What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, March 27, 2012 by Slow Food USA
The Manioc root can be found in many of your favorite dishes, but not on anyone’s bookshelf. Sara Franklin hopes to change that with a new book taking on this ubiquitous, versatile food and its its gastronomic importance.
Written by Sara Franklin, independent writer, multi-media producer, co-author of the forthcoming book, The Manioc Route: Exploring the Foundations of Brazilian Cuisine with Teresa Corção
Maybe you’ve had stewed yuca in a Cuban restaurant or pounded fufu in a West African joint. Tapioca—you’ve seen it in gluten-free breads, in the pearls in your bubble tea, or, of course, in pudding (the molecular gastronomy crowd can’t get enough of the stuff and its magical stabilizing powers!). And if you’ve been to Brazil (or a Brazilian restaurant, for that matter), you have, no doubt, come across pão de queijo—those chewy little cheese breads—and sprinkled farofa on your meat, fish, rice and beans. But did you know that all of these foods come from a single plant?
Manioc root—also commonly known as cassava, yuca and tapioca—is originally from the Amazon region of Brazil, and today is the fifth most important staple crop in the world (maize, rice, wheat and potatoes are ahead on the list).
Posted on Thu, March 01, 2012 by Slow Food USA
In Sonoma County, California, Slow Food Russian River has helped local growers bring a famed apple back into production.
Written by Deirdra Stockmann, formerly of Slow Food Huron Valley (MI)
Sonoma County, California, is known the world around for wine. But for over 100 years the region was praised for its tree fruit, and its apples in particular. Arguably the most hallowed of the apples grown in the region is the Gravenstein. As one of the first apples to ripen in late summer, a fresh Gravenstein signals the coming of fall and marks the beginning of the autumn harvest.
Russian settlers brought the Gravenstein to California in the mid-19th century. Its genetic roots run even deeper into the soils of northern Europe where it was likely developed a century earlier. In and around Sebastapol, California, in the heart of Sonoma County, schools, streets, even a highway bear the name of the crisp, sweet apple. These landmarks are evidence of the Gravenstein’s prominent place in the (agri)cultural and culinary history of the region. (Learn more about the history here.)
At the turn of the 21st century, however, the Gravenstein was disappearing. Grapes, which also grow well in Coastal California, have become far more profitable than apples and other tree fruit. As David Masumoto’s memoir, Epitaph for a Peach, recounts, many farmers have been all but forced to plow under their generations-old orchards home to scores of varieties of apples, peaches, and plums to grow grapes, primarily for large-scale wine production.
Unwilling to accept the destruction of the orchards, Paula Shatkin and fellow volunteers at Slow Food Russian River stood up to defend the Gravenstein. In so doing, they defined what it means to be a co-producer in our food system. They harnessed the power of eaters to support Gravenstein growers and encourage diversity in the landscape and on our plates.
Saving the Gravenstein
Shatkin felt compelled to speak up on behalf of the Gravenstein and its growers because, in her words, “they are iconic here. Because they are such a visible part of our identity and our cultural history. Because our economy has in the past revolved around them. Because they are SO beautiful. And because we have to fight to preserve biodiversity.”
Shortly after Shatkin moved to Sebastapol, she attended a Slow Food Russian River meeting and proposed that they take action to save the Gravenstein. In empowering Slow Food chapter leader fashion, the leaders replied, “Why don’t you?” And she did.
Posted on Fri, February 10, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Yoko Sudo, the Fukushima convivium leader, despite an earthquake and tsunami devastating her country, led the charge for “a new vision of agriculture” at Terra Madre Japan.
written by Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity
When the young Fukushima convivium leader finished speaking at the plenary dinner of Terra Madre Japan, held in Unzen last December 2-4, the attendees were visibly moved. Yoko Sudo, who comes from a farming family, has been living a nightmare since the earthquakes and subsequent tsunami hit last March. But she didn’t come to the Terra Madre meeting to ask for help. Her message was very clear: “We will keep fighting for good, clean and fair food and a new vision of agriculture, even though this will mean huge sacrifices and enormous effort for all of us from the devastated area.”
Her speech set the perfect seal on the Terra Madre event, highlighting the vitality of the Slow Food movement in Japan and its most critical issues. Over three days, producers from the slow network across the country came together to participate in meetings and present their products in a public fair, with the Japanese Ark of Taste products presented in a special display of wooden panels designed by the renowned designer Kosei Shirotani.
All the producers participated not only to sell their goods, but to collectively send a message to the media, authorities and consumers that environmental disasters do not come from bad luck or chance, but are a direct consequence of a flawed way of managing soil, agriculture, resources, energy and water. The second important part of their message was to show that another path is possible.
Among those showing the diversity of good, clean and fair food production were the remarkable local group of women from the Unzen Takana Vegetable Presidium, led by the legendary Setsue Baba and the Nagasaki convivium leader, Masatoshi Iwasaki, one of Japan’s organic agriculture pioneers.
The general assembly of Slow Food convivium leaders was held simultaneously with Terra Madre Japan and installed a new leadership, headed by the young new president Tsuyoshi Goto. Attendees included Yoko Kurokawa, long-time member and supporter of biodiversity projects; Akihiko Sugawara, convivium leader for Kesennuma, a town destroyed by the tsunami; Yujin Yusa, the general secretary for the Fukushima convivium, home of the damaged nuclear power plant; Katrine Klinken, Dutch convivium leader of Copenhagen Convivium; and Luigi Romani, the director of the Italian Cultural Institute in Osaka.
We hope that the new leaders will be able to give Slow Food’s ideas and projects the opening and public resonance that they deserve, so that the Japan’s consumers can begin to fully understand the positive implications of good, clean and fair production.
Terra Madre Japan was made possible with the support of the Unzen municipality, the biggest sponsor of the event, represented by Hidetomo Shibata at the event.
Designer Kosei Shirotan – who runs a ceramic school in Unzen that is creating innovative utensils for food and designs new forms of communication - is assisting the development of Slow Food in the Nagasaki area by providing his design services for free.
This blog was originally posted on the Slow Food International website, www.slowfood.com.
Immediately after the earthquake on March 11, 2011, Slow Food began collecting donations through its websites and international network. Visit www.slowfood.com/donate to find out more or make a contribution.
Posted on Thu, February 02, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Originally from South America, the Makah Ozette Potato has been a staple of Pacific Coast Native Americans for over 200 years and his now being preserved through a partnership with Slow Food Seattle.
Written by Gerry Warren, Slow Food USA Regional Governor for Washington & Alaska and the coordinator of the Makah Ozette Potato Presidium
In the 1980s an unknown fingerling potato was recognized as a staple in the diet of Pacific Coast Native Americans of the Makah Nation. The Makah occupy the region around Neah Bay, Washington, the most northwesterly point in the lower 48 states. According to tribal lore, the potato had been used by these people for about 200 years. The Makah had named it Ozette after one of their five villages located around Neah Bay. All potatoes originated in South America and it was thought that all potatoes now in the Americas were first taken to Europe by Spaniards before they came to North America. However, in 2004, phylogenetic analysis conducted at Washington State University provided evidence that this potato (Solanum Tu- berosum Group Tuberosum) had certainly been imported directly from South America. How did this happen?
After their conquests in South America, the Spanish began a mission to further establish their empire on the western shores of North America. In the spring of 1791, they established a fort at Neah Bay and, as was the custom, planted a garden that surely included potatoes they had brought directly from South America via Mexico. During the winter of 1791, the Spanish found the weather conditions in the harbor too severe to maintain their ships and they abandoned the fort. The Makah people, who were in need of a carbohydrate source, likely found volunteers of this rather weedy plant left in the garden of the abandoned fort. They quickly adopted the potato and became its stewards, growing it in their backyard gardens. Not until the late 1980s, nearly 200 years later, was the potato grown outside the Makah Nation. The Makah named the potato Ozette and we have named it Makah Ozette to honor their 200 years of stewardship. The firm flesh and creamy texture of this thin-skinned fingerling potato and its unique nutty, earthy flavor are appreciated by home cooks as well as chefs.
The Presidium was established by Slow Food Seattle in partnership with the Makah Nation, Full Circle Farm, Pure Potato (a laboratory and farm which develops and produces potato seed), the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Prosser, WA, and the Seattle chapter of Chefs Collaborative.
Posted on Tue, January 24, 2012 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food USA’s president says he is not turning his back on the organization’s roots, but is instead trying to better understand its identity.
by Slow Food USA President, Josh Viertel
When my fiancée, Juliana, and I were farming, we grew the most beautiful produce I have ever seen. I do not mean to brag. It is sort of like being a parent, or a pet owner. Anyone who has grown food with love probably feels that way about the product of his or her labor. We grew 300 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, many heirloom varieties, and ingredients for cooking food from so many traditions. We sold them at a farmers’ market in a well-heeled neighborhood, and we charged a lot of money. We did not think twice about charging $16 per pound for salad greens. We knew what work went into it, we knew how good it was, and we knew it was worth it. We sold out. And we made $12,000 a year between the two of us. We thought we were doing pretty well.
When low-income people came to our stand with food stamps, we gave them two or three for the price of one. But something was broken. At $12,000, we had low incomes ourselves, and the only people we could feed had high incomes. I wanted to change the world, and I saw farming as a piece of that work. Fairness for the farmer seemed to mean injustice for the eater. Fairness for the eater seemed to mean injustice for the farmer. How could we simply choose to fight for one, with the knowledge that it undercut the other?
A few years later, I found myself standing in a room filled with about 300 extraordinary people—people working to take on the same paradox that had troubled me as a young farmer. Slow Food USA was putting on an enormous event in San Francisco in the fall of 2008 called Slow Food Nation. It brought the most inspiring artisan pickle makers, charcuterie curers, and bread bakers together with the most committed food activists and farmers. Alice Waters, Carlo Petrini, Wendell Berry, Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Raj Patel, Van Jones, Vandana Shiva, Lucas Benitez, and many, many other heroes of mine were all in the same place, at the same time, to talk about food, farming, and the movement to transform both. Monsanto and Ronald McDonald would have done well to blow up the building.
Posted on Wed, November 30, 2011 by Slow Food USA
A carnivore confronts the morality of meat by getting his hands bloody.
by Slow Food USA intern Lloyd Ellman
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the following graphically describes the slaughter of a live animal.
“I kind of hold their heads in my hand as the bleed out.”
“I don’t know. I guess to comfort them.”
One of the farmers confessed this as I stood, drenched in the unforgettable perfume of singed feathers and coppery death, contemplating the bittersweetness of a most American ritual. In all, I held nearly 50 heads over the course of that day.
Today, it’s become easy to ignore the fact that an animal was killed to provide me with meat. Just consider the store-bought-sterile prepackaged chicken cutlets found in most supermarkets that resemble a chicken about as much as I do. This emotional disconnect, sometimes termed carnism, prevents real compassion for farmed animals and is something, I suspect, introspective eaters struggle with frequently. I decided to tackle the problem head-on in an ongoing quest to settle my conscious and discover some truths about how meat can be good, clean, and fair.
Each year the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a Hudson Valley farm close to my heart, raises two flocks of turkeys for Thanksgiving. One breed is the commercially common Broad Breasted White, a creature that embodies the perils of Frankensteinian hybridization (its legs are too short to allow it to breed naturally), but it remains tasty and, more importantly, buxom.
The second flock comprises the gamey and wild Bourbon Red, a majestic heritage breed that fell out of favor in the 1930s and has experienced a revival in popularity, spurred by the deep flavor of its well-used musculature. These would be our quarry.
How do you slaughter a turkey? It was the first question that I asked and, depending on the answer, it is one that can speak volumes. There are any number of horrible stories and videos of mega-farms abusing helpless, suffering animals. These are unforgivable transgressions, but provide a useful contrast to my experience.
The real work of the slaughter, I discovered, is done by hand, with a blade no bigger than a paring knife and the assistance of a stainless steel cone that holds the turkey securely. Following the well-practiced example of my tutor I cupped the back of the bird’s neck and pinched between the spine and the trachea, creating a depression of pocked skin soft enough to slide the knife through without damaging the animal’s air supply. It takes two cuts, one on either side of the neck, to sever the two carotid arteries and release a disconcertingly warm stream of red.
After a few minutes the turkey, looking more and more like meat at each step, was scalded, plucked, and sent off to be disemboweled, cleaned, and finally packaged for sale.
Posted on Thu, November 10, 2011 by Emily Vaughn
Check out our Thanksgiving guide for recipes, tips, tricks, and more.
This Thanksgiving we’re giving thanks to each and every person who works to make for a good, clean, and fair food available to everyone. Whether you’re packing your daughter’s lunch every day, managing a school garden, holding an endangered foods potluck, or reading Fast Food Nation together with friends, we’re moved and inspired by the surge of interest this movement has seen in the past year and the extraordinary work being done around the country and around the world.
We wanted to give something back, so we thought about what kinds of things people ask us for most and the number one thing is information about how to “go slow.” Cooking with fresh, local, seasonal, and heirloom foods is exciting and delicious, but it can be hard to know where to start. “What’s so special about heritage turkeys?” “Where can I buy them?” “I like the idea of using heirloom foods but I don’t know how to cook with them.” “Can I have a Slow Food meal that doesn’t cost a fortune?”
Our Thanksgiving 2011 Guide is here to help. It’s meant to help you:
We hope this is helpful, and if you have questions or suggestions email thanksgiving [at] slowfoodusa.org
Thanks again, and we wish you and your loved ones a holiday full of cheer and good eats.
Posted on Tue, October 18, 2011 by Slow Food USA
Slow Food Chicago is helping its community enjoy the bounty year round. Canning and preserving workshops have kicked off and will be continuing through the winter months. It’s amazing what some cookware, fresh food and willing hands can do!
Submitted by Slow Food Chicago Leader Jennifer Breckner. Photos by Megan Larmer
The Summer months here in Chicago are definitely bountiful. And, through a partnership with Slow Food USA, Anolon Cookware is helping us extend that bounty to the other seasons. Slow Food Chicago hears all the time that our community wants hands-on food production workshops; they want a sense of self-sufficiency and they want to learn! Particularly important to us are affordable opportunities that demystify the canning process, extend the harvest throughout the year, and that connect individuals with local produce on an intimate level.
Anolon stepped in to support this great cause, generously providing Slow Food Chicago with over $1,000 in cookware and utensils to start up a pilot canning and preservation program, which will be held seasonally, throughout the year. The first two workshops, organized by Megan Larmer, Slow Food Chicago board member, and Samantha Radov, workshop instructor, were held over the summer at Logan Square Kitchen, a “shared kitchen” that supports local entrepreneurs getting their start. As a bonus, it’s the only LEED Gold private event space in Chicago.
“Anolon’s donation is invaluable. By not having to purchase cookware, we made a profit on the first workshop. We also were able to plan the entire series at once, knowing the equipment will last. Now we can begin improving the workshops with the very next installment. This gift ensures the longevity and success of the workshop series,” explained Larmer.
Slow Food Chicago received an enthusiastic response to the canning classes, which sold out quickly. Thirty people joined instructor Radov, a Slow Food enthusiast and pastry chef at Publican, to can tomatoes. The workshops were fun, informative, and absolutely messy. As one person said, “I’m interested in the sourcing of my food, and preserving it for myself. I never knew [that] I liked tomatoes until I had “real” one. FOOD IS SO COOL!”
We agree! Holding these canning workshops was for some a way to connect with near-forgotten family traditions, and for others a time to start a new one. Slow Food Chicago is excited for its future workshops: apples in November, citrus in February, and rhubarb in May. Onward!
Posted on Fri, October 07, 2011 by Emily Vaughn
Why is it so hard to figure out how to buy seafood sustainably? How did we get here? Roots of Change takes a deep dive into the problem with California salmon and points to some solutions.
By Bobbie Peyton for Roots of Change
California salmon feed the country but their habitat is threatened to a perilous degree. To understand how that came to be, we have to acknowledge the complex, interconnected reality of our food system.
In California, the current salmon crisis can be traced to the early 1900s when the state chose to use its finite water supply to develop its urban centers and industrial agriculture, rather than maintaining its free-running inland waterways (i.e. rivers and creeks). The dams created to bring water to cities and farms did so at the expense of maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems, and blocked salmon spawning routes.
Indeed the appropriation of abundant amounts of water and the creation of 1,400 dams transformed California into a “cornucopia,” the largest agricultural state in the U.S. But this choice to favor agriculture and developing cities still haunts us today.
Posted on Wed, September 14, 2011 by Emily Vaughn
Slow Food Upstate leader Janette Wesley tells us what makes Earth Markets different from other farmers markets, how the project got started, and what’s next for the market.
Our chapter ran into a large dilemma when we were developing plans for the market which became our primary reason to see the realization of the project. At first we had reservations about starting a market in Greenville because our region has many established markets. As Earth Markets have a strict no-GMO policy, we began to discover, to our astonishment, there were no producers in the entire southeastern USA making a non-GMO animal feed. Therefore, many otherwise good producers of meat, cheese, poultry, and eggs were knocked out of the application process.
Although many farmers who raise animals or use animal products in their foods would be interested in being GMO-free, the closest source of non-GMO animal feed is in Ohio, rendering it too expensive and logistically complicated to be a viable feed option. We also discovered that “Certified Organic” gives an option if non-gmo feed is not available or too cost prohibitive to allow for GMO animal feed to be included under the certification, and we felt the consumer had a right to this information.
However as a result of our conversations, and the discovery of how widespread the conundrum goes, we now have formed a small group of producers who are looking for ways to manage this problem, and have an apple grower in North Carolina who has grown this summer non-GMO corn for feed, and which is now ready to harvest and mill.
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.