committee. Kraig is a PhD candidate at UC Davis, where he studies the genetic diversity of chile peppers, tracing the lineage of our domesticated peppers to their ancestral wild populations. His career has included education and program leadership for numerous international development projects in sustainable agriculture, technology transfer, and grassroots community development, and his expertise has been recognized and supported by numerous awards. He has a passion for not only food but the related traditions and landscapes in which they are rooted. For Kraft, The Ark of Taste represents an important effort towards the conservation and preservation of agricultural diversity and their association culinary traditions. The stories of these foods and crops tell our own histories. They are part of our cultural heritage that we need to remember and renew.
Posted on Mon, April 20, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food Atlanta Chapter Leader Judith Winfrey
Recently it seems like everybody is talking about food issues. Thanks to the hard work of writers, farmers activists, and, of course, a certain first lady, our national consciousness seems to be shifting, and along with it, the focus of many individuals and organizations working on food. Among the developments, we are seeing the definition of good food expand to include the food justice movement. At Slow Food Atlanta, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to do the work to reflect this change, and improve everyone’s access to food that’s good, clean and fair. This led to an exploration of the landscape, both physically and metaphorically. What do we already have in place, and who’s already doing the work? These questions led us to some dazzling people, places, and organizations, and forged partnerships that strengthen us all.
In Atlantas historic West End neighborhood, we found Reverend Richard Bright at Good Shepherd Community Churchs urban farm—- a project, in it’s second year. On five acres in the heart of the city, the Good Shepherd Garden has the mission of providing delicious, healthy food to congregants and neighbors alike. Weekly harvest markets take place in front of the church where food is available to anyone for a donation. Almost simultaneously, we found the Skillet Brigade, the Southern Foodways Alliance burgeoning service corps.
Posted on Fri, April 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Carol Dacey-Charles
Detroit is currently home to 300 plus community farms and over 20 school gardens, and if John R. Hantz’s vision becomes real, Detroit could be home to the worlds largest urban farmabout the size of San Francisco. According to Hantzs press release Phase 1 would redevelopment about 70 Acres of vacant lots, and abandoned property on Detroits lower east side.
Hantz is consulting with Michigan State University to tap their expertise in soil and agricultural sciences, as well as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a U.S. leader in community-based food systems. While the farm plans to harvest wind energy and use geothermal heat and biomass fuel from recycling compostthere are some ecological concerns. Hantz Farms would use conventional, rather than organic farming methods. You can read the full story as reported in the Detroit Free Press, along with a drawing of part of the proposed farm.
Urban agriculture is not new to Detroit. In fact, it started way back during the Great Depression of the 1890’s when then-mayor and future governor Hazen Pingree divvied up all vacant lands in the city, nearly 400 acres, for food production in support of the poor and underemployed.
Posted on Thu, April 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Spring is officially here, and in addition to daffodils and spring greens at market, April tends to be prime time for CSA sign-ups! Dont know yet what a CSA is? Fear not; if you do, heres a bit of info you may not have known before.
The idea of Community Supported Agriculture has Japanese roots, in an innovative system of pre-arranged, pre-paid produce delivery known as teikei in the early 1970s. Teikei which means cooperation, or in this context food with a farmers face started as an initiative of a few families near Kobe who were concerned with pesticide usage on their food. These folks later formed the early Japanese Organic Agriculture Association. European-style, subscription produce share programs also began around this same time. CSA did not reach the US until the mid-1980s when a farmer named Robyn Van En was introduced to the idea from a Swiss friend of hers. Robyns Indian Line farm in Western MA first experimented with the idea of CSA in a pre-paid apple orchard share. The idea proved a success, and Robyns farm share program later grew to include vegetables which make up the foundation of most American CSA programs. In farm-dense New England, the CSA idea spread quickly from the Right Coast to the Left.
Why call veggie allotments shares? Well, CSA works as a type of investment: you pay for your share in the farm over the winter or early in the farm season as your farmer lays out their crop plan and preps equipment for the coming year. While many CSA farmers have other sources of income beyond their member base, CSA farmers know at the outset their profit and production targets. Income is received when its needed most (before plants or livestock produce), and it acts as a guarantee for payment when Mother Nature is unforgiving. In this way, CSAs operate as risk-sharing ventures if a late season hail storm wipes out an early spring lettuce crop, or heaven forbid a plague of locusts should strike Farmers John and Jane will still survive the season, and you just might miss out on some peas. What you get in return is a sense of investment in your regional farm economy, and healthy, locally grown produce with a farmers face on it.
Posted on Mon, April 13, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
I’ll subtitle this post “How to look underneath a news story.” When I read the op-ed in the Times last week claiming that a new study has revealed that free range pigs are more likely than industrially raised pigs to carry dangerous bacteria, I was confused, maybe a little suspicious. Everything I have ever read—including the brand new Righteous Porkchop—has clearly and scientifically laid out how industrial hog farming is some of the dirtiest stuff around. I read through the piece, trying to keep an open mind and trying to make it jibe with what I already know. I struggled.
When I got to the end of the piece, I read the author’s bio, including the title of his upcoming book, “Just Food: How Locavores Are Endangering the Future of Food and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. Locavores endangering the future of food? This I gotta see.
First question: who funded this study?
Second question: What does Marion Nestle have to say? I trust her implicitly on questions of food-borne illness; she is a scientist first and foremost, and I look to her to get to the scientific heart of the matter. From Dr. Nestle I learned that the author isn’t quite interpreting the study—funded by the National Pork Board—correctly. She concludes: “My point, as always, is that sponsored studies are invariably designed in ways that produce results favorable to the sponsor. In this case, the sponsor represents industrial pork producers.”
Third step: I checked out the excellent piece over at CivilEats.com, where Paula Crossfield asks “The question is, then, how do we reclaim the media, and disseminate real information to consumers?” and states the importance of our movement gaining strength and articulation from these conversations with our detractors.
[Late addition: Keep peeling away the layers, and let things be complicated. The Atlantic Monthly Food Channel invited McWilliams to explain and retort. Also, check out Kurt Friese’s post on Grist, and the Slow Food Columbus Blog]
Posted on Thu, April 09, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA staffer Deena Goldman was letting her busy work and personal life get in the way of creativity in the kitchen, so she decided to enroll in a cooking techniques class at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health. The institute focuses on health-supportive cooking and educates its students on the importance of local, sustainable food sourcing. Deena interviews her instructor, Peter Berley, to get his take on home cooking becoming the in thing to do. Berley is the author of numerous cookbooks for vegetarians, omnivores and everyone in between, and he has been active in the natural foods movement for more than 25 years.
Q: People are starting to figure out that eating less meat is a green thing to do. What recommendations do you have for the meat lover trying to do right by eating less?
I think the first thing to do is what food choices are available outside the world of meat to look at cuisines that you enjoy and notice what in those cuisines could utilize small amounts or none at all. Italian, Mexican and Indian cuisines all have a lot of really satisfying vegetarian options or dishes where meat is a smaller part of the meal. (ie in Italian: legumes, chickpeas, beans.) Focus on whole grains, pastas, beans and vegetables, cheeses and eggs. Lacto-ovo veg diet can be satisfying. Look at traditional recipes for how to cook beans, how to make soups, and use seasonal vegetables. Go to farmers markets and check out whats growing now. Buy a cookbook and take a cooking class. You have to jump in. The Flexitarian Table finds alternatives to meat-eating within the context of meat. How to use meats but in a smaller portion.
One example of making meat go a long way: a couple of days ago I roasted a chicken, which served as part of a meal for 3. The following day I took the whole carcass, with meat remaining on it, simmered it in a pot with vegetables, then picked the meat off the bone, put in some potatoes and barley. I got 2 really good meals out of 1 chicken. Unless one is philosophically a vegetarian, theres no need to deny yourself meat, but you can eat less of it and still feel satisfied. My book, The Flexitarian Table, has a lot of alternatives to meat-eating within the context of meat how to eat meats but in a small portion, where meat can become a condiment.
Q: What kind of advice would you give people who want to cook (more) but are scared of the kitchen?
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Posted on Wed, April 08, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Once raised by small-scale family farmers and bred for hardiness, survivability and FLAVOR, many heritage breeds have been lost to mass-market industrialization. Our RAFT alliance partner, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, is leading the way to bring these rare, diverse breeds back to US farms and tables.
Rare breeds have unique qualities that make them suitable to small farm pastures. That also means they need special (or at least different) treatment in the kitchen. Just like were learning that we cant prepare a grass-fed burger like a grain-fed one, we cant prepare a Pineywoods steak like an Angus, or roast a Buckeye chicken like an industrial one.
How do we learn what to do? Before you start raiding the shelves of used bookstores looking for pre-1950s cookbooks, ALBC is coming to the rescue later this year with a Rare Breeds Recipe Book. They are creating the book by hosting a rare breeds recipe contest.
Are you already familiar with cooking a particular rare breed? From now until September 1, you can submit recipes to ALBC. The first place winner will receive a free registration to their national conference this November in Houston. To learn more about the contest, click here.
Posted on Tue, April 07, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA Intern Carol Dacey-Charles
Earth Day is April 22what are you going to do?
Did you know that Earth Day movement began in 1970 with 20 million people nationwide stepping out and to celebrate and to demand more attention be spent to protect and honor our environment? It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Today there are even more Earth Day celebrations being held in the US, and Slow Food USA chapters are helping to make the link between sustainable and clean food and a vital eco-system.
So, how are you going to celebrate this year? Maybe you will be spending the weekend of April 18 at one of many Earth Day Fairs like those taking place in San Diego, Reno, Nashville, Wake Forest University or on the National Mall in DC. Many nation wide events are listed at the Earth Day Network Website.
If you want to get a little more hands on, you can organize your own Earth Dinnerand Organic Valley wants to help you! At their Earth Dinner Website you can get ideas for organizing, menus, discussion topics and even a list of coast-to-coast public Earth Dinner events you can attend.
Let us know what you are doing!
Also, if you are interested in reading more about the connection between climate change and food: