What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, January 31, 2013 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food New Orleans chapter leader Gary Granata explores the relationship between taste and health.
A Case for Taste by Gary Granata, PhD, RD, LDN, CLT
Chair, Slow Food New Orleans
Could taste, or more precisely the lack of taste in today’s mass produced food be a contributor to the obesity epidemic in America?
Food that is fresh, seasonal and locally-grown simply tastes better than processed and packaged fare that can be microwaved or ordered through a clown’s mouth. Why else would we call the latter “junk food”? Yet junk has become the norm as relatively few Americans have ever experienced the fabulous flavors of fresh, seasonal and local food.
American’s have become increasingly detached from the food they eat as evidenced by the fact that they spend less time cooking (< 30 min/day) than people of any other nation, but do not spend any more time at work. The daily caloric intake of American youth has steadily risen since 1977 and parallels the increased daily consumption of fast food. A child born today in the U.S. is estimated to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to the epidemic rise in obesity, which has exploded from 10% in 1990 to over 30% today and may reach 70% in the next 10-15 years. The low cost and convenience myth of fast food spread by the processed food industry has resulted in the loss of the true values of food in American. The value of food is expressed through culture, history, family, community and above all delicious taste.
The pleasure of taste is why we eat, dine and celebrate the joy of food and the culture that surrounds it. The taste of delicious food lingers on the palate long after the taste buds have been excited, much like a bell resonates for several moments after it is struck. The flavorful sensations of good food can actually take away your breath, cause you to pause, put down your fork and become momentarily lost in infinite pleasures of taste. Thus, the taste of fresh and delicious food can actually slow down the rate of eating, which in turn allows neural signals of satiety to reach the brain and reduce the amount of food eaten.
But, what happens when food fails to satisfy the innate need for the pleasure of taste?
Sweet and salt are the dominant flavors in American processed and fast food, while the basic flavors of sour and bitter tend to be limited if not absent. Sweet and salt are big flavors that tend to overwhelm the palate and block the subtle flavors that resonate on the palate and provide lingering pleasure. The taste of these big flavors soon dissipates after the food is swallowed and the innate need for pleasure hastens the next bite. Speeding up the rate of eating increases the amount of food eaten as the signals of satiety reach the brain long after too much food has been consumed. Thus, eating flavor-lacking fast food, which is “conveniently” served in large portions, tends to trigger overeating.
Exposing the collective American palate to the pleasure of truly delicious fresh, seasonal and locally produced food just might be the key to halting and reversing the obesity epidemic in America. The mission of Slow Food states that all people have the right to Good Food, defined as a fresh and flavorsome seasonal diet that satisfies the senses and is part of our local culture. Support Slow Food and it’s slow revolution towards rediscovering the value of local, fresh, seasonal food and make a case for taste.
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Posted on Tue, January 29, 2013 by Slow Food USA
FoodCorps fellow Kathleen Yetman talks with FoodCorps service member Gilbert Ivins about connecting First Nation young people with their food culture.
Getting kids back to their ancestral roots
By Kathleen Yetman, FoodCorps Fellow and Gilbert Ivins, FoodCorps service member
Cibecue, Arizona is a community of 1700 White Mountain Apache tribal members situated among stunning red rock hills, scrub juniper, and sprawling grasslands. It is located on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona at the foot of the White Mountains. Cibecue is off the beaten path—an hour’s drive from any other town or city—and due to its isolation, food options are limited. There are three convenience stores in Cibecue. Last year, while serving as a FoodCorps service member, I perused the shelves of the largest of the three. There was one cooler in the back of the store sparsely stocked with packaged cucumbers and half-ripe tomatoes, and a couple of heads of iceberg lettuce. These are the only vegetables for sale in the community. In one of the other stores, with a growling stomach, I searched for the healthiest item, and after settling on a 16-ounce block of cheddar cheese, discovered that it cost $7.00. In that same store, one can buy 308 ounces of soda for the same price.
Most Cibecue families make a weekly trip 48 miles to Walmart, where food prices are cheaper and there is a greater variety. You can imagine then, because access to fresh vegetables is so restricted in Cibecue, what families are left to purchase to feed their families if they can’t make that weekly trek. So it’s not all that surprising that kids growing up there may have never seen a real carrot. In 2010 FoodCorps partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health (JHCAIH) and beginning last year placed two FoodCorps service members on the reservation to teach gardening and nutrition to kids at Dischii’bikoh (Cibecue) Community School. Through the Edible School Garden program third, fourth, and fifth graders learn about the plant life cycle, tools to help them choose healthier foods, and about the wild foods their ancestors used to eat.
This year, we are fortunate to have Gilbert Ivins as our service member in Cibecue. Gilbert is a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and has lived in Cibecue his whole life. Prior to FoodCorps, he worked as an Emergency Medical Technician and firefighter in his community. Last week I sat down with Gilbert to hear about his service thus far. This is what he had to say:
Gilbert: Being a FoodCorps service member is really cool because I get to be the stepping-stone for many young Native American youth making a positive change toward their health and nutrition. So far this year with the kids from Cibecue Elementary, I have seen that my presence there has made a big difference. I’ve seen kids try all the vegetables and fruits we brought them. I think that with FoodCorps and Johns Hopkins University supporting the cause for which we are fighting we can be very successful. For example, one student told me he wished he could never grow old so he could stay in Edible School Garden and Native Vision forever and that Edible School Garden would continue throughout his time in school all the way up until he graduates. I strongly believe that FoodCorps has touched the hearts and souls of the Apache youth in Cibecue, making it all the merrier to continue this movement in the community of Cibecue.
Kathleen: What are some of the challenges you see facing kids in your community?
Gilbert: The main challenge here is the gangs and the influences they have on the kids such as drugs, alcohol and violence. Obesity is another issue that comes into play because the parents don’t discipline their kids enough to choose healthier products and instead feed them all the non-healthy food that is easily available at any given moment.
Kathleen: Do you have a sense of why people (parents) eat unhealthy foods instead of healthy ones?
Gilbert: I think that the people eat unhealthy because they don’t have anyone to tell them differently or teach them classes on healthy products just like we do with Edible School Garden. Not only that, but also its what they grew up learning so it’s in there genes long before they are even brought into the world. I strongly believe that to be true because everyone here is born and raised on the reservation, not knowing anything else other than what is being served to them on the dinner table. So it makes it easier to hate all the vegetables and fruits that are supposed to be healthy for them.
Kathleen: How do you see your service addressing all of these challenges?
Gilbert: I see my service addressing these issues by working through the kids. By that I mean teaching and showing these kids healthy from non-healthy items. I hope that kids take home and share with their parents the information they get from our classes. I hope too that the parents will come to us with questions about healthy eating lifestyles.
Kathleen: What is the biggest challenge you face in your service? What is the biggest reward?
Gilbert: My biggest challenge I face in my year of service is coming out of this successfully, having touched many lives and changed the community for the better and for the future of the kids. My biggest reward I would have to say is knowing that I helped make change in my community, especially with getting the youth on the right foot and never going astray from what we have taught them.
Kathleen: What is your favorite part of being a FoodCorps service member?
Gilbert: My favorite part of being a FoodCorps service member is interacting with my Apache youth—teaching them through food that they have had many connections with life even dating back to their ancestors. I like teaching them that this healthy lifestyle has been provided for them even before their time came. The trick is getting them back to their ancestral roots by reintroducing them to the wild foods that grow here. Through the lessons we teach in Edible School Gardens kids now know that there are other alternatives when it comes to choosing what to eat.
Kathleen: How has your service changed you?
Gilbert: I have changed by utilizing what we teach the kids. Knowing in the back of my mind that the kids are doing their part so I figured I’d do my part and step up to the calling that has been presented to me. I am taking the opportunity that FoodCorps has given me and bettering my life not only by choosing to be healthier, but also by being an example to the kids.
Posted on Thu, January 24, 2013 by Angelines Alba Lamb
Jenny Best sits down with David, the author of Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter
Jenny Best sits down with David, the author of Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter
Q. What inspired you to write about “forgotten foods”?
For several years I’ve followed the local food movement, listening to discussions of food miles and hyper-local diets, of the importance of knowing your farmer, growing your own garden, and learning how to cook and enjoy a home meal. But what exactly are “local foods”? The Slow Food movement creates a wonderful opportunity to expand the conversation—to embrace regionally distinct varieties of fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains; rediscover heirloom varieties with unique flavors and stories; and breed new foods that express our creativity, region by region.
Q. Food and farming has gotten a lot of attention lately in the U.S. But “biodiversity” is not a word you hear a lot in the conversation. Why is biodiversity so important?
My biologist friends may laugh at the use of the word “biodiversity” to describe farming, but even within a relatively narrow range of crops we find significant variations. Choosing the right plant or animal for a particular set of growing conditions can lead to better disease and pest resistance, reducing the need for chemical use. It can also mean better drought tolerance, adaptation to temperature extremes, and improved flavor and culinary use. From the grower’s standpoint, diversifying plantings also brings resilience in the face of climate disasters, because a hailstorm that destroys tomatoes, or a heat wave that prevents corn from pollinating, can be offset by other successful harvests.
Q. We’ve lost thousands of apple varieties. What’s the most shocking loss of biodiversity you’ve encountered in your research?
I can’t say there’s any one loss that eclipses the rest to me. Instead it’s the transformation of vast stretches of farmland from diversified systems, filled with a range of crops with distinct traits, into monocultures of corn, wheat, or soy. This loss of biodiversity extends from the narrow range of crops and uniform genetics of the plants, to the disappearance of adjacent natural habitat, right down to the microflora living in the soil itself.
Q. In your book you talk about the need to preserve heirloom food varieties but also to develop and breed new foods. What’s the biggest challenge to these efforts? What can farmers do to support these efforts? And consumers?
I believe it’s not enough to look backward to rescue the best of the past, but that we need to embrace change and work with older foods to develop new lines. Plant breeding and animal husbandry are two of the oldest of human arts. I write about participatory breeding in my book, in which farmers and breeders work hand in hand to develop foods that meet specific needs, like disease resistance for organic production. This work faces a lot of obstacles, from lack of funding, to plant and animal patenting that restrains access to breeding material, to wariness from a public suspicious of science. My hope is that such efforts will continue to bring us foods bred in the best interest of growers and consumers alike, and that this will lead to higher yields, diminished reliance on pesticides, and delicious new flavors.
Q. Have you encountered particular heirloom varieties that you are especially attached to?
I’d garden for Black Winter mustard, Chateau Rose tomatoes, and Marina di Chioggia squash alone. Yet much of the pleasure of collecting heirloom foods is the many surprises I encounter along the way—foods like Gilfeather rutabagas that I’d never have imagined would have captured my heart. At the moment, though, nothing interests me quite like fruit trees, and especially antique American cider apples. Fermentation is my new frontier.
Q. Some people write off “heirloom” food varieties as overly expensive, fancy food. How do we bring flavorful and biodiverse foods to everyone, regardless of income level and access?
Several years ago I helped build a community garden in downtown Lawrence, Massachusetts, a densely urban city with little green space and some of the highest poverty rates in the country. The community was predominantly Dominican immigrants, many with farming backgrounds, and even before construction was complete they started planting herbs and vegetables from back home. To them these foods represented cultural identity and tradition as well as good eating. The truth is there’s nothing fancy about most heirloom foods. They originated in the hands of ordinary people leading ordinary lives.
It’s past time, in my opinion, to remember what the world looks like through the eyes of producers. As consumers we’ve forgotten this perspective, and the real value of good, clean, fair food.
Q. You’ve been a supporter of Slow Food for some time. What does Slow Food mean to you, and where do you see food culture in the U.S. heading?
I’ve been interested in the ecology of food and the rights of farmworkers since I first got involved with food production in the late eighties. I got the “clean” and “fair” part. Until Carlo Petrini came along, though, I gave the “good” part short shrift. It may be a very Italian idea that we can transform the world through pleasure, but what better way to make the world a better place? I’m willing to give it a try.
As far as where we’re heading, my hope is that Americans will embrace the home garden in the years ahead. When we grow some of our own food, we appreciate it in a new light.
Q. What are you currently growing and do you have any tips for those who want to grow their own food with limited space?
I grow a wide range of fruits, herbs, vegetables, flowers, and nursery plants. Some of these we sell at the farmers market, including fruits that I freeze and blend into smoothies. I plan to continue to expand this collection, with increasing focus on rare fruits.
There’s a lot of pleasure in growing even a few herbs in limited garden space. With raised bed planters you can produce greens and other vegetables. Blackberries or blueberries can thrive in a sunny corner of your yard, while espalliered fruit trees can run along the fences. It’s fascinating to think about the many ways good design can help us weave fresh, healthy food into our lives.
Q. What are your future gardening plans?
This past spring we purchased a 115-acre property in Pownal, Maine, a few minutes from LL Bean in downtown Freeport. Our goal is to transform this space into a sort of conservation center, with heritage orchards, gardens, trails, and a small commercial kitchen and cider house. We’re at work right now on the house and barn, and I’ll start the orchard by moving about 400 apple, pear, peach, cherry, and plum trees to the site this spring.
Posted on Thu, January 17, 2013 by Angelines Alba Lamb
Slow Food Western Mass co-leader Dominic Palumbo shares his journey that took him from the city to the farm and makes a strong case for why we need to invest in getting more folks do so the same.
The next generation of farmers grow at Moon In The Pond Farm
by Dominic Palumbo
Twenty years ago I moved from New York City to the rural countryside of western Massachusetts. I had no clue that farming was in my future—much less, did I imagine the career it is for me now.
I love food and I love cooking. That’s why I started growing vegetables and why I began raising chickens and sheep—I thought, wouldn’t it be cool, wouldn’t it be great, to raise my own, to raise interesting stuff and not to wonder and worry about how clean it might be. Within a few years I was selling at Union Square market in New York City, and raising lots more vegetables and animals. Moon In The Pond Farm was born.
About twelve years on, people started calling me, “Farmer Dom”. I was kinda surprised. I still wasn’t sure how to judge if there had been enough sun and wind to dry the hay in the field before putting it into the barn; how to get beet seeds to germinate in the hot summer soil; how to adjust a plow behind the tractor so the soil flipped sod-side-down instead of flopping back upright. I felt like I was a long way off— a dozen years of farming had taught me there was a lot yet to learn. But I did indeed discover an extraordinary connection to nature—more than I had ever dreamed. As a farmer, every day I’m challenged by the depth and complexity of nature.
Excited about my new life on the land, I was always eager to have friends—and strangers too—visit the farm. I found farming had started to become second nature and I loved to talk about it and show it off. Visitors would ask about what had become for me part of my life and daily routine, and be amazed and fascinated at the answers.
While finding my life as a farmer was learning lots of technical bits of running a small farm—how much hay to store for the winter to feed a certain number of cows and sheep, or what specific organic crop rotations make the most sense on a small farm—a huge part of the learning in those first years was finding myself up close to some much bigger issues. The dismal state of our food system, and impact of agribusiness on even broader global issues like international politics and climate change, etc. challenged me, dogged me. And of course, tied to these negative trends, the ever decreasing number of farmers – people directly connected to the land, to farming, to food production, and the planet.
In 2004, when I was nominated as a delegate to Slow Food’s International conference Terra Madre, it blew my mind. I suddenly found that I was profoundly linked to a groundswell. Again I found myself changed. As if the validation of my work as an organic farmer wasn’t enough, Terra Madre energized my dedication and steeled my commitment to teach and to share the life and lessons I was learning as a farmer.
I had been teaching interns and apprentices on the farm for years, but now I it had become even clearer to me that the teaching itself was the vital link, the most important farming task. If there is to be a future of good, clean and fair food, is it essential that we grow new farmers, and lots of them, fast. But it’s imperative also, that those new farmers understand that vital link: farmers must be teachers too. Intrinsic to the nature and purpose of a farmer is to nurture. Central to that purpose is to cultivate the next generation of nurturers.
Although Slow Food over the years has been pasted with any number of labels to do with tasty, rare or expensive food, celebrity chefs, and fancy restaurants, Slow Food has always been very much about farmers. It’s about connecting; developing valued and respectful relationships with our first line, our interpreters: the farmers on the land who represent us, nurture us, and teach us respectful relationships with the land, the planet, our communities, and each other.
It’s been incredibly exciting to see the number of brave young people interested in and attracted to farming. When I started offering internships and apprenticeships there were many seasons, and in fact years, when I couldn’t find young people to work with me. In the past few years, what a welcome change! I’ve had dozens of applications from amazingly motivated, bright, and committed young people. In my neighborhood as in rural, urban, and suburban communities all over the country, new farms are popping up like radish seedlings.
Find them. Search them out and support them. Let them teach and nourish you. Encourage them and advocate for them. You, your loved ones and your communities will be healthier, stronger and more vital. In connecting to farmers, you become a nurturer, a cultivator, and in Carlo’s words, a “coproducer”. You become a farmer! Farm on!
You can see how much Farmer Dom likes to show off Moon In The Pond Farm in the video he shot last fall for a Kickstarter campaign.
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Posted on Fri, January 11, 2013 by Jenny Best
Reflections on the Terra Madre experience
A person writing in the night may put out the lamp, but the words he has written will remain. It is the same with the destiny we create for ourselves in this world.
By SarahJoy Smith, Slow Food Olympia
As a Slow Food enthusiast it can be a daunting principal. Take something as complex as the current food system and try to rework it to support the local food culture. Here in our Olympia chapter we talk about this regularly in meetings. But with seemingly insurmountable details and challenging politics the answers come slowly and with many unsolvable questions still looming in the background. How will we recreate the process to make a viable sustainable system that supports local producers? To say we are just around the corner from a solution would be to stretch the truth considerably. But to say that we are far away is no longer a truth either.
Our delegates have returned from Terra Madre with new insights and more possibilities than they left with, which is to say they have returned with hope. The common word used among the three of them was “overwhelmed”. With 250,000 participants, it is easy to see why. There was a lot to take in only five days. But for the same reason they were overawed they were also filled with a sense of possibility. You see, each of those individual people represented groups of people, chapters from their respective hometowns, all working together for a common good. What started as a movement with a small group of people in one country now spans the continents and includes millions of participants worldwide. It has taken time, and it will continue to take time, but we are doing it. We ARE learning to work, cook and grow together, which means that no matter what we will eventually succeed.
Our delegates have come home with fresh eyes and will be sharing new information over the coming months in the hopes of furthering the process here. In the mean time they impart to all of us two most important principals involved in this work. The first is continue to ask questions so that you can know your farmer and know your food. The second is wisdom from Carlo Petrini, which is to remember that food itself is the celebration, and no matter what forces are against us we are fighting for something good, and to make sure to find JOY in the process of changing the world!
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Posted on Tue, January 08, 2013 by Jenny Best
Tamar and Josh share their thoughts with us on how to cook simply and well, what Slow Food means to them, and how what they’ve learned in the back of the house has made cooking at home more efficient and cost-effective
I was very excited when Tamar Adler, author of An Everlasting Meal and Josh Lewin, Executive Chef at Boston’s Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro agreed to talk to us. Below they share their thoughts with us on how to cook simply and well, what Slow Food means to them, and how what they’ve learned in the back of the house has made cooking at home more efficient and cost-effective.
What was the inspiration behind collaborating for An Everlasting Dinner?
Josh Lewin: I was given a copy of Tamar’s book as a gift, by Slow Food USA actually. I had never heard of it before. And it sat on the shelf for months while I worked my way through a number of others. I did finally pick it up one day, read a few pages over the short subway ride home and then finished the entire thing at home that night. It was funny, exciting and certainly inspiring and it was during my first few months in a new job where I was struggling a little bit to really find the right path. This book gave me a much needed shot of clarity.
Tamar Adler: Last May I received the following email from someone I’d never met, but whose restaurant I’d heard of. “Thank you for writing such a beautiful book about the process of cooking! I absolutely love it and am going to buy copies for everyone on my staff. Maybe someday you’ll let me plan a dinner event around it. It would be a lot of fun! Stop by if you are ever in Boston, we’d be delighted to have you at our table.
I wrote back that it sounded like a delightful idea, and that we should remember to do it some day. Over the intervening months, Josh and I would email occasionally, until at one point he started sending me menus. We went through a few passes, and finally ended up with one that seemed right to both of us, and the next thing we knew, we’d actually done a lot of the planning for the dinner he’d thought up last spring.
As chefs, how have you seen food sourcing and preparation change over the years?
Lewin: The big thing about sourcing for us is that we combine planning with the ability to keep an open mind and stay flexible. We have a general idea about what will be available and when, but it’s not always in the quantity we expect and we have to do a bit of preserving to take things at their peak and spread out their usefulness. It’s not always easy but over time it develops into a bit of a routine. We may know what flavors will be available but have to think outside the box a little bit for how certain ingredients will be prepared or which cuts of meat we will be using. It’s a welcome challenge.
Adler: When I helped open Farm 255 in Athens, Georgia in 2006, the idea of only buying food raised nearby was alien. We had to put up signs everywhere explaining why we might have a vegetable or cut of meat or kind of fish one week and not another—that it was too hot for lettuce in the summer, and that okra would have to disappear from menus in November. I used to drive an hour to Atlanta each Saturday morning to pick up the whole pig I’d buy from one of our farmers, or meet her on the side of the highway, because it was otherwise impossible to get local meat. Seven years later, there’s incredible consciousness of foods growing in different seasons, of the environmental impact of food miles. It’s possible to have a restaurant that thrives using ingredients mostly from its own surroundings, because the logistics, while still harder than just buying from big distributors, aren’t as menacing.
Studies show that Americans waste nearly 40% of their food. How has working in restaurants shaped your approach to minimizing food waste at home?
Lewin: Yes, food waste has been a big story the past few months. And it should be. It’s a problem. Part of it comes back, again, to planning. Wash the greens right away. Start something cooking as soon as you get in the door, before it’s all even been put away, at least wash the greens and roots so they are ready to be used. Having your ingredients ready and waiting, in a state that can actually be used, will make a big difference. Don’t let them sit in some intimidating pile.
Adler: I couldn’t have written An Everlasting Meal—much of which explains how many of the foods and parts of foods we discard are actually not only good, but essential for great meals—without having worked at Chez Panisse. So much of the food we made there required stale bread, and parsley stems, and some combination of beef stock and chicken stock, or the liquid left over from braising something. I had grown up seeing my mother do much of that, but it was seeing how much of a restaurant with a rustic, provincial cuisine’s menu really required it that gave me the confidence and skill to write about it authoritatively.
What are tips you have for people wanting to cook well without spending a lot of money?
Lewin: Well it’s not that much different than our approach at the restaurant really. Most folks at home (although I know more than a few people for whom this will not be true) aren’t buying entire animals to feed their families. But you can take a similar approach at the butcher, don’t be afraid to look beyond the popular cuts and learn how to cook them. Plan ahead at the farmers markets. Learn how to use root vegetables creatively. Experiment with cooking food ahead, but actually planning to eat it. Stop throwing things away. Invest in clear containers and a roll of tape and marker. Then label your food! I promise you’ll save money by doing this. Learn basic cooking techniques that you can then use to build your own meals instead of simply searching the Internet for recipes. Read Tamar’s book.
Adler: Cook things in ways that create a second ingredient—if you boil or braise meat, you end up with broth or with braising liquid –whatever combination of vegetables and wine and water or stock the meat cooked in. That means that you have the meat itself for a meal or several, and then the beginnings of a soup, or several. It doubles the number of meals you get for your money and the time you’ve spent cooking. When you grill something, you have only the meat itself. A similar piece of advice is buying meat with its skin and bones. I’ve taken salmon skin off salmon and cooked each separately. After eating the salmon, I ate another meal of plain rice with a bit of sautéed spinach and salmon skin on top. Another, which sounds silly, but is actually meaningful is to look to dishes derived from peasant cuisines. There are a lot of wonderful meals that have been practiced over the years, that are all founded in having to make much of little.
You have both been supporters of Slow Food. What does Slow Food mean to you?
Lewin: Well there is the basic idea of what Slow Food is, to everyone. The whole idea of not accepting the factory, industrialized, processed diet that is advertised everywhere you look. But to me personally it’s just a reminder to stop and think. To literally, slow down. To return to the table, instead of eating out of a wrapper. To cook well. To care. It’s an important message, one that we are happy to continue to support.
Adler: You know, it’s funny, because with the ongoing—and good—conversation about whether Slow Food is a largely hedonic association—people getting together to share the pleasures of the table—or an inchoate social movement, I’ve actually only had experiences of Slow Food in the latter sense. I started working with SFUSA in 2002 on the Harvest Time in Harlem project. In Georgia, they paid my way to Terra Madre (and our restaurant in GA was certainly part of a larger schematic, social change.) When I moved to the bay, Slow Food Berkeley funded and supported my meat CSA, which grew to over 1,400 members and moved to the Internet. I’ve never been a member of a chapter that only gathered to eat and drink. So for me, it’s been a political and social organization the whole time. I know it’s always an internal and external tension, but I think it has enormous potential in the political/education/social realm.
An Everlasting Dinner will be held at Boston’s Beacon Hill Hotel & Bistro on January 14, 2013.
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Posted on Wed, January 02, 2013 by Jenny Best
Home milling local grains
By Michael Cook, Leader, Slow Food Shoreline Connecticut
100 lbs is a lot. A lot of anything. Depending on your interests and experiences, you’ve probably struggled at one time or another to lift and move about 100 lbs. Ever try to carry two heavy bags of cement or garden soil as you work around your house? If you’re a parent, that’s like lifting two 7-year olds or one 13-year old.
Those thoughts were on my mind last Sunday, as my wife and I struggled through the foggy parking lot, carrying the box filled with 100 lbs of whole, unmilled local grain. This was the 2nd year picking up our grain CSA from Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts.
We discovered the CSA online, during a search for local flour. The big guys in the castle up in Vermont make a fine flour, and it’s conveniently placed in every supermarket in the state. But it’s not actually from Vermont, it’s trucked in from the Midwest and Canada, and we’d much rather support farmers here in New England and save the food miles. I had yet to find local flour or grain at a farmer’s market, so we turned to the web for help.
The CSA was founded by the owners of Wheatberry bakery in Amherst Massachusetts. At first they were simply looking for local farmers to grow grain for the bakery, but once the sourcing was established they expanded into a CSA. Many of the varieties they grow, the wheat and the corn, are historic heirlooms. We were sold.
I really knew we were all-in when the mill arrived. The box was heavy. Not quite 100 lbs heavy, but two stone grinding wheels better have a certain heft if they’re going to be any good. Our CSA contained beans, corn, wheat, and other whole grains like spelt and farro. But these were whole grains, not whole grain flour. If we wanted some bread instead of just wheat berry salads, we’d need a mill.
Brand new mills don’t come cheap, but thankfully eBay had a strong selection. We picked out one made in Idaho in the 1970s, but despite nearly 40 years it hadn’t lost any power, quickly grinding my store-bought test grain into a beautiful flour – soft, fragrant, and with just a touch of warmth from the friction of the stones.
Our first pickup was an experience in itself, waiting in line with like-minded food lovers and dreaming of what we would cook. Just like when I talk with folks at our Slow Food events, everyone brings unique history and experiences to the conversation, and we left with some great new baking ideas. I also bought my wife a whole grains cookbook for Christmas, and that year we sat around the tree making our cooking plans.
One cold winter night, shortly after the pickup, I came home and Renee had made polenta for dinner with fresh ground corn. I love polenta, or grits, especially as a vehicle for cups and cups of cream and melted cheese. This polenta was the best I had ever had, at home or a restaurant, rich and creamy and satisfying. I couldn’t tell what type of cheese she had used though, so I asked, and the answer absolutely floored me. None. No cheese. No cream, no milk, no dairy of any kind. With simply water and very freshly ground cornmeal, she had created a deliciously creamy polenta, but with a depth of flavor I had never had before.
It was theme that echoed itself as we began baking whole wheat bread, turning out moister, and lighter, and yet somehow more flavorful loaves than we’d ever baked before. We also noticed an interesting effect, related to our food choices. Simply having such a large volume of high quality components on hand, we thought more about cooking with them. We focused on cooking healthier foods.
Becoming a home miller is an investment and a commitment, no doubt. But if you have an inkling to give it a try, I’d highly encourage it. At the pickup this year I spoke to founder Ben Lester about their experience, and he’s excited for its success for many of the same reasons we’re excited about Slow Food. The CSA creates a market, and gives local farmers confidence to invest in equipment and plant crops. At 160 shares, they’re growing steady, with customers driving from Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, and (obviously) the Connecticut shoreline.
Before we left for the pickup, we pulled our remaining grain from storage, to see how much of last year’s pickup we had left. 35 lbs remained, so we used 65 lbs last year. That was OK, we had decided to split this year’s pickup with family anyway. 100 lbs is a lot of whole grain, but I have a feeling 50 will be just right.
Slow Food Shoreline Chapter Leader Mike Cook writes about his family’s food experiences in a blog called The Connecticut Homesteader.
Posted on Thu, December 27, 2012 by Jenny Best
The publication that brings the experience of the world of Slow Food and Terra Madre to all of us. Now available free online!
It’s always a pleasure each year to present the Slow Food Almanac, the most reliable and, insofar as it is received by our members all over the world, the most looked at snapshot of what and who we are — though words and pictures alone cannot, of course, fully capture the many souls of our movement.
We represent a sizable portion of the people who, in the most disparate corners of the earth, put food at the center of their lives, though maybe no real way exists of conveying us completely in all our complexity.
We are aware, though, that much of the content of the Almanac — values, ideas for getting over the crisis, the new paradigms needed to ensure a future for the generations to come — and of what we represent as people and communities is shared by all the others too, even the most distant and diverse. A necessary part of the equation is the earth itself, which, since it nourishes us and lets us grow, we have to love and respect as best we can. It is the earth that gives us food and culture, strengthening our communities and families and allowing us, if we wish to, to share the knowledge that is our true wealth. Nor can we forget food which, when virtuous, is the highest possible expression of our interaction with the environment in which we live and of which we are an integral part.
As always, we have sought to speak about Slow Food and Terra Madre stories, projects, products and people. Simple storytelling, we believe, is the best way of doing justice to the lives of those engaged in the work summed up in the slogan of Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre 2012: “Foods that change the world”. The event conveys an idea of how, through food, we can put forward real alternatives to a development model that is no longer suitable for us or for the earth. What is needed is the constant, silent change that Edgar Morin evoked when he wrote that, “Everything must begin again and everything has already begun”. In our own small way, we are the proof of the fact that “everything has already begun”, because with our best practices we are a vanguard of change whose guiding light is the central role of food. Just as important as the Almanac, by the way, is the brief document we have drawn up for the World Congress in Turin entitled precisely “The Central Role of Food”. It has been distributed among members and, through them, as an object of discussion to civil society and the institutions. We are proud to consider it the nucleus of ideas that underpin our network and will lay the bases for the Congress ahead. It’s not too late here to ask you to read it one more time.
After which you can enjoy the Almanac, which explains exactly how we put food at the center of everything. As a celebration of what we are, it is a joy to read and browse through. You’ll find it revolutionary in its simplicity.
President of Slow Food
View the Almanac: http://asp-it.secure-zone.net/v2/index.jsp?id=307/431/1350&lng=en
Posted on Thu, December 27, 2012 by Jenny Best
A startup lab for the ideas and companies that will change the food system. By providing state-of-the-art entrepreneurial education and a dynamic network of diverse professional mentors, Local Food Lab supports entrepreneurs in transforming their ideas into thriving, sustainable ventures.
Local Food Lab is a startup lab for the ideas and companies that will change the food system. By providing state-of-the-art entrepreneurial education and a dynamic network of diverse professional mentors, Local Food Lab supports entrepreneurs in transforming their ideas into thriving, sustainable ventures. The final day to apply to our Winter Accelerator is January 14, but applications submitted before January 2 are eligible for a scholarship.
The Local Food Lab Accelerator is a six-week program located in the heart of Silicon Valley, where we help entrepreneurs take an early stage idea for a food or farm startup and turn it into a complete business plan and product concept. We will work with any food or farm idea that simultaneously shows strong business potential and a social commitment.
Each day is organized around a critical element of business education through the lens of sustainable food. Topics covered include market and industry analysis, product and service design, financial forecasting, sales and marketing strategy, development of a social mission statement, management of a mission aligned team, and the effective pitch and presentation of a new business. Students will learn from a wide variety of food and agriculture industry mentors while growing and developing their startups and networks. A delicious and sustainable lunch or dinner will be served at every class.
The Winter Accelerator culminates in the capstone Venture Fair, where students will showcase their startups to investors, industry leaders, potential co-founders and key partners in the good food economy.
Posted on Fri, December 07, 2012 by Jenny Best
As we all share meals with friends and families this holiday season, we hear from two Slow Food members about what sharing a meal means to them.
Meet Andrew and Betsy Fippinger, Slow Food members who live in New York City. As we all share meals with friends and families this holiday season, we wanted to hear from Andrew and Betsy about what sharing a meal means to them.
Q: What led you to become interested in Slow Food, and why do you support the organization?
A: We came to Slow Food in a way that we imagine many others have: we read Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Barbara Kingsolver, and realized (a) that there were gigantic problems in our [fast, industrial] food system and (b) that local foods taste better, are more interesting because more diverse, and therefore worth preserving. One thing that our engagement with Slow Food and the ideals of the food movement generally have taught us is to be humble about our eating habits. Sometimes we only cook for ourselves once or twice a week, but that’s still a step in the right direction.
Q: What does the notion of sharing a meal mean to you?
A: The most obvious is the table with family and friends, and just because that’s obvious does not undermine the incredible significance of such moments. Sharing a meal can also mean sharing what I cook with you. And finally, when we think of sharing, we think about the incredible network of people, animals, plants, and even minerals that go into a single meal.
Q: How does your notion of sharing a meal relate to the ideals of Slow Food?
A: We think that the relation between these ideas and the ideals of Slow Food should be pretty apparent. The notions of slowing down to share in a meal’s diversity, to discuss a meal or food in general, to share recipes and tricks, both new and old, are all ideals that Slow Food was founded on. Those are some of the ideals that Carlo Petrini, amongst others, was worried would be lost when a McDonalds opened in Rome.
Q: Could you provide a recipe that you will use in your house during this season?
A: Roasted root vegetables: this dish is a great way to experience the joys of Fall and Winter in colder climes. Take any root vegetables—an assortment is nice—chop them into cubes of approximately equal size. Season them with olive oil and salt (chopped thyme or sage can be a nice addition) and cook them in a 400 degree oven on a roasting pan. Depending on size, they should take 20-30 minutes. This is a great way to discover some vegetables you don’t normally eat: celery root, parsnip, and rutabaga, for instance. Who says this is a bad season for locavores?