What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, October 30, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Grace Mitchell
In July, I befriended a twelve-year-old boy, Jackson, who proclaimed to me his fierce love for vegetables of all kinds and his disappointment in his peers who, unlike him, were not raised on farms and had yet to find such love. He told me he had trouble making friends because “they just didn’t understand.” Lucky for our friendship, I too have an undying vegetable passion and appreciate like-minded souls, so Jackson and I became fast friends.
That soft-skied evening I ventured to the garden with Jackson’s grandfather where we admired his gargantuan squash plants that would provide bountiful and opulent meals come fall. I tucked full my mouth with the exquisite fruits of his raspberry patch, a fine deal of which would become wine to warm their bodies through the wet winter. Jackson introduced me to his hog, whom he was fattening up for the state fair competition, and who would, with or without prize, give Jackson and his family bacon and the like with the passing of October. After harvesting far too many sugar peas from their vines and eating plenty more, we moved inside where Jackson’s grandmother set aside the spare sugar peas for freezing and pickling, and we sat down to enjoy a glass of last summer’s raspberry wine and the past autumn’s dried pears. A meal followed, comprised solely of pickings from our evening garden stroll. What luxurious ease it was to dine so gloriously! And Jackson and his family would be eating in like manner all winter, thanks to their voluptuous garden and seasoned foresight.
Then one day I picked up and moved to New York City, where I still have yet to secure a dresser and other useful items of furniture, where I live in fear of lighting my antique oven, and where when the L train ceases to run (mm, going on four Saturdays?)I fail to make the one-and-a-half hour trek to the farmers’ market and too frequently find myself subsisting on spelt berries and a gifted and rapidly dwindling jar of apple butter.
Alas! How easy were those summer days of backyard vegetable bounty! If I lived like Jackson, my vegetable love could be fed not only all summer and into fall harvest season, but also through the winter by the overabundance of summer produce preserved through canning, drying, and freezing. It makes my heart prickle to know that while so many others committed to eating locally have been putting up their autumn harvest for coming months, I am preparing myself for a winter of vegetable doldrums and
more spelt berries.
Posted on Thu, October 29, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Becca Stanger
If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would have told you that a knish was a new kind of Nerf gun. Apparently, I was utterly ignorant when it came to authentic Jewish delis. I honestly didnt even know that delis were Jewish. To a born and raised Californian like me, delis more or less meant Subway. Or maybe the local Mexican-family-owned sandwich shop where I could get my low-fat turkey and veggie sandwich on whole wheat. Hold the mustard. So reading journalist David Saxs new book Save the Deli was informative for me, to say the least.
In this book, Sax takes his readers on a whirlwind tour of Jewish delis, from New York City to Kansas City to Krakow. While introducing his readers to this diverse world of reubens and matzo ball soup, Sax recounts the intriguing story of modern delis, describing their historic emergence from the pushcarts of 19th century Eastern European immigrants and their recent decline due to rising health concerns, a changing restaurant industry, and an assimilating Jewish culture.
Sax successfully adds color to this educational tour with his exuberant love for delis. With an engaging voice and corny puns, Sax’s excitement for the hallowed temple of salted and cured meats seeps from every page. But be warned Saxs passion is so infectious that you may find yourself drooling over the most unlikely of things, including pickled chicken fat and broiled tongue.
Posted on Thu, October 29, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
There have been inspired some inspired federal appointments (Kathleen Merrigan! Hurrah) in the past 9 months, appointments that made some of us feel like change in food and farm policy was possible, even likely. Other appointments leave a gal like me scratching her head. For example, the nomination of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agriculture Negotiator and appointment of Roger Beachy (no public review process!) as director of the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
These guys are long time Big Ag insiders, having worked hard in the past for CropLife and Monsanto and no doubt promising to continue working hard for those companies in their new posts as well. As explained in the petition scribed by a coalition of organizations including National Family Farm Coalition and the Pesticide Action Network, “these are two textbook cases of the revolving door between industry and the agencies meant to keep watch, Siddiqui and Beachys industry ties demonstrate that both men are too beholden to corporate agriculture to serve the public interest”
The petition eloquently expresses it: “As parents, farmers, advocates, scientists and people who eat food, we remember your promise on the campaign trail: Well tell ConAgra that its not the Department of Agribusiness. Its the Department of Agriculture. Were going to put the peoples interests ahead of the special interests.
Let’s hold them to it, shall we?
Posted on Wed, October 28, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Our Slow Food friends in Paris-Bastille chapter are after your grand-mère. Err…rather, they are after your grandma’s recipes. Their new family treasures project will be an online collection featuring tried and true recipes passed down through families. And the three best recipes submitted before November 12 will be prepared as a meal at an upcoming youth Terra Madre gathering in Tours, France.
Submitted recipes should have only common and economical ingredients, be easy enough for a non-professional cook to prepare, and have been handed down to you through your family. Recipes for consideration for the contest should be sent in by November 12. An important criteria of the contest is actually the story: who gave the recipe to you, and why is it a family treasure? Find more details about the contest here.
Here in the U.S., a few local chapters regularly organize Grandmother Workshops, informal classes focused on teaching the cooking and gardening skills that our grandmothers used to teach us. Slow Food San Francisco’s 5th installment of their grandmother workshop, coming up on November 1, will be focused on Bengali cuisine - click here for details. Slow Food Berkeley also holds regular workshops - click here for details.
Do you plan or attend similar classes or gatherings? Leave a comment and let us know!
Posted on Wed, October 28, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Alaine Janosy
In the 1980s an unknown fingerling potato, the Makah Ozette, was recognized as a staple in the diet of Pacific Coast Native Americans of the Makah Nation. The Makah named this potato the Ozette after one of their five villages located around Neah Bay, Washington.
Acting as the stewards of this potato variety, Slow Food Seattle, the Makah Nation, several farmers who supply restaurants and sell at farmers markets, a laboratory which produces potato seed for the USDA at an Agricultural Research Station, and the Seattle chapter of the Chefs Collaborative all came together to create a project to resurrect this heritage variety. This project was officially recognized as a Presidium project by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity in 2008.
This year, one of the farms currently growing the potato Full Circle Farms, a 300-acre certified organic farm in Carnation, Washington is supplying The Essential Baking Company with a portion of their fall Makah Ozette crop to use in the bakerys potato bread and potato rolls. The bakery created a brochure to publicize the potato, the project and the bread.
I spoke with Gerry Warren, Presidium coordinator, about how the promotion with The Essential Baking Company came about. Apparently, its something the Presidium has wanted to do for a while but the crop has been too small until now to entertain the idea. With this years bumper crop it was a perfect time to give it a shot. Anna Lee, Slow Food Seattle member and executive board member of The Essential Baking Company, worked with Full Circle Farms and the Presidium to get Makah Ozette potatoes to the bakery for a test run. The resulting bread and rolls were delicious so the bakery agreed to use the Makah Ozette as the base for their potato bread and rolls for two months, from October 15 to December 15, 2009. Initially, the bakery was only going to use the potato for one month, but since Full Circle Farm was so successful in growing the potatoes, there was sufficient crop to feature it for an additional month. Look for Makah Ozette potato bread and rolls at grocers in the Puget Sound area and at The Essential Bakery cafes in Seattles Wallingford and Madison Valley neighborhoods.
Posted on Tue, October 27, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Tomorrow night, “The Botany of Desire” airs on PBS(check your local listing for channel and airtime). In anticipation of this, we partnered with the producers of the film to put on an heirloom apple scavenger hunt, and are today announcing our 9 winners. Those who entered were asked to take photos of as many heirloom/heritage apple varieties as they could, including the farm or farmer where the apples were located, and send us their list of apple varieties, their photos, and a recipe for something they made with one or more kind of apple. What a way to celebrate apple season and the work being done by Renewing Americas Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance to identify rare apple varieties, coordinate regional forgotten fruit workshops and compile resources on apple diversity!
For a review of “The Botany of Desire,” check out Paula Crossfield’s post over on Civil Eats.
And for beautiful apple photos and some terrific apple recipes form our winners, read on…
Posted on Tue, October 27, 2009 by Nathan Leamy
I never thought I would find myself drinking white vinegar on a Saturday night, but this past weekend, I was doing exactly that.
In my constant quest to expand my palate, last Saturday some friends and I ate miracle fruit - and saw just how much taste perception can change in a single evening. Miracle fruit - a name that is endearing and whimsical, but touch of hyperbole - is a small, red berry that is native to West Africa. While in and of itself it is rather tasteless, it contains a glycoprotein that binds with taste-buds - making sour things taste sweet, and shifting a person’s entire range of flavor a bit. I originally read about miracle fruit in the New York Times a year ago, but finally made the plunge last weekend. I bought my berries online on Monday and they were delivered by FedEx to the Slow Food USA national office freeze dried on Friday.
Saturday evening, a friend and I assembled a wide selection of foods that we thought might taste interesting - from olives and apples to beer and limes. We invited a small crew over to my apartment, and tossed the berries in our mouths. To get the full effect, the berry must lull about in your mouth for five minutes before you can start eating other foods with your new sense of taste.
As the berries did their magic, participants wondered aloud about the experiment I had pulled them into. “Are you sure this is safe?” one friend asked. “Are you sure this is legal?” chimed in another.
Once the berry’s power set in, we began munching. Suddenly lemons tasted like they were candied. The red onions that typically make my eyes tear-up with their spicy glory, suddenly tasted watery and dull. Chipotle-Tabasco sauce was like chocolate syrup. Raw beets seemed extra earthy, and so well rounded. White vinegar tasted like sugared syrup and with an overwhelming memory of Easter egg dying.
Some foods didn’t change at all - carrots still tasted like carrots - but for the most part it was a pretty wild experience. By the time we sat down for dim sum an hour later, the effects of this miraculous berry had worn off - but the idea still sticks with me. Taste is only one of many ways I interact with the food I eat and it is so easily tricked - even by nature.
In the 1970s, food companies distilled the essential chemical from miracle fruit and proposed it as a natural - if trippy - sweetener. The US government ruled it out, but so many similar additives have slipped through the cracks since. Chemicals naturally found in corn have been extracted and bent to become calorie-free sweeteners. Naturally occurring MSG gives mushrooms their savory, musky flavor - but the synthetic version of this universal flavor enhancer is strongly reviled. The line between honest eating and confounding consumption becomes ever twisted. Because miraculin was denied as an additive and the fruit itself is highly perishable, miracle fruit will likely never make it big. It will remain as a strange and rare way to change your perception of taste, and nothing more.
The experience will go down with other ‘madeleine memories’ - the first time I ate a fresh tomato from my grandfather’s garden; those fantastic spring rolls that made my stomach flutter in Thailand; a sip of warm milk from a cow I had just hand-milked; - but this taste will have a little asterisk by it. Sunday morning I tried another spoonful of white vinegar - sans miracle fruit - and it was incredibly, but reassuringly, bitter again.
Posted on Mon, October 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Stephenson
For many people, going to the grocery store has become an overload of choices and information. Theres fat-free, low-sugar, free-range, organic, added vitamins, fair-trade and natural, just to name a few of the confusing labels. As the Smart Choices program has been put on hold, and we no longer have to consider Froot Loops and spinach in the same category.
But according to the New York Times, the Swedish government is the first to attempt to make environmentally responsible shopping easier for its citizens. In the pilot program, certain products will receive a total carbon emissions amount based on calculations that take into account fertilizer, fuel for harvesting machinery, packaging and transport. For example a box of oatmeal reads: Climate declared: .87 kg CO2 per kg of product. Products also can get a general seal of approval from the government that takes into account growing conditions or harvesting practices. Under the new system, carrots pass, and so do beans and chicken, but not fish, tomatoes, cucumbers or beef.
The new initiative has been eye opening. Not only in terms of Swedens environmental ambitiousness (according to the article, Sweden has been a world leader in finding new ways to reduce emissions. It has vowed to eliminate the use of fossil fuel for electricity by 2020 and cars that run on gasoline by 2030). But also for producers and consumers. The Swedish burger chain Max discovered that 75 percent of its carbon footprint was created by the meat it served. And since the emissions counts started appearing on the menu, the sale of climate-friendly foods have risen 20 percent.
Posted on Mon, October 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
What happens when an adventurous mayor of a small town in France decides to introduce local, organic produce into the school cafeteria? I was curious, so I headed off to a screening of Food Beware, which had its NYC debut last week.
Ten minutes into the documentary I was convinced that I was about to sit through a French version of Food, Inc., which hit American theatres this past summer. Fifteen minutes I was proven wrong. The main voices of the documentary are almost exclusively those of the towns residents, lending it a tangible degree of humility and the personal which other films in the food-doc genre (Food, Inc. included) are missing, in my opinion.
The film is shot predominantly in the idyllic town of Barjac in the Languedoc-Rousillon region (NE of Avignon) in Southern France. The progressive mayor, along with the school districts central kitchen chef, embarks on an experiment to shift the districts school food to an entirely organic menu. The result is that the kids love it. But, the parents love it too, and the local farmers, and a few local business owners, and You can see where Im going with this: there is a ripple-effect throughout the towns families and economy. Even the local Meals-On-Wheels program is overhauled.
Aside from the school experiment, upon which the film centers half of its attention, the other focus is on the farmers and citizens who call the Languedoc their home. The region is bread basket and wine country. We see the stark difference between the soil tilth of an organic vineyard with that of the scorched and eroded landscape of a neighboring one. We see farmers gearing up and riding through their orchards to spray toxic chemicals. Underscoring these scenes are conversations with the peach farmer who becomes sick from his use of pesticides and whose own children suffer from genital deformation, and a mother of a child who died of leukemia, whos doctors can only explain was caused by environmental factors.
Posted on Sat, October 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by April McGreger first posted at Grist.org
April McGreger is the proprietor of Farmers Daughter, a farm-driven artisan food business in Carrboro, N.C. She is a leader in her local Slow Food chapter, where she is known to curate field pea tastings and write for the Slow Food Triangle blog. When not in the kitchen, she can usually be found at her local community garden or singing and playing the tenor banjo with her husband Phil.
One lovely evening a couple of weeks ago, I watched the documentary Food Fight in an outdoor theater in my downtown. The documentary focuses on how the 1960s counterculturespecifically the Berkeley crew of which Alice Waters was a memberled to the current sustainable agriculture boom. The documentary champions the sensual pleasures and health promotion of fresh, locally grown food, but I couldnt help noticing one glaring omission.
In my personal experience the single most rewarding aspect of eating locally has been exploring my own region in depth. I think of it as seeking the wisdom of Wendell Berry who says repeatedly, Youve got to know where you are. Youve got to consult the genius of the place.
Before moving to North Carolina, I was living a few miles from where my family had settled six generations back. The loss that I felt in my new place was a disconnection to the past and to the land that I now lived on. I fell into a counterculture of my owna community of multigenerational farmers and DIY punks who mostly grew and/or ate seasonal, locally grown and foraged food. There was an intentional effort within this community to live Berrys idea of a good life, one that values sustainable agriculture, healthy rural communities, connection to place, the pleasures of good food, meaningful work, a functioning local economy, reverence for nature and the interconnectedness of life.
I experienced an ever increasing awareness that the food choices I made were governed by the competing considerations of identity, convenience, price, and responsibility. Through my choice to support small, local farmers by buying directly from them, I could help preserve agricultural land in an area that was experiencing rapid growth.
In the long term, however, what keeps me interested in locally grown food is discovering that self-imposed geographical limits on our foodshed support the minor agricultural products, for which there are increasingly fewer markets in our current boundless global food society. There is a deep and understated sort of satisfaction that comes from delving into long forsaken traditional foods, such as lard from pastured pigs as a cooking fat, sorghum molasses as a wholesome sweetener, and old varieties of Southern apples found here in the North Carolina Piedmont.
It was in this spirit of discovery that I first sampled a rustic, idiosyncratic apple that I found for sale at the Carrboro Farmers Market. That apple had a winey, complex taste that just doesnt exist in modern apple varieties. I sought to learn more. It turns out that although they are virtually extinct on the commercial market, there are many, many varieties of delicious old timey apples with a rich, if disappearing, history behind them. And that is what fascinates me: not just a local apple, but an apple with a story, a history, and a sense of place, all of which contribute to the pleasure of every winey bite.