What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, August 31, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
The fuel that keeps Slow Food USA running cannot be found in our Brooklyn office - it is found in all 50 states, embodied by the volunteer grassroots leaders across the country. As a staff member, it’s a privilege to be in touch with so many hardworking volunteers who dedicate so much of their time and passion to good, clean and fair food projects and events. A day (or an hour) doesn’t go by without hearing from an excited volunteer leader who’s doing something wonderful in their community.
The organization has regional leaders called governors
who serve as mentors, connectors and sounding boards to local chapter leaders. Governors serve 4-year terms, and this month, as many governors’ terms are ending, I’d like to recognize them and their accomplishments and to tell our readers a little about each person who has brought so much to the organization in this role. Thank you, governors!
Virginia Phillips of Pittsburgh is a freelance writer who also translates French cookbooks, serves on the board of Farmers@Firehouse, Pittsburgh’s only mostly-organic farmers market, and was the founding editor of Mt. Lebanon magazine, a regional monthly now in its 25th year. Virginia co-founded the chapter many years ago with Marlene Parrish, and has started or been a part of several local projects, including the Laptop Butcher
. In addition to writing and food projects, Virginia also spends her time with her husband Jack doting on their many grandchildren.
Tom Montague founded the Chattanooga chapter in 2001 and is also a founding chair of Cornerstones Inc, which works for historic preservation in Chattanooga. Tom was instrumental in bringing American artisanal foods to Slow Food International’s Salone del Gusto event in 2002. He and his wife Kristina and their children enjoy traveling abroad, especially to Slow Food events!
Kurt Friese is a chef, author, and blogger who also publishes Edible Iowa River Valley and finds time to serve on the Slow Food USA Board of Directors. He founded Slow Food Iowa City and spearhaded a project called From the Ground Up, an effort to incorporate vegetable gardens at all Iowa City schools. He’s now pitching in to our Time for Lunch campaign effort in Iowa City. Kurt is the owner and chef emeritus of Devotay Restaurant.
Suzanne Fain, the friendly Texan of the group, along with her husband owns A Moveable Feast, a restaurant and health store in Houston. She spends many of her waking hours at a cruising altitude, as she is also a licensed pilot. Suzanne corrals leaders and members from Lubbock to Dallas and is quick to remind everyone of the culinary contributions of the state of Texas, including quajillo honey and delicious Texas cheeses.
Carmen Tedesco of San Francisco spends time capturing food producers and activists from all over the world and on film for slowtube.org . There you can find footage of San Francisco’s school projects, several local events that Carmen has spearheaded, as well as Slow Food members in Brazil, Turkey, Lebanon and Italy. Carmen founded the Santa Cruz chapter and currently works on film screenings, tasting events and school projects with the San Francisco chapter.
Lorenzo Scarpone, also of San Francisco, by way of Abruzzo, Italy, descends from generations upon generations of farmers. Lorenzo founded the San Francisco chapter and is a longtime leader of many notable projects in San Francisco, including The Golden Glass annual wine tasting as well as garden projects at 3 area schools. In rare moments when he’s not devoting his time to Slow Food, Lorenzo keeps busy at his wine importing business, Villa Italia, and by spending time with his wife Susy and their three children.
Frankie Whitman, founder of the Aqua Terra chapter, is a veteran of the specialty food industry who works with companies committed to high quality and sustainability. Her food professionalism began in the early 1970s with the food co-op and natural foods movements. Frankie currently works with Full Bloom Baking Co. in San Francisco’s Bay Area. She also has two terrific daughters who are local food lovers, one of whom was a star summer intern at Slow Food USA’s office several years ago.
Gordon Smith, a chef in San Diego, shows his pride in the form of a snail tattoo (and not the kind that rubs off after a few days!). Gordon started up the chapter in San Diego and has never looked back, throwing himself into many events and helping to open chapters in Southern California, Hawaii and Nevada. Gordon is a devotee of Slow Food’s international events, and he caravanned across Europe to attend the first edition of Terra Madre.
Posted on Fri, August 28, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
By Slow Food Chicago chapter leader Lynn Peemoeller, and as originally posted on the Huffington Post
Like all great public spaces, Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago has set the stage over the years for as many causes as there are types of people. The great walls of city hall, the Federal building, and the Chicago Picasso have been the backdrop for a melting pot of events.
When I heard about the idea of an Eat-In, which is a group of people gathering in public in order to share a meal together and make a political statement I wanted to do it in Daley Plaza with our Slow Food Chapter.
Locally we are well known for great events that celebrate food through farmers, artisans, and ethnic cultures but we have never really gone down the path of organizing people around a reason for action.
The reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act in Congress this fall and the Slow Food USA campaign (Time for Lunch) that is raising awareness for better food in school lunches and nutrition for our most vulnerable populations gave us ammunition to bring people together for an Eat-In. The Slow Food USA Time for Lunch Campaign is proving that people all over the country are passionate and dedicated to making a difference in our food system through civic engagement and advocacy for change in Federal policy. There are over 250 Eat-Ins planned throughout the country on Labor Day in all 50 states. This has exceeded expectations all around.
Now, Ive been to plenty of events put together by big fancy event companies and they are often impressive. As a small and completely volunteer-run organization, for us to do something of this scale requires not only time and money but also dedication from scores of people.
I was the kind of student who always wanted to go first to get my presentations over with. That desire was working for me, when the only available date we could get for Daley Plaza this summer was on August 26th. So we started down the path of planning a simple yet impressive event, the first in a nationwide series.
Even the most-simple events are complicated. I shouldnt have been surprised to see the rain coming a week away.
Posted on Wed, August 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Anne Obelnicki, RAFT Grow-Out Project Coordinator
Ive been thinking a lot about agricultural disasters today. Unlike what the word disaster usually implies, in farming, it doesnt take much to cause some serious problems. In a lot of ways, its similar to the perils of restaurateurs. Every chef dreads the snow storm that is normal for the season, but comes without warning and results in wasted inventory when customers stay home. In farming, it can be as simple as a little more rain and a little less sunshine, or neighboring home gardeners plant sources.
This summer, in the Northeast, the hot news is late blight ravaging Northeast tomato and potato plants. Chef Dan Barber did a good job of explaining how this disaster began in his New York Times Op-ed piece.
Every time I talk to one of the RAFT Grow-Out farmers they tell me worse news about their tomato fields. When I went to Red Planet Vegetables outside of Providence, RI last week they told me their tomatoes looked great until just a few days earlier when the blight arrived. Now they are living day-by-day with the tomato plants. If its hot, like it has been the past week, the blight slows down and the ripening tomatoes speed up. If its cold and damp, the green tomatoes just sit while the plants rot away. Unfortunately with this neck-and-neck race, the plants will never make it to the normal end of the season, even if we have hot days from now to October. Many farmers have ripped out most of their tomatoes already.
Unfortunately, late blight isnt all Northeast farmers have had to deal with this season. All the wet, cold weather at the beginning of the summer put everything about a month behind. While many beautiful, abet late, vegetables are finally coming in now, the problem comes in October when the frost arrives at the same time it always does. A late start to the already-short Northeast growing season means farmers will have a shorter selling season, with fewer vegetables resulting in less income.
Posted on Wed, August 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Nikki Henderson
One of my favorite memories: eating my fathers food experiments. Every so often, the six-foot, muscular beast of a man would roll up his sleeves and dive into the kitchen. Flour would fly, rouge apples would squish underfoot, and hours later a somewhat-suspicious looking pastry would peek from the oven. My brothers and I initially scoffed at dads apple crumb cobbler, but the ill-shapen crust creation soon became a household favorite. Our mouths would water at the sound of knifes slicing through apples and spoons scraping against the sides of bowls. We would sit down at the kitchen table and just indulge. The whiney complains would drain from my brothers, my teenage angst would rise away with the steam, and our moods improved with every apple-filled bite.
The Pleasure of Food could be the ultimate weapon for change-agents of today. If families, organizations, and individuals harnessed this wonderful feeling of comfort for their aims, those in power would be defenseless against them. I could stamp my feet and bang my fists against a brick wall if I was trying to change local legislation, or I could show up at a press conference with tasty organic in-season fruit and distribute them to the reporters. Even if they refused to talk to me, they would take one of my applesmission accomplished. They will remember my apple, and with the right t-shirt, the name of my issue and the sweet taste of working with me to resolve injustice will never fade away.
I would love to see social justice organizations and individuals use the pleasure of food in this manner, as a strategic tactic in the struggle. What if kicking-and-screaming town hall meetings concluded with plate after plate of home-cooked food? Congressional deliberations should have fruit and veggie platters, full deli bars, and sweet tea. Rallies and protests about the harshest of circumstancespolice brutality, gang violence, and crimeneed decades-old recipes filled with love to shatter the hate.
This is urgently needed to help create change and ease the strain of communities. The food system is brother to many other broken systems, from energy to the economy. Many good soldiers in the social justice movement have tried to weave together broken jobs, broken communities, and broken families with little to no success. Fighting for those without the means to fight for themselves requires every discipline, every strength, and every shred of compassion. Maintaining sanity after finding oneself repeated victim of a shattered system requires the same. This battle is draining to all involveda good meal can replenish all involved.
Every act of celebratory activism involving the pleasure of food weaves a thread of joy through circumstances in desperate need of hope. If a more direct Food as a Catalyst for Change movement arose from the greater food movement, I would be first in line for a plate.
Posted on Tue, August 25, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Biodiversity Intern Regina Fitzsimmons
Two days ago I ventured to the YMCA in TriBeCa, after a false start at the uptown Y, an extra subway trip and a blazing hot walk across town; Im an Arizonan fish-out-of-water and hadnt the faintest clue that TriBeCa was a place and not the name of the building. I stumbled into a cool, dark room with chairs clustered beneath a slightly elevated stage. Flustered and feeling foolish, I snuck over to the side of the audience and spotted an empty chair.
On stage sat David Mas Masumoto, a peach farmer and author, and four farmers from upstate New York and New Jersey. In the audience, we sipped on ciders and ate savory heirloom tomatoes (unaffected by the recent blight) with slices of crusty baguette and goat cheeses. Mas led the discussion as I peeled my backpack from my shoulders.
Mas asked the farmers to answer both long questions and short ones with quick, off-the-cuff answers like, whats the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word rain? when you wake up in the morning? when you hear the word harvest? When prompted with the words No one knows that I , Cheryl, farmer at W. Rogowski Farm sighed and said, Id love a manicure and to get my toes done.
Half the time, the smile on my face grew larger and larger still, as I chuckled through stories of Rons (who farms 17 acres on Stokes Farm in Jersey) recollections of his childhood time out sessionsnot cloistered in a room as he would have liked, but forced to pick flats of cherry tomatoes all afternoon. But some of the time, the conversation turned thoughtful, somber and serious. When asked to recollect a bad day on the farm, they shared stories of people getting hurt, crops ruined over night by one storm or one deer. Fred from Wilklow Orchards shared his last Friday: he and his farm help started harvesting at 6:30 a.m. (bumped a half hour later because of the waning daylight). They finished loading up the market van at 10:00 p.m., went inside, had dinner and at 11pm and just as they were cleaning the dishes, they heard a knock at the door. Do you have cows? a woman asked them, standing in the threshold. Yes, Fred responded. Well, I think theyve all escaped. Fred grabbed his keys and drove down the road and sure enough, twelve cows had found their way out of the pasture. He lured them in and climbed into bed just after 1 oclock in the morning. He was up at 4am to get to market on time. As a few people from the audience murmured words of surprise and amazement, the other farmers all nodded knowingly.
Posted on Mon, August 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Debbie Lehmann
Deborah Lehmann is an editor of School Lunch Talk, a blog about school food. She is currently studying economics and public policy at Brown University.
President Obama has been talking about school lunch a lot lately, but last week he touched on a new side of the issue. In response to a question about healthy eating at a forum on health care, Obama brought up what I see as one of the biggest obstacles to improving cafeteria fare: the unfortunate reality that what kids like is not always whats best for them.
Heres what Obama said at the forum:
Because sometimes you go into schools and you know what the menu is, you know? Its French fries, Tater Tots, hot dogs, pizza and now, thats what kids lets face it, thats what kids want to eat, anyway. (Laughter.) So its not just the schools fault.
Thats absolutely right its not just the schools fault. School meal programs are stand-alone businesses within school districts, and they need students to come in and buy the food they offer so that they can break even at the end of the year. In fact, you can think of school cafeterias as restaurants on school grounds (restaurants that, admittedly, have to meet federal requirements and submit huge piles of paperwork to the USDA). Without student sales, cafeterias go out of business. School lunches would be great if all kids loved carrots and spinach. But the reality is that kids like pizza and hotdogs, and school lunchrooms are responsible for pleasing their customers.
If we want to overhaul school food in America, were going to have to change that. Its a change that makes obvious sense when you look at the cafeteria as a part of the school environment. Look around the rest of campus and youll see that the lunchroom is the only place where we give kids what they want. English teachers assign the books on the curriculum, not the books kids ask to read. Math teachers cover fractions and multiplication, even though students would probably rather be playing video games than completing worksheets.
Classrooms can function like that because theyre not businesses. Teachers are not responsible for catering to their customers because they dont have customers. They have students. If were serious about dietary reform and health reform, its time to translate that to the cafeteria as well.
Posted on Fri, August 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Biodiversity intern Regina Fitzsimmons
Last month, HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, passed in the House. While this legislation marginally amps up government food oversight by granting the FDA power to force food recalls and increase inspections of food processing plants (a poweryou got itthe FDA can now only recommend), spokespeople for small farmers have big concerns if this bill passes in the Senate. You can read a breakdown of the bill by the Washington Post and keep up on the current Congressional actions at the Library of Congress online.
In sum-up, though, concerns arise from a couple of things: for one, identical regulations will be imposed on both small and large food enterprises. In tangible terms, this bill would require all food handlers. Under this legislation a big company like Kraft would pay the same FDA registration as an artisan cheesemaker with a couple of goats. A second concern is that the legislation also grants the FDA the power to set standards determining how crops are grown, requiring the adoption of tracking technologiesa process significantly more taxing for small operators. Food writers like Gourmets Barry Estabrook are hoping that Senate wont follow in the Houses fast-tracking footsteps and will instead allow a sustained debate with the inclusion of possible amendments like Kaptur-Farr legislation that was glazed over in the House. Estabrook hopes the Senate will address these concerns because as he put it, being a conscientious farmer is a tough business [and] Congress just made it tougher.
It isnt surprising that the House steam-rolled through the review and vote of HR 2749. This bill comes a month after yet another food recall: this time, Nestles Toll House refrigerated cookie dough. In the past three years, weve avoided bagged spinach, ground beef, tomatoes (even though Serrano chile peppers were the real culprit) and peanut butter, among other foods. People are getting sick and we all want to know the answer to the most basic of questions: whats okay to eat?
Posted on Fri, August 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Earlier this week, in an interview with 11 year old Damon Weaver (yes, eleven. I was at ballet class at eleven), Barack Obama talked about the importance of getting healthy food into schools.
Then, yesterday, during a conference call on health care with Organizing for America organizers, he continued:
“part of what we also have to do, though, is teach our children early the importance of health…When it comes to food, one of the things that we are doing is working with school districts, and the child nutrition legislation is going to be coming up. We provide an awful lot of school lunches out there and reimburse local school districts for school lunch programs. Let’s figure out, how we can get some fresh fruits and vegetables in the mix?
Because sometimes you go into schools, and you know what the menu is. You know, it’s French fries, tater tots, hot dogs, pizza. Now, that’s what kids—let’s face it. That’s what kids want to eat anyway, so it’s not just the school’s fault. A, that’s what kids may want to eat. B, it turns out that that food’s a lot cheaper because of the distributions that we’ve set up.
And so what we’ve got to do is to change how we think about, for example, getting local farmers connected to school districts, because that would benefit the farmers, delivering fresh produce, but right now they just don’t have the distribution mechanisms set up.”
Anyone else’s head spinning?
Now we all know that just because Barack and Michelle are on board, it doesn’t equal a better Child Nutrition Act and a reformed Farm Bill, BUT, I think we are guaranteed an interesting conversation when the Child Nutrition Act does finally make it to the floor.
Posted on Thu, August 20, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Gordon Jenkins
If the office workers on lunch break in Brooklyn Bridge Park could hear anything over the roar of Q trains crossing the Manhattan Bridge, then they were treated to a rare public performance: Slow Food USA Executive Director Erika Lesser, in makeshift headdress, giving a passionate reading of the Slow Food Manifesto. As she hit doleful lows (We are enslaved by speed) and soaring heights (Slow Food guarantees a better future), twenty of her colleagues cheered and hissed in unison. Eyewitnesses in corporate offices across the East River report seeing the industrial food system shake in its boots.
Lessers performance was a highlight of an event billed as a warm-up to the National Eat-In taking place on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2009. On that day, people in communities across America will gather for public potlucks that send a clear message to Congress: Its time to provide our children with real food at school. As organizers nationwide prepare for their events, the staff at Slow Food USA headquarters in Brooklyn decided to practice what they preach and cook up their own favorite dishes for a lunchtime Eat-In.
Roast beef and fruit salad and pickled okra and homemade baba ghanoush appeared on the table, alongside plum cake and chocolate mousse for dessert. While they ate, staff members took turns giving performances to rally spirits in preparation for the final stretch to Labor Day. A school nutrition director named Margo Roundbottom made a brief but moving appearance to knight Leah Gorham and Callie Gleason in the Order of the Lunch Lady on their second-to-last day working on the campaign (its August, and they have to return to school); Jenny Trotter sang a very beautiful song; Deena Goldman, Jerusha Klemperer and Julia Middleton sang their bosses praise and folly; and Josh Viertel closed the meal by channeling his inner chain-gang member and leading a passionate rendition of a 1930s Mississippi work song.
If they couldnt hear, the office workers sitting nearby did stare and smile appreciatively. Everyone likes to watch people enjoy a meal together, even if its a ragtag group of food activists who interrupt their meal with manifesto readings. On Sept. 7, many thousands of such food activists will impress many thousands of such passerby in parks and town squares across America. Join the effort today at http://slowfoodusa.org/timeforlunch.
Posted on Tue, August 18, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Green space is necessary in a big, gray city like ours (that’s NYC, for those of you who didn’t know where the Slow Food USA home office is!). These days, more and more green spaces are growing things you can eat: there’s a boom in rooftop gardens, community ag projects, urban farms, and fire escape/window produce planting.
The New York Botanic Garden, recognizing the trend, has created “a summer-long celebration of growing great food.” They’ve got exhibitions and programs designed to inspire the public to “grow, prepare, and eat garden-fresh produce, and understand how plants provide the food and drink essential to maintaining life and enhancing wellness.”
This Thursday Slow Food USA will be there:
Biodiversity Program Manager Jenny Trotter will moderate a panel on how home gardeners, orchardists, farmers and chefs all play a role in conserving rare and place-based fruit and vegetable varieties (6-9 pm)
Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel will give the keynote address.