What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, December 07, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
After a giant log-jam, as of yesterday, things are finally moving in the Senate again. This means that the (Food and) Farm Bill has a shot at getting passed before the Senate takes its holiday recess. Of course, many speculate that the President will veto the passed version, but we'll try not to get ahead of ourselves.
In the meantime, 260 amendments to the bill are going to be up for debate (that's a lot of amendments to get through in just a few weeks!) and we'll be highlighting some of them in upcoming posts. Stay tuned…
Posted on Fri, December 07, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
You might know Eric Schlosser best for Fast Food Nation, and the subsequent movie version, and the subsequent for-teens book called Chew On This. It turns out that his muckraking about the food system created an itch to uncover food worker abuses, an itch he's been scratching for the past few years. After exposing the horrific conditions of immigrant workers in the beef slaughterhouses that supply our nation's fast food restaurants, he next turned his pen on the abused hog slaughterhouse workers at the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
For his incisive and hard-hitting 2006 piece called "Hog Hell," in The Nation, click here.
For ways that you can help take action against Smithfield's treatment of workers, and in particular their treatment of workers who try to unionize, click here.
Next up for Schlosser? The plight of egregiously underpaid tomato pickers in Southern Florida, whose tomatoes end up on the burgers at all of the major fast food chains. In 2005, the Coalition of Immokalee workers (Immokalee is a small town in Florida) succeeded in getting Taco Bell to agree to a one cent per pound increase. Sounds like a pittance, and to Taco Bell it is; to the workers, it's a colossal difference. When Erika Lesser, our Executive Director, met members of the Immokalee Coalition at the Kellogg Conference last Spring, the news was good–they had their sights set next on the other big chains.
In his recent NY Times opinion piece, however, Schlosser documents the glitch in their plan–the Florida Growers Exchange's threat to growers who pay this extra penny per pound. Schlosser pulls no punches in his disgust for the greed of Burger King and one of its top shareholders–Goldman Sachs. To read all about it, click here.
Posted on Mon, December 03, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
I celebrated the New Year twice in 2007. The first occasion was on January 1st, in the tradition of the western world. In the second instance it was July first, when I was a guest in the Seri Indian village of El Desemboque, a desert community on the east coast of the Sea of Cortez in Sonora, Mexico. There, the New Year begins with the start of the wild mesquite pod harvest, in early July. I had come to witness and record the celebration and the harvest in preparation for launching the Fire Roasted Mesquite Presidium.
The Seri New Year celebration is linked with the harvest because mesquite is one of the most important traditional staple foods of this hunting and gathering people. Rich in protein, minerals and other nutrients, it was a significant part of their healthy, natural, Native diet. Today, however, as the traditional diet erodes from the onslaught of packaged, processed, non-traditional foods, and children are growing accustomed to sodas, chips, and commercial sweets, there is a dramatic deterioration in health. Many Seri suffer from diabetes and its side effects, and restoring mesquite to their regular diet would make a significant difference in preventing this problem.
The goal of the Mesquite Presidium is to sustain this food tradition and keep it viable by generating income from selling the surplus flour not consumed in the community. The nutty, sweet, gluten–free flour is already gaining popularity in the United States, and interest is growing in Mexico. Marketing part of their mesquite harvest to Mexican neighbors and communities across the US border promotes not only economic gain, but also a cross-cultural exchange that will bring recognition to the value of their food traditions in a larger world.
Teaching us their mesquite harvest and roasting practices, and sharing their tortillas, atole, and tamales with us, infused the New Year celebration with enthusiasm for the Presidium project. In this New Year, fire-roasted Mesquite flour from Seri is coming to market. Look for it at the Center for Sustainable Environments, Prescott College's Crossroads Café, Tucson Botanical Garden, and the Smithsonian/National Museum of the American Indian's Mitsitam Café.
Read more about the Seri Fire Roasted Mesquite Presidium on the Slow Food USA website and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity website.
Mesquite pod flour is also on the US Ark of Taste. Click here to learn more.
Posted on Fri, November 30, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
The holidays have become a time when many people do their yearly community service, and often that service comes in the form of food. At a time when many are stuffing their faces with turkey and Christmas pudding and latkes, etc., it's hard not to think about people who not only don't have food, but don't have people to eat it with. As a chef, Slow Food member, or food enthusiast (or all three) working in soup kitchens and the like is a logical way to give back to the community during the holidays. Why not use what you know/love?
Recently, we here in the National office had the opportunity to meet someone who has created a way to do good with food, and not just at the holidays. Christine Carroll went to New Orleans on a 2006 Henckels Cutting Edge scholarship attending the Share Our Strength conference in New Orleans. There she found a rich culinary heritage and a community in need. But why go there and paint houses (etc.) she wondered, when her real skills lay in the kitchen?
As a result, she founded Culinary Corps, which brings groups of culinary students and professionals to NOLA to do food-centered volunteer projects. As she explains, "Culinary Corps provides team members with an opportunity to transform their kitchen skills and passion for food into community outreach tools." As we write, Christine is in on the Gulf Coast with a group of culinary professionals, on the fourth trip she's led this year, where she and her trip members will be slicing and dicing to help out a local farmers' market and a local church.
Because doing good once a year is a nice start, but year-round is better…
Posted on Thu, November 29, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
People are a-buzz about Oxford University Press' selection of "locavore" as its word of the year (having beat out several words some of us may never have heard of– "bacn," anyone?).
It's interesting to think about buzz and how it helps or hinders an idea or movement. If a word is chosen as a word of the year, does that mean it won't be relevant next year ("locavore" is SO 2007), or does it signal it's arrival ("locavore" is here to stay)? And if the press grabs a word and runs with it, is it destined to be paraphrased, simpified, and/or plain misunderstood?
Many people scoff at the notion of local eating because it seems impractical, if not impossible, in many parts of the country. Comments on the Oxford University Press blog reflect some of that cynicism–"Another nice conceit for those in lotus land!" When eating local is understood only as an experiment or something that works only if you follow it to the letter, it is destined to end up a forgotten or rejected "concept." We're all better off, surely, if local can become a pragmatic ideal–to eat local for as much of your diet as it makes sense (i.e.: why eat a New Zealand apple when the farmer in your town/city/county/state is growing beautiful ones just next door?), and to retrain our bodies to eat seasonally as much as possible.
(for some "local" reading: Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and "My Empire of Dirt.")
Posted on Tue, November 27, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Sara Roahen, member of the SFUSA Ark-Presidia Committee
The row of Christmas lima beans on a shelf at my local Whole Foods Market in Philadelphia disappears more rapidly than those of the Gourmet Valley's other heirloom beans. After cooking with them recently for the first time, I know why. I had an oversupply of country ham, and so for my inaugural batch I substituted the maroon-and white mottled limas for butter beans, using a recipe from The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations From Two Great American Cooks by the late Edna Lewis and the Atlanta chef Scott Peacock. Cooked and drained limas reheated with a cup of heavy cream, minced country ham, snipped chives, butter, and black pepper—the beans' characteristic chestnut flavor and starchy texture held up to the richness of cream and the salt-and-earth of country ham. The flavors were bold, distinct and autumnal. No one at my table believed that the recipe was so simple.
Then I called Steve Sando, the owner and heirloom bean grower at Rancho Gordo in Northern California, who advised me not to drain the beans of their cooking liquid next time. "Bean geeks call that the pot liquor." He offered an alternate, even simpler, recipe: add wild mushrooms and "tons of garlic" to the Christmas limas and their liquor. "It's like free soup," he said.
Posted on Mon, November 26, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Samantha Taylor
It's the brink of the holiday season and the latest news is that there is a devastating dearth in the supply of Food Banks across the country. America's Second Harvest, a nationwide network of banks, has been inundated with complaints from pantries in nearly every major city across the U.S, citing an increase in need up to 35%. Unmet, higher demand amounts to half empty bags in the hands of the 35.5 million people facing hunger in our country.
In New York City, where over two million people living below the poverty level depend on emergency food programs (EFP) for sustenance, the shortage is also hitting hard. Since its inception in 1983, the NYC Food Bank has collected and distributed over 68 million pounds of food per year to the 900 pantries and soup kitchens citywide. However, in recent months the typically abundant supply of canned fruit and vegetables, cereals and grains filling pantry shelves have dwindled by nearly half–and the problem is no longer contained below the poverty line. An increasing number of working people, many employed in service jobs compensating well-below liveable wage are facing a choice between heat in their homes and meals on the table as winter fast approaches.
What's behind the deficit? While the incessant rise of home heating costs and holiday financial strain are partly to blame, the steady, negligent decline of federal emergency food aid is taking the biggest toll. A pantry can successfully provide struggling families with bags of nutritionally balanced food for under 5,000 a month (a remarkably small sum considering how many mouths it feeds) and are currently making do with under half of that. Meanwhile, the number of families relying on the aid is up from 1 to 1.3 million since 2004.
Conversely, as the struggle spreads, inclination toward donation, a major part of a pantry's success, plummets. In San Francisco's Bay Area, the Second Harvest food bank finds itself at just a quarter of their annual holiday food-drive goal, once again at the hands of the slowing economy. In Americus, a town in Southwest Georgia where a March tornado crippled the city's infrastructure, donation is nearly inconceivable to the many residents struggling just to rebound from the damage. Without government aid to hold the reigns as a city regains its strength, the problem simply propagates.
Though the situation is perilous, there is both hope and ample opportunity for change. The House of Representatives recently voted to increase the budget for food stamps by 4 million dollars, nearly doubling the budget for EFP's. Additionally, if passed the 2007 Farm Bill could mean a significant increase in funding ($250 Million) and invaluable reform in EFP policy. Despite the urgency felt by those in need, the farm bill continues to wait in peril….
So, fellow Slow Food enthusiasts and friends, before the influx of holiday celebrations fills our minds and plates, take a moment to call your senators to show your support. Food Bank NYC offers a comprehensive breakdown of the hunger crisis and powerful statistics. Additionally, direct contributions by way of volunteer work, pantry items or donations are an absolutely integral part of any food bank's success and the best way to provide immediate aid. Assuredly, any help at all will carry a long, long way.
To find your senator and write to express your support for more money to Food Banks, click here.
For more information on how to help in your home state, Click here and visit Second Harvest, America's nation-wide food bank.
Posted on Fri, November 23, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Roger Repohl keeps bees in The Genesis Community Garden in The Bronx, NY. His bees make a mighty good honey, PLUS, he gives funny and wonderful talks about bees and beekeeping. He can now add movie reviewer to his list of talents.
SEINFELD'S WORLD OF DRONES
by Roger Repohl
Here, take this little True/False quiz on honeybees. See if you know more about them than Jerry Seinfeld does.
1. Honeybees have yellow bodies with black stripes.
2. Male bees have stingers.
3. Male bees go out to gather nectar from flowers and are the principal workforce inside the hive.
4. Worker bees select one job in the hive when they are young and do it for the rest of their lives.
5. All the bees in a colony are cousins.
6. Bees have no use for pollen themselves but suck it up and spray it over flowers because they somehow know pollination is important for the ecology.
7. If a colony of bees has enough honey to meet their needs, they will stop working.
8. Beekeepers enslave the bees for their own profit. Their slogan is, "They make the honey, and we make the money."
9. Beekeepers use smoke to suffocate the bees.
10. Many people are petrified of bees.
Here are the answers:
1. False. Honeybees have brown bodies with black stripes. The yellow-and-black insects are yellowjackets, the wasps that go after your picnic and give honeybees a bad name.
2. False. Only female bees have stingers. The male bee's similar organ is for sex.
3. False. Male bees, appropriately named drones, do nothing at all except to fly out to look for and mate with a virgin queen (and to die in the process). The rest of the time, they lounge around inside the hive, being fed and cared for by the females, who outnumber them about 200 to 1. In the fall, the females push them all outside, where they starve to death.
4. False. Worker bees, all sterile females, perform many different tasks in the hive, depending on their age. They spend the last half of their six-week lives as foragers, gathering nectar and pollen from flowering plants.
5. False. All the bees in a colony are sisters and brothers, the offspring of the queen bee.
6. False. Bees bring back pollen to the hive and convert it into "bee bread," their source of protein. Honey is their carbohydrate. They eat nothing else besides these two foods.
7. False. As long as there are enough flowers, enough workers, and enough room in the hive, bees will continue to make honey, even though it's too much for them to use. This is why beekeepers can take the surplus honey without depriving the bees.
8. False. Unlike cows, bees cannot be domesticated or trained; they will do whatever they want. The best that beekeepers can do is give them a decent home and fields of flowers and hope they'll stick around.
9. False. Smoke calms the bees and when used in moderation will not harm them.
10. True. One tiny insect, especially in a car, will turn many people frenetic.
How did you do? Better than Seinfeld, I'm sure. Each of the above questions is based on scenes from his DreamWorks animated feature, Bee Movie. Only the last one is true, and his depictions of bee paranoia are uproariously accurate.
As a beekeeper who often gives talks to both adults and children, I wonder if there's something bad about dishing out all this misinformation. I'm mostly glad this movie's out there, since nothing makes a person realize the truth better than unmasking the lies. And after all, it's just a cartoon. If you can make bees speak English, why can't you make bee colonies look like the male-dominated American society of, say, 1967?
That's what this movie does. As you probably already know, having seen it yourself, heard the reviews, or read the McDonald's promotional packaging, it's a fly-weight Bildungsroman starring Seinfeld as The Graduate. Returning from Bee College on the other side of the hive and smartly dressed in black and yellow ("My sweater is Ralph Lauren, and I wear no pants") (see fallacy #1 above), Barry B. (for Benjamin?) Benson is pressured by his "parents" (fallacy #5) to get a job (fallacy #3), not in plastics but in honey, the only industry in this company town. Dreading the thought of spending the rest of his life doing a single task (fallacy #4), he sneaks out to accompany the macho Pollen Jocks air squadron (#3 again) on their flight to vacuum up nectar and spew around pollen from the flowers in Central Park (fallacy #6, except that there actually are flowers in Central Park).
Separated from his unit and after brushes with death by tennis ball and windshield wiper, he finds himself in a flower shop and is saved from the swatter by the human owner, cartoon-comely Vanessa Bloom (no relation to Molly), voiced by Renee Zellweger. He does exhibit the drone's drive to mate, but since the PG rating would be jeopardized and he doesn't have the right fixtures anyway (fallacy #2), they settle for a platonically passionate relationship, giving new meaning to a woman's cry, "You insect, you!" It's a pity there's no Mrs. Robinson, but there is a funny remake of the swimming pool scene.
The last half of the movie turns Marxist. Beekeepers are portrayed as capitalist exploiters of the apian working class (fallacies #8 and #9). Barry courageously takes the human race to human court and wins. All commercial honey is returned to the bees, who then grow so lazy by the surfeit that they quit working (fallacy #7), creating a pollination crisis that is solved by . . . well, you gotta see the rest for yourself.
Or else just forget about it. Like Seinfeld used to say about his TV series, Bee Movie is a show about nothing. Despite all the save-the-pollinators advertising (including a pre-movie plug by a chief exploiter, bushy-bearded Burt of Burt's Bees), it has little to do with either nature or human nature. It's clever and often funny, though you may find yourself wishing Jerry would ditch the bee costume — his face has always been at least as entertaining as his lines.
For millennia, at least as far back as the Roman poet Virgil, humans have looked to honeybee society as a model, utopian or dystopian, for their own. More interesting than Seinfeld's drone-world would be a feminist treatment reflecting the actual world of the hive.
My mind is reeling. Imagine the queen bee in an asbestos pants-suit.
Posted on Tue, November 20, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
As part of our eco-gastronomic initiative to renew and restore America's food traditions (RAFT), Slow Food USA partnered with several organizations to host 5 heritage foods picnics over the past three months. The goal of these picnics—besides good food and fun—was to introduce people around the country to some of their area's delicious and endangered foods. The guests at the picnics all partook in eater-based conservation, and some picnic goers got to listen to Gary Nabhan—author and founder of RAFT–talk about the importance of place-based foods.
The picnic series kicked off in Shelburne, Vermont, in collaboration with the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN), and was held at Shelburne Farms. It was a beautiful weekend of VFN workshops and tastings, culminating in a walk-around dinner featuring fresh, local, seasonal ingredients prepared by 20 local chef and farm partnerships in Vermont. The dishes included foods from Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste(a list of endangered foods from around the country), like the Cherokee Purple tomato and American heirloom apples, and many foods documented as endangered by the RAFT project.
The next picnic was held on the Capitol steps in Madison, Wisconsin where a buffet featuring foods from the Ark list was prepared by Slow Food Madison and Chefs Collaborative members Justin Carlisle, of Harvest Restaurant, Tory Miller, of L'Etoile and Patrick O'Halloran, from Lombardino's. Highlights included Slow roasted American Plains Bison over Carolina Gold Rice grits and a Sorghum BBQ Mulefoot pork shoulder sandwich.
Next up was Seattle! As the Slow Food Seattle invite explained:
"You bring the gear (plates and utensils, picnic blanket, etc.). We provide the vittles,"
prepared by the some of area's finest chefs including John Sundstrom (Lark), Thierry Rautureau (Rover's), Tamara Murphy (Brasa) and Fernando Divina (Tendrils). There was, of course, lots of sustainable salmon on hand including the Washington Marbled Chinook Salmon, and other Ark products such as Churro Lamb and Makah Ozette Potatoes. The cherry on the sundae? The musical stylings of the Squirrel Butter Old Time Variety Duo.
Finally, just a couple of weekends ago, Siler City North Carolina and Austin Texas joined in the fun. In North Carolina, our friends at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy celebrated their 30th anniversary with us at the Inn at Celebrity Dairy. Guests feasted on lots of meat, including Tennessee Fainting Goat meatballs, Buckeye chicken fricassee (maybe you read about the Buckeye and Chapel Hill chef Andrea Reusing in this month's Saveur?), Pineywoods beef meatloaf and roasted heritage Black turkey. We finished it off with a lovely Stayman apple cobbler and Celebrity Dairy's own goat's milk ice cream.
In Austin, the American Grassfed Association (AGA), Slow Food Austin, Chefs Collaborative, and Edible Austin Magazine worked together to produce a lively and delicious picnic in association with AGA's annual conference. Locally produced favorites included Thunderheart bison carpaccio with pecan oil, chasteberries and meyer lemon; Veldhuizen Bosque blue cheese, poached Bandera beef tongue, Toulouse goose pate with Mexican oregano, and Ossabaw Pork Fromage-de-Tete (that's "head cheese" to you). Chef Jesse Griffiths prepared the delicious dishes that were washed down with locally-brewed root beer!
If any of this makes your mouth water, consider making a meal with endangered foods for your friends and family. For tips on making meal with Ark of Taste products, click here.
Posted on Mon, November 19, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
If you would like to support the small grower (yes, please), and voice your frustration with legislation that seems to miss the point (yup, count me in), please consider registering your comments on a mandatory leafy green Marketing Order with the USDA.
Background: over a year ago, news of E-coli- infected spinach rocked the nation. For those of us who favor small-scale local agriculture, it affirmed our beliefs and practices, and renewed, perhaps, our commitment to support small growers. In response to the outbreaks, the state of California passed voluntary growing standards for leafy greens. While these were intended to protect consumers, they were a response to the problems of big-ag that put small ag's head in a vise.
While this is for right now a California issue, California may just be the template for naionwide legislation. CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) has been fighting this issue both in-state and on the national level (thanks to them, Senator Feinstein withdrew a proposed amendment to the Farm Bill), and is leading the call for comments.
For CAFF's September press release, click here.
For CAFF's Judith Redmond's Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee, click here.
For more information on this issue, click here.
For more information on the Federal Marketing Agreement, click here.
To register your comments with the USDA, click here.