What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
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?
Posted on Mon, December 03, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Farm to School grants will go a long way towards reshaping the interplay between our children, the schools that teach them, and the local farmers that feed us all.
By Eric Himmelfarb
On November 14th, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the first-ever USDA Farm to School grants, which totaled more than $4.5 million for 68 different projects around the country, and will go a long way towards reshaping the interplay between our children, the schools that teach them, and the local farmers that feed us all.
The grant money will be used for projects serving a wide range of functions, including building school gardens, developing new partnerships between school districts and local farmers, and hiring staff to coordinate farm to school programs.
These USDA grants seem to be taking school food policy in a healthier, more sustainable direction, and this is why we should be excited about this as both a statement of policy and a philosophical shift in how the next generation will relate to its food. Add these grants to the new school food guidelines initially established in the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and then implemented this school year, and you have a clear shifting of the school food landscape.
When we think about the task of changing the way our food is grown and prepared in a substantive way, it can often seem like a daunting, Sisyphean task. Federal agricultural policies are firmly entrenched, to the point where the Farm Bill has become a 700-page monstrosity that is about a whole lot more than agricultural policy. Stakeholders who enjoy the status quo will defend that status quo at almost any cost (see: the $46 million spent against Prop 37 in California last month). Enormous systemic and political inertia can be hard to overcome.
Yet we can take small steps each day. We can always find ways to begin repairing our society’s relationship to its food. In our younger generation we can plant the seeds for a cultural shift, for a renewal and reinvention of the Slow Food values of good, clean and fair food for all. This unsustainable system was not built in a day, but every day we do not work to repair it is a day lost to inertia. It will take a long series of incremental shifts to put us on a more sustainable path.
Here in New York City, the cultural shift is happening right in front of our eyes in real time. As announced in the New York Times in November, the number of school gardens registered with the city has increased in the last two years from 40 to 232. I was an apprentice at Battery Urban Farm this fall and got to see firsthand the power of kids having their hands in soil and the ways this farm to school connection is much more than a simple exchange of food.
The experience for the kids on the farm is profound, as it gives them a way to connect to the earth that is unusual for city kids; to connect to the source of their continued livelihood; and to understand how the food that ends up on their plate begins its life.
More projects like this one – through the myriad connections to land, self, and community that they can create – will go a long way towards laying the groundwork for a culture of healthier and fairer food.
When I hear 7 year-old kids, on the way to the eggplant beds, excitedly calling out the names of other crops (“carrots!” “basil!”) that they spot along the way, I can’t help but feel that we are off to a good start here in our repair work. The new USDA grants bring us that much closer to the actualization of a healthier, fairer way of growing, preparing, and consuming our food.
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Posted on Wed, November 21, 2012 by Slow Food USA
By Kate Krauss, Slow Food USA
Turkey has always been a Thanksgiving ritual for my clan. We’ve experimented with steaming, frying, salt rubs, and many varieties of stuffing. And in recent years it’s become very important to me that my turkey be raised in a way that nourishes rather than depletes the land and one that is humane both for the turkey and the people who farm it. I purchase heirloom breeds where and when I can.
But I haven’t spent all that much time reflecting on my turkey as a creature that died to grace my Thanksgiving table. I have, however, had many philosophical conversations – both with other people and with myself – about the moral and environmental integrity of eating meat. I’ve chosen to remain an omnivore, though I’ve also worked very hard to ensure the quality and integrity of the meat I consume. In these conversations, I’ve often told people that I feel I should be able to kill the animals I eat – something I’ve never really had the opportunity to do. The conversation often moves toward wondering what that would be like and whether I could actually do it. This past Sunday, I found out.
That’s when my sister, her colleague and I found ourselves at the home of freelance writer Tamar Haspel, who with her husband has been raising animals for meat – as she says, to “love them, kill them and eat them” – and chronicling her experiences at http://www.starvingofftheland.com Here&.#8217;s her own account of the weekend’s events http://starvingofftheland.com/2012/11/our-third-annual-turkey-slaughter/.
For my part, I’ve discovered I can kill (and process) the food I eat, that it doesn’t make me want to be vegetarian, and that I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience such an intimate connection with my food. Sunday wasn’t fun, but it was intimate and even warm and nourishing. I have Tamar and Kevin to thank for that – they could not have been more welcoming and supportive – and also their wonderful circle of friends. We swapped life stories and reflections, first over a delicious meal and then over the shared projects of de-feathering and then gutting and cleaning the turkeys. While I recognize the necessity of larger animal farms and processing facilities (as long as they’re humane), I’m glad I was able to experience a harvest that had such a deep connection to and respect for the turkeys themselves.
I’m not a vegetarian, but I have already found that I am purposefully eating less meat – something that is probably useful for all of us and certainly for our planet. And I am even more committed to knowing the provenance of my animals, and to buying whole birds and consciously using all of them as often as I can.
So – thank you Kevin and Tamar – and to your turkeys – for sharing with me a part of your turkey experiment. I’m a better and more responsible turkey eater as a result.
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Posted on Tue, November 20, 2012 by Slow Food USA
A pepper’s voyage from Apatin 1912 to retail shelves in the US 2012
By M. Lee Greene, Owner, Scrumptious Pantry
Joe Hussli tucked the seeds of his favorite pepper into his garments before he glanced one last time over the land that has been his home. He took his bags and left, towards the new land that seemed to promise a better future in light of the political tensions that were building in Apatin in 1912 (then the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, now Serbia).
Last month – exactly 100 years after Joe left for the new world – the pepper traveled back to Europe, to the Salone del Gusto in Turin. It traveled as an Ark of Taste passenger, as a pickle in the Scrumptious Pantry’s line of heirloom foods: an effort to revive interest in this delicious heirloom varietal and preserve it. A lot has changed in agriculture over the last century, and with the advancement of hybrid varietals, cultivation of the pepper has been pretty much abandoned. What would Joe think of this?
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Posted on Wed, November 07, 2012 by Slow Food USA
As many of you know, the Slow Food USA national office is located in Brooklyn, NY near an area hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. We are thankful to those who reached out to us.
As many of you know, the Slow Food USA national office is located in Brooklyn, NY near an area hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. We are thankful to those who reached out to us. Our staff and office headquarters are all fine, but the damage to our neighboring communities is palpable.
The human response has been inspiring in our area. People have opened their homes to those in need of lodging and community groups have been organizing to deliver food, clothing and resources to those who need it most. Still, there is more to do and far too many people will be displaced for months to come.
Below is a list of resources we hope is helpful to have in one place. If you have additional suggestions, please post in the comment thread for others to see.
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Posted on Thu, November 01, 2012 by Tim Smith
The Food Movement has inspired college students to take action on their own campuses!
Written by Katelyn Montalvo, Slow Food USA intern
The Food Movement has inspired college students to take action on their own campuses!