What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, March 27, 2013 by Slow Food USA
Indigenous communities in the Western Hemisphere depend on corn not only as a source of nutrition, but as the center of their cultural traditions and spirituality.
Originally posted by Gilyn Gibbs for First Peoples Worldwide
From time immemorial, indigenous communities in the Western Hemisphere have depended on corn not only as a source of nutrition, but as the center of their cultural traditions and spirituality. This past September, the Yaqui Peoples of Sonora Mexico hosted the inaugural “Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Corn” in the Zapoteca Nation of Oaxaca Mexico. The conference, attended by 48 Indigenous Nations across from North, Central and South America, was created to encourage unity among indigenous communities, restore traditional economies, and ensure the survival of all native varieties of corn.
The Indigenous Corn Peoples are a part of long-standing cultural tradition tied to the natural world. The core principle of the Yaqui Peoples, “is the sacredness, mystery and life-sustaining power of the natural world and living things.” They are deeply connected to their environment and express this through traditional ceremonies, songs, and dances. They consider their relationship with plants and animals as inter-dependent and interwoven. It’s for this reason that corn, the fundamental means of nutrition and healing, is so respected and cherished. In indigenous communities, the people are directly related to all steps of the corn production process. Before the planting of the corn, there are ceremonies to express appreciation for the earth that allows the corn to be planted and for the water to allows it to grow. When it is time to harvest the corn there is a ceremony celebrating corn as the source of life and creation. The harvesting of corn isn’t simply to acquire food, but celebrates the all-encompassing lifestyle of devotion to the earth. One member of the Yaqui reiterates: “Our struggles to protect corn as a source of our lives cannot be separated from our struggles to defend our rights to land, water, traditional knowledge and self-determination.”
Environmental degradation is a global issue, but for the Yaqui community, it comes with devastating consequences. The booming agri-business has not only pushed many Indigenous communities off of their land, but also heavily promoted the use of chemical pesticides and genetically modified (GMO) corn. The Mexican government has been a source of conflict, creating programs that cut off access to land and clean water, and mandating the use of this GMO corn for small farmers. The introduction of these corn variations has dramatically decreased the diversity and resiliency of traditional seed varieties. The new strains of corn require much higher levels of agro-chemicals and water, which the Sonora desert ecosystem cannot provide. These negative effects aren’t only environmental. In 1997 Dr. Elizabeth Guillette conducted a study that detected high levels of pesticides in mothers’ milk and found severe learning and development disabilities in Yaqui children living in these high pesticide areas. The Yaqui people started the Corn Conference as a way to gain support of Indigenous Corn Peoples from the area and to stop the environmental, cultural, and health degradation.
The Indigenous Peoples International Conference on Corn created an atmosphere where all Indigenous Corn Peoples could unite around a single mission to protect their sovereignty and identity. They called “for a new focus on sustainable and respectful use of corn as a basis for our traditional and collective economic, social and cultural development”. The Indigenous Corn Peoples committed to halt the use of pesticides and GMO corn in their territories. They also resolved for all communities to focus on restoring and strengthening local markets and economies by protecting their food and seed sovereignty. The conference attendees decided that the way to do this is by reestablishing Indigenous seed banks and trade relationships so that the seeds with the most resistance and adaptability to climate change can be used, replicated, and shared among communities. They believe that the renewal of an indigenous trading system in the Americas will be the most beneficial way to share knowledge across communities and ultimately, bring change.
Although the conference was only one step in the movement for Indigenous rights, the Yaqui ultimately achieved their greatest goal: to organize fellow Indigenous communities and Peoples to defend Mother Earth and her lands, water, forests and corn against the threat climate change and unsustainable industrial food practices. By embracing their heritage as Indigenous Peoples to protect mother earth, they are also protecting the culture, spirituality, health, and traditions that have been passed on to them for centuries from being lost forever.
Posted on Thu, September 27, 2012 by Slow Food USA
The Nopal Cactus, native to the Mojave Desert, has been used for generations as a food source with multiple uses and benefits that may surprise you.
Written by Robert Morris, co-founder of Slow Food Las Vegas and former Professor Emeritus from the University of Nevada
If you were to pair cactus with other foods you might want to consider pairing it with limes and paprika. This is a popular pairing in Mexico with the cactus food called nopalitos where Opuntia ficus-indica, the prickly pear or nopal cactus, is native. In the popular literature you might think that this cactus was native to Italy since this plant gets much more play there as a food than where it grows natively, the inland deserts of Central Mexico.
However, Mexicans have enjoyed this food in many prepared forms for centuries. In respect for its place of origin, I prefer to use the Mexican terms for the edible portions of the plant: tunas (fruit), nopales (immature whole cactus pads for eating) and nopalitos (cactus pads that have been prepared for eating or cooking).
In 2003, I established nopal cactus plots at the University Orchard located at the Center for Urban Horticulture and Water Conservation in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Faculty and my good friends at the University of Sonora-Hermosillo, Mexico (USON) donated cactus pads from USON’s agricultural farm just outside of Hermosillo and taught us how to plant and manage their production.
Posted on Thu, September 13, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Lester & Linda L’Hoste have been working to preserve the organic Ark of Taste satsuma on their citrus farm in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and now Isaac.
Written by Poppy Tooker, former leader of Slow Food New Orleans
On August 29th, exactly seven years from the day that Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the surrounding area, a new storm blew in. Isaac was not expected to be much of a storm event as it came onshore as a mere category one.
Lester and Linda L’Hoste, organic citrus farmers in Braithwaite, LA and Crescent City Farmers Market vendors did not evacuate. As lifelong residents of Southern Louisiana, they had ridden out many a storm and believed this one was just going to bring a small amount of wind and rain.
The family enjoyed dinner together and Linda had spent the evening baking cookies before losing power about 10 pm. At 2 am Lester’s phone rang with the news that the levees were in danger of being overtopped and that they needed to evacuate. The water was rising quickly as the L’Hostes joined fifty other Braithwaite families trying to get out. Soon, it became apparent that it was too late as water rushed over the top of the levee reaching the floorboard of the truck, trapping them there.
Many Slow Food USA members will remember the L’Hostes from efforts made after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At that time, chapters across the country came together in countless ways to help farmers, fishers and chefs of Louisiana rebuild the local food system following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. That fall, the U.S. Ark of Taste committee sprang into action boarding several indigenous Gulf Coast foods suddenly endangered in the storm’s aftermath including the satsuma.
Posted on Fri, September 07, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Tuna, the ubiquitous canned food. But, what do you really know about it? Slow Food USA member & fisherman, Jeremy Brown on Seattle’s own Albacore tuna.
Written by Jeremy Brown, Fisherman, Slow Food member and 2008 Terra Madre delegate
Albacore, Thunnus Alolonga, are the only tuna that can be sold as “white meat’. In many ways the polar opposite of the Bluefin beloved of the sushi trade and poster fish for fisheries run wild. Albacore’s ecological niche is on the fringes- they swim further, faster deeper and more scattered into cooler waters than most tunas. This makes them less vulnerable to fishing pressure, and particularly hard to catch on an industrial scale.
Older fish swim deeper in more tropical water and are principally caught on pelagic longline gear, younger fish frequent the surface waters along the sub tropical convergence zones of the world’s oceans which is where they can be caught by jigs trolled on the surface or chummed up with bait in the classic pole-and-line fisheries.
Posted on Fri, August 10, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Back to school time. Planning on picking up an apple for your teacher’s desk? Ever wonder where this tradition came from? Have you thought about what apple to bring? Read on…
Written by Kelley McCrudden, Slow Food USA intern
The origin of gifting an apple on the first day of school is a bit of a mystery. Many believe the practice stems from the role of the apple as a divine food or source of immortality from ancient Greek mythology, while others link the apple to the lesson of right and wrong through the story of Adam and Eve. Some say it began in early colonial America when teachers were paid with the fruit and other foods in exchange for lessons. Provided that apples were some of the hardiest fruits grown in New England- often stored in cellars through the winter months- apples may have naturally become the most prevalent form of compensation.
Regardless of which story you choose to believe, it’s easy to see that giving an apple away is a smart decision. Not only are apples a healthy (only 80 calories) and a tasty treat, they are in season this time of year and will be coming to grocery stores throughout the country in mass quantities.
Posted on Wed, August 08, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Preserving local food culture is more than just soil & seed. Slow Food Asheville’s Appalachian Food Storybank proves that it’s mainly about people.
Written By Deirdra Stockmann, Slow Food USA volunteer and former leader with Slow Food Huron Valley
The hills of Southern Appalachia and the people who live there have long been shaped by their foodways – the cultural, economic and geographic paths that weave people and land together. And those green hills have listened silently as generations have passed down recipes, farming techniques and stories about growing and eating together. People, of course, have listened to these stories as well, but most of them have never been recorded, some have been lost, and countless tales and tricks of the trade reside only in the minds and memories of the region’s elders.
In 2011, Slow Food Asheville created the Appalachian Food Storybank as a way to “acknowledge, honor, and archive Appalachian heritage foods and foodways in order to promote the preservation of diverse local knowledges, natural resources, and food biodiversity.” In less than two years, the program has established a committed group of volunteers, built partnerships with other organizations, and created an enthusiastic buzz among local media and area residents eager to help preserve their own local history.
Posted on Sat, July 21, 2012 by Slow Food USA
From $500 grills to 100 year old fish boils, the tradition of outdoor cooking survives as a summer staple in the U.S.
Written by Slow Food USA Associate Director of National Programs, Angelines M. Alba Lamb
If you ever find yourself driving up the Bronx River Parkway in New York City on a weekend evening after 6pm, try to make a detour off the 233rd Street exit. If you eat meat, I promise you won’t be disappointed. A crew of Trinidadian men set-up two smokers and a variety of grills and cook jerked chicken, pork, beef, and fish until dawn, relying on the after-party crowd to flood the block despite the early hour. The food is deceptively simple and delicious. Relying on family recipes and pure instinct for flavor these men carry on a tradition that spans all if not most cultures, ethnicities, nations, and families: cooking outdoors.
Outdoor cooking is most celebrated here in the U.S, during the summer. We’re encouraged to buy grills for our fathers on Father’s Day, are accosted by displays of hot dog and hamburger buns every time we enter a grocery store, and doesn’t it seem like every national holiday or birthday is celebrated with a BBQ? But there is more to outdoor cooking than just barbecue and $500 grills.
Posted on Tue, July 17, 2012 by Slow Food USA
We’ve teamed up with Daniel Klein and the folks over at Perennial Plate to deliver monthly video stories, our first dispatch features highlights from An American Food (Road)Trip.
Nearly two-and-half years ago, Daniel Klein and his colleague Mirra Fine over at Perennial Plate set out to tell the stories of real food in the United States. In their first two seasons, they filmed several terabytes of coverage and more than 100 episodes in nearly every state. This season, they will embark on a bold new journey—telling the story of food culture internationally! Beginning this month, we’ll by teaming up with Perennial Plate, as a video content partner, for a regular monthly feature here on the Slow Food USA blog, lifting up new and interesting food stories told through video. Over the next few months, we’ll be looking back at some of our combined highlights. So without further ado, here’s one of their season recaps. And don’t forget to tune in next month for more fun from the road!
Posted on Fri, May 25, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Founder and President of the International Slow Food Movement, Carlo Petrini, paid the Slow Food USA office a visit and took time to answer your questions from Facebook.
Recently, upon learning that Slow Food International President Carlo Petrini would be coming by the Slow Food USA office, we asked our Facebook community what they would ask Carlo if they had the chance. As usual, you responded with some real gems and we put Carlo on the hot seat with a few of our favorites. We have transcribed his answers below, but if you would like to hear more from Mr. Petrini, check out the speech he gave to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (the main reason he was with us in New York City). It was the first time the Forum had invited an outside speaker to address the floor, quite an honor for everyone involved in the Slow Food Movement. But back to your questions and Carlo’s answers. We’ve listed a few below, but we still want to hear from you, let us know what you think in the comment’s section below.
Posted on Mon, May 14, 2012 by Slow Food USA
For the first time, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will have a guest speaker address its members—Slow Food International President Carlo Petrini.
Slow Food President Carlo Petrini will address the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) today, during the half-day session on the right to food and food sovereignty. His invitation to join the New York meeting at the UN headquarters, as a valued “friend and supporter of Indigenous Peoples”, marks the first time in the ten-year history of the Forum that an external guest has been invited to take the floor.
Petrini will be joined in the discussion by UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, and representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization and Indigenous and governmental groups. Previously the Forum was only open to Indigenous, governmental or UN representatives.
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.