What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, June 30, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Patrick Keeler
“You are what you eat.” It’s a trite aphorism amongst us sustainable food advocates, but never so literally has this adage been applied than in the new novel Animals by Don LePan.
We don’t often get the opportunity to digest fiction books about the food system at the SFUSA office, and one of my favorite genres is the utopian* or dystopian story, so with great enthusiasm I leapt at the chance to be among the first to read Animals.
Set in the 22nd century the premise of the novel is this: we’ve so terribly screwed up the food system due to our dependence on factory farming for the source of meats and proteins, that the result is mass extinction of our feedstocks. Pandemic disease and genetic engineering have wiped out all traditional sources of meat (and many vegetable products) in a matter of decades. Panic follows; there’s a deepening gap between the rich who can afford better alternative food and healthcare and those who cannot; there’s economic collapse along the entire supply chain of the meat-processing sector. Not to mention that genetic engineering (amongst other environmental ills) has led to a dramatic increase in the number of birth defects.
Panic about how the human race will survive sans meat in their diets, coupled with a crippled healthcare system now burdened with a 1 in 5 severe birth defect rate, leads to a deterioration of morality. Those with any birth defects or handicaps are classified as “mongrels,” and are kept either as family pets or are sent to “chattel pens.” You guessed it – those who can afford it eat human flesh. And with a new product to market, the former meat industry’s infrastructure is revived by demand for factory farmed human animals.
Posted on Tue, June 29, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Mikayla Moretti, Slow Food chapter at University of Rhode Island
What could possibly be better than eating food you can feel good about without breaking the bank? Author and Slow Food extraordinaire Amy McCoy recently wrote and published a cookbook that does just that; she calls it Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in style on a bare-bones budget. In this cookbook, there are over 200 pages of recipes that call for seasonal foods, sensational flavor, and savings beyond your wildest imagination.
The best part about this book is Amy’s creativity and sensibility behind each and every recipe. With the turn of every page you will find good, clean, and fair ingredients combined together to make a delicious gourmet meal that won’t wipe out your firstborn’s college fund. The recipes account for the cost of every ingredient used to prepare each dish down to the cent, allowing even the most sophisticated palate to eat well despite the effects of the current economic recession.
Where did this all begin you may ask? A few years back Amy created her blog, the original Poor Girl Gourmet, at the start of the recession. She began posting the recipes of meals for her readers, all of which she prepared herself at her home. The essence behind Poor Girl Gourmet enables us all to deliberately keep costs low without sacrificing the integrity, flavor, or locality of our food.
In addition to her talents as a freelance writer and culinary expert, Amy is a gifted photographer and the mastermind behind the beautiful pictures in this book, as well. In fact, Amy recently visited the University of Rhode Island in April to impart her comprehensive wealth of knowledge on students and the URI community. Amy’s agenda at URI included a visit to several journalism classes during the day and a special sneak peak of Poor Girl Gourmet in the evening. Amy’s book discussion featured the complete story that brought her from blog to book and the process she encountered after being sought out by a publishing company.
To top it all off, Amy has served as the Slow Food Rhode Island chair for the past two years and has seen membership grow exponentially in this flourishing chapter. Currently Amy is on tour for the summer – check out her blog for a more complete schedule of Amy’s whereabouts and book signings. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Poor Girl Gourmet at your local book store!
Posted on Tue, June 29, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
This Thursday morning, Representative George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, will be holding a full committee hearing on the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 (H.R. 5504). This is the House version of the Child Nutrition Bill that’s waiting to be scheduled for floor debate in the Senate.
It’s important for Congress to pass the bill by the end of the summer so President Obama can sign it into law before current school lunch legislation expires at the end of September. The bill is a step forward for school meal programs, particularly because it creates a grant program for local food and finally kicks junk food out of school vending machines, but it only raises the school lunch by six cents, which isn’t enough to ensure every student has access to a healthy meal. Right now, schools get by with about $1.00 for each meal’s ingredients.
If your House Representative is on the Education and Labor Committee, you can help out right now: please call them before Thursday and ask them to bring the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act up for committee vote quickly and to fully fund the bill with at least an additional $1 billion per year. Even if your Representative is not on the Education and Labor Committee, you can still call them and urge them to ask their colleagues on the committee to quickly pass a fully funded bill.
Click here for a list of members of the House Education and Labor Committee. You can find your Representative’s name and contact information here.
Posted on Mon, June 28, 2010 by Intern
by intern Khalilah Ramdene
A recent study by the Rudd Center at Yale University found that children prefer foods branded with cartoon characters, often citing those foods as better tasting then their unbranded counterparts. Licensed cartoon characters are often used to advertise unhealthy foods to children, suggesting that this direct marketing may be a primary contributor to the child obesity epidemic.
The study sampled 40 children in New Haven, Connecticut between ages four and six. The children were provided with three pairs of identical food, some packaged with a cartoon character (Scooby Doo, Dora, and Shrek) and some without. The study found that children were more likely to choose a food with a familiar branded image, which suggests that advertising and marketing has a strong influence over the food choices children make. Aside from choosing foods branded with recognizable cartoon characters the participants claimed the food tasted better. Cartoon characters are more often used to sell the unhealthy foods (foods high in fat, sugar and/or sodium) that are linked to the child obesity epidemic.
Advertising unhealthy food directly to children has its precedent in the McDonald Happy Meal model. Along with a third of a day’s worth of calories, and two days worth of sugar, children receive a toy in their Happy Meal, usually a character associated with new movie releases or hit television shows. In 2003, the sale of Happy Meals reached $3.4 billion and made up 20 percent of McDonalds sale. Earlier this week, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released a statement threatening to sue McDonalds for their “unfair and deceptive marketing” to children. CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner states, “McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity—all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”
Posted on Mon, June 28, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Julia Landau
Slow Food Saint Louis has been making news! In the past few months, this chapter was invited to appear on a local lifestyles morning show three times, getting the word out about seasonal produce and fresh and healthy cooking.
The chapter advised on topics ranging from kitchen to field on Great Day St. Louis. Kelly Childs, SF St. Louis leader, spoke about the benefits of buying seasonal, perks of eating local, tips for picking out choice produce: Kelly shared it all.
Soon, SF St. Louis was back on camera, this time with a mini-tutorial on cooking with herbs – and growing them, too.
The appearance was a seriously exciting opportunity to get the chapter’s name, website, and most importantly great work and knowledge out to a wide and interested audience - Congrats, St. Louis!
Posted on Fri, June 25, 2010 by Slow Food USA
The third of the Department of Justice/USDA Anti-trust workshops is underway in Madison, WI, as we write this. Last night, as in Ankenny Iowa a few months ago, there was a town hall held the night before the workshop. Here’s a report from the field…-ed.
by Siena Chrisman, WHY Hunger
Appropriately, the evening began with a picnic featuring local cheese and ended with an ice cream social under a yellow moon. In between, dairy farmers, consumer advocates, professors, labor union representatives, faith communities, antihunger advocates, an aspiring cheesemaker, and even a Certified Public Accountant spoke out forcefully about the widespread injustices in the dairy industry.
The main event was a Dairy Town Hall Forum in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by Family Farm Defenders, National Family Farm Coalition, and Food and Water Watch, and timed to coincide with Friday’s Department of Justice and USDA workshop examining corporate concentration in the dairy industry. The workshop on Friday is part of the ongoing investigation (which I reported on here) by the two departments to determine whether food and agriculture companies have become too concentrated.
The dairy industry is one of the most concentrated in the country, with just one company controlling 40% of the US milk supply. Prices for farmers have fallen so low in the past three years that many dairy farmers were losing as much as $200 per cow every month in 2009. Meanwhile, even though the price farmers were paid for milk fell by almost 50% from 2007 to 2009, the retail price dropped by less than 25%. Someone’s profiting, but it’s not farmers or consumers.
Posted on Thu, June 24, 2010 by Intern
by intern Christine Binder
When I heard that Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and Food Initiative Coordinator, was going to be the guest judge on Bravo TV’s Top Chef this week, I knew this would be a must-see episode. For those of you who didn’t tune in last night, let me give you a quick recap. No spoilers, I promise!
After creating some seriously tasty-looking “bipartisandwiches” for the Quickfire Challenge, the 16 contestants broke into four teams. For the Elimination Challenge, each team was charged with the task of cooking a delicious, nutritionally balanced lunch for 50 D.C. middle school students, a seemingly simple assignment, except for one major twist. Each team was only allotted a budget of $134, which comes to $2.68 per child, the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches. Chef Kass explained that because this money is used for labor and supplies in addition to ingredients, he would be subtracting $4 from their total budgets, leaving them with $130, which he described as a “major gift,” since schools usually only have roughly $1 to spend on ingredients.
As I expected, the chefs had a very difficult time adhering to this restrictive budget. At the Judge’s Table, one chef confessed, “We found ourselves at the cash register sacrificing creativity to keep substance in our meal.” The struggling teams also sacrificed nutrition, failing to include enough fruits and vegetables and “loading up with a lot of starch and sugar…the easy thing to do,” according to Kass.
Overall, I thought this was a great episode because it drove home two major points. First, cooking a healthy and delicious school lunch with a budget of $2.60 is a difficult challenge. Doing the same with only $1 for ingredients is much, much harder, which is why it’s so important for us to tell Congress to fully fund child nutrition programs.
Posted on Mon, June 21, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Slow Food Boston
This post was going to be upbeat, a scrappy guide to eating the Slow Food way* without a) blowing your entire bi-weekly payroll deposit or b) devoting all your waking hours to foraging, gardening, CSA pick-up, food preservation and early Rombaueresque cookery (double boilers! triple sifting!).
Ain’t gonna happen.It’s not that I haven’t tried. Last winter, I ran a children’s cooking class in which we focused on the über-affordable. Gleefully wielding all sorts of easily weaponized kitchen tools (knives, graters, rolling pins), my posse of babychefs prepared three kidlicious meals: pepperoni pizza ($4.60 per person—ouch!); bean, cheese and veggie burritos ($2.00—better!) and chicken noodle and minestrone soups with biscuits ($1.90). But guess what? Even those humble favorites made with ingredients from Market Basket and Shaw’s are out of range for a family of four earning $44,100 a year, which can spend a whopping $1.25 per person on meals.
Can we agree that, under these circumstances, it’s hard to even think the words local and sustainable?
[to read the rest of this post on Public Radio Kitchen, and an interesting debate in the comments section, click here]
Posted on Sat, June 19, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Recently, Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel visited with some high school students in California, one of whom shared with him the gory tale of hot Cheetos with melted cheese on top. In a bag. With a fork. Lunch on the go! We asked our mole, Rameen, to send us a picture. Whoahhhhh.
He reported that his school cafeteria sells them—not in the lunch line, but in one of the “competitive foods” lines. He said they appeal to students whose lunch period is too short to wait on a long lunch line. In his words, they’re “very gross…we could use some help. It would be cool not to have to pack bag lunches for the rest of my high school life!” When we asked him to explain a little more how he feels about the school selling this stuff as lunch, he said:
“I really hate seeing this kind of food going around at the school because it probably causes some of the most long term problems in any of the kids at my school. I’m not going to lie, many kids at my school are overweight. One student was so big, he broke his ankle just by trying to run. Fortunately, that problem doesn’t affect me directly, but it affects my friends and people i care about. If this kind of food is the only food a student can get at his school without wasting his whole day waiting in line, well every kid is going to have to pack bag lunches to school for the rest of their high school lives.”
Posted on Tue, June 15, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Monika V.I. Kunz
I’m going to spill a secret: even though I try my best to exclusively eat local, sustainable food, I’m not 100% a locavore. I can blame it on the fact that I’m Southern California grown and had the luxury of fresh—and locally grown—produce for most of the year during much of my life. But, truth be told, I didn’t exactly intentionally eat locally while a Californian.
When I moved to the East Coast six years ago I was suddenly appalled by how bland my grocery store-purchased fruits and vegetables tasted. I’d review the label, see they were grown in California, and wonder how avocados from the homeland could taste so terrible in the North East. It look me awhile to fully grasp that West Coast food is meant to be consumed while your feet are planted near (or, even better, in) the Pacific, and vice versa.
In Amy Cotler’s bookThe Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food
, she guides the reader through three simple steps on how to become a fan and advocate of local buying and eating. Step one is to shop for local foods—meeting your farmer actually does enhance the flavor of her harvest; step two is to eat seasonally and simply—your ingredients do all of the work when they’re as flavorful as locally grown items tend to be; and step three is to connect and engage—you have a backyard (or fire escape / windowsill), so why should people with over an acre of land have all the fun? She manages to make waiting for something to come into season compelling, even to a self-described instant gratification junkie. At one point Amy writes about how she only eats strawberries while they’re in season because the delight that comes from consuming these perfectly ripe berries is worth the months of deprivation.
I’ve gotta say, after enjoying ramps, and rhubarb, and asparagus, and greens, and finally strawberries recently that were produced by farmers I chat with at my greenmarket each week, Amy and her Locavore Way are spot on. This isn’t to say I won’t still sneak some greens in the winter months (old habits die hard!), but spring greens that taste of the (East Coast) earth mixed with love and patience are better than just about anything grown and bagged in California then shipped to Brooklyn.