What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
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.
Posted on Fri, November 16, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Ever looked at a market like San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Market and wondered: how did this get here? What did it take to bring this to fruition? All over the country farmers markets and other food markets are popping up. Robert LaValva, former Slow Food USA National Office staff member, has been working for nearly two years now to establish a permanent , public and sustainable market at New York City's South Street Seaport, called the New Amsterdam Market. Robert spoke with us about his process, and shared some of the challenges he has faced.
Q: Can you describe for us your vision for the market?
RL: The vision is to create an indoor permanent public market where all the vendors are people who are sourcing sustainably produced food from the region (500 miles from New York City). Our premise is that bringing together purveyors who represent farmers, will help jumpstart or create a new wave of sustainable food production. There are many interconnections that these purveyors can make—if you have a butcher and a greengrocer and a cheesemonger in the market, they can band together, bringing food down to the area on one truck. As a result, they will realize efficiencies. Farmers' markets were the beginning of this return to regional food and are one component of such a food system. Next there were chefs sourcing from local people, and now—the third wave—shops sourcing locally.
Q: How long have you been working on this project?
RL: I've been thinking about it ever since I started working for Slow Food USA 5 years ago. I saw an emerging need and Slow Food was definitely instrumental in helping shape my feelings about all this. In earnest, I began working on it in 2005, about a year and a half ago. I produced a Slow Food event called Urban Harvest and called it New Amsterdam Market —that was a test run of the idea. I put it in a magnificent civic setting: the vaulted arcade of the New York City Municipal Building, a Beaux Arts masterpiece. It was done in tribute to sustainable, regional food, and the people who grow and produce it, and those who cook and sell it - it's a broken system, and these are all real pioneers in its recovery. After that, I needed to think more thoroughly about what this market would be and think about the site that made the most sense. I began working with a friend - Jill Slater - giving a lot of thought to what the challenges would be and selecting the site of the Seaport, specifically the Fulton Fish Market, and creating a non profit – New Amsterdam Public.
Q: Where are you in the process now?
RL: We are at a stage where we have discussed the project with all of the stakeholders of the neighborhood—local community groups concerned with what will happen to the neighborhood, up to the elected officials and leaders in the sustainable food movement, and also various civic minded groups. Our main interest and concern over the past year was to walk all the political and elected representatives through these ideas. Knowing how NYC works, oftentimes people have great ideas but haven't garnered the proper support from that level, so ideas can't move forward. Now we are going forward to gather public momentum, One thing I've learned studying public markets is that they don't happen on their own, there has to be a public demand for them. Our next step is a one-day event at the Seaport in front of one of the old fish market buildings that we think should be a venue, bringing together purveyors from all parts of the city, and for one day giving the sense of what this market could or would be like. Besides creating a great event, we will be using it as a showcase for this vision.
Q: Does the city own the space?
RL: All the buildings along Fulton street and the pier holding up the shopping mall are owned by the city, but they are on a long term lease to a suburban real estate developer whose business model is to fill them as much as possible with chain stores. Our belief is that the empty fish market buildings were built to be markets, and the Seaport District hosted a constant succession of public markets since 1642 - which by all measures is a pretty long time! These markets have evolved and change according to the needs of their day. Just because the Fulton Fish Market outgrew its space doesn't mean that should be the end of markets in that neighborhood - which is a true public market district. It's just a matter of a new kind of market coming in. We feel it's the most appropriate use of that property. We want the city to understand that in this case it's a continuation of its original use.
Q: There are so many places in the country where public market buildings have been shuttered as public markets and are now turned into to condos, retail shops, etc. Cannery Row, as one example–do you know of any others? Is there a precedent for this kind of marketplace in NYC? In the country?
RL: The precedent I tend to cite is from London, where there is a market called Borough Market, because it has many similarities to what we're trying to do. It was a 200 year-old wholesale produce market (in its latest incarnation)—south of the Thames but in the heart of old London. About 10-15 years ago a lot of the wholesale traders and sellers had left so the stalls had begun to empty out. The people who run that market felt they didn't want it to die down and disappear so they began holding food festival events there. Those events grew in size and became more and more frequent and eventually transformed it into a new kind of market. It's about building momentum to build the market itself. You don't build it overnight–you have to build momentum, attract future possible purveyors, look for farms and suppliers we want to work with, etc. We are learning what is needed and what is problematic, and how to deal with those issues in an organic fashion that will lead to a solid foundation for the market itself.
Q: What have been the greatest challenges?
RL: Our greatest challenge is this: the Seaport has been a neighborhood in search of itself since it was first created as a public resource in the 1960's. Its buildings and streets are the last remnant of maritime 19th century New York. Everything was being torn down, and this little fragment was saved because it was a vital component of the city's history—the shipping history that made NYC what it is. Public markets are just as much a part of the Seaport's history as wooden ships. We believe we have a very good, viable, and appropriate vision for the Seaport—appropriate to the history, appropriate to what people are looking for in food now, and appropriate in being an incubator for small businesses for whom it has become harder and harder to survive. In the same way that farmers' markets helped save farms, we would like to save traditional professions like butchering. Our challenge is that we would like the City of New York to appreciate this vision for what it can do for New Yorkers and region, how it will provide real economic development which is never achieved via a "bottom line first" viewpoint. New York as a major world city should have something like this—there are much smaller cities that have fantastic public markets. We should have a market befitting our size and stature and if the city wants to be a leader in sustainability, this would be a logical choice.
If you are in the NYC area, please join Robert and Jill at their Wintermarket event on Sunday December 16th. For more information, see http://www.newamsterdampublic.org<./p>
Posted on Fri, November 16, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Samantha Taylor
With plans for this gastronome's favorite holiday beckoning just around the corner like an intimidating heap of rich, succulent and often stress-inducing delicacies, I am truly thankful for what the holiday is really about: the food. All uncomfortably inebriated family members, bland green-bean casseroles and football distractions aside, Turkey Day is a chance to gorge ourselves on a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of every comfort food Americans are proud to call their own, and if there is a way to feast free of the stress, guilt and anxiety typically served alongside, while keeping it slow, by golly I'll find it.
With that in mind, here are some tips for extracting all of the convivial wonder at the heart of the meal and none of the trimmings:
1. Shop Early, Sleep Easy: Find yourself cursing the solitary bag of cranberries left on the grocery store shelf come Wednesday night? Take advantage of your local weekend farmers' market and load up on the bounty of root vegetables so at home on a Thanksgiving table. Perusing the stands and sharing free range turkey-basting secrets is a pleasant (and conscientious) substitution for the chaos of the supermarket.
2. Ditch the Archetypal Meal: First time playing chef and hostess for the family? Rather than trying to live up to the yams of those who've come before you, manipulate the main characters of the meal with surprise combinations and novel cooking methods. Instead of a tart, runny cranberry sauce, try a buttery tart crust filled with cranberries, and a hint of orange zest. Fill your stuffing (the ultimate canvas) with your favorite tids and bits, sausage, chestnuts, apples, whatever strikes your fancy. With innovative sides your guests will be too busy praising your ingenuity to bicker.
3. Don't Fight the Urge to go Potluck: The vast array and magnitude of Thanksgiving classics is too much for almost anyone (save Ms. Stewart) to bear alone. Not to mention, potlucks are a fabulous way for all your near and dears to showcase their mothers' famous fillintheblank. Delegate a food group to each dinner guest, provide the ambiance, some good wine, the turkey, and a choice few accoutrements. Then sit back and let the eclectic meal (served family-style) be filled with quirky childhood memories and the host (that's you) with inner peace.
Posted on Wed, November 14, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
"The politics of food have changed, and probably for good," said Michael Pollan in his NY Times Op-Ed last week. He ended his frustrated death-knell-for-a-Farm-Bill-we-can-be-proud-of piece on this hopeful note.
The Food and Farm Bill (up for vote on the Senate floor this week) will most certainly not show the massive changes we all hoped and fought for. Commodity subsidies? Still there. Though Tom Philpott over at Grist questions them as the ultimate evil. He calls them the symptom of the problem, not the cause. The real problem, says Philpott, is overproduction. Check out the above link to see his article and the extensive debate that follows in the comments section.
There are some programs being written in and voted on–good programs supporting food stamps and wetlands preservation, and small amounts of money to specialty crops. Whether or not they are merely "fleas on the elephant in the room," as Pollan calls them, used to buy off critics, they might be the best thing we have to speak up for at this point. So use these final important moments to call your senators and speak your mind.
For Food Security updates, click here
For Nutrition updates, click here
For Conservation and Energy priorities, click here.
Posted on Wed, November 14, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Satish Kumar, advocate for land reform, anti-nuclear activist and editor of Resurgence magazine, spoke to the delegates of the Slow Food International Congress via video feed. He shared the following South African proverb which pretty much sums up the virtues of slow-ness, the virtues of community, and their inextricable link.
'If you wish to go fast – go alone.
If you wish to far – go together.'
Posted on Mon, November 12, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
As the Slow Food delegates arrived in Puebla, news of the terrible flooding in the Tabasco region spread. With nearly a million people affected, Tabasco is in trouble. It was just two short years ago that Slow Food rallied around its friends in New Orleans, helping them to rebuild the food communities there. This new disaster, so much larger even than the floods after Hurricane Katrina, weighed heavily on the minds of the delegates to the Congress. Villahermosa, in Tabasco, is the home of a Slow Food convivium, a Slow Food community. A representative from Villahermosa–Dona Alma Rosa– came and spoke to the delegates, giving them a sense of the scope of the damage, and a sense of what exactly needs to be done to rebuild the food community there.
Within 24 hours, Slow Food Switzerland, Slow Food Italy, Slow Food San Francisco, and Citta Slow had all pledged thousands of dollars/Euros to help those rebuilding efforts. Tabasco produces 80% of the world's cocoa crops, and these will need to be revived, mills will need to be rebuilt, and new marketing channels will need to be carved.
This disaster is larger than any of us can comprehend–we will keep you posted on ways that you can contribute to the relief efforts in Villahermosa, and the larger Tabasco area.