What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, March 25, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan
(all photos courtesy of Mark Dohm)
Perhaps it was hard at first to know whether the antique in the phrase, antique apple experts, referred to the apples or to the experts. But when the Hall of Famers of the Heirloom Apple Kingdom gathered on March 19th at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum outside of Madison, it was clear that the so-called old-timers invited had much to say about the current status of and future prospects for old-timey apples. Between them, they had more than 350 years growing, pruning, propagating and tasting uncommon American apples, thereby constituting a sort of Buena Vista Social Club for these forgotten fruits.
And so, the Forgotten Fruits Summit organized by the Renewing Americas Food Traditions alliance became the first full gathering of Americas most accomplished back-country fruit explorers, veteran orchard-keepers, horticultural historians, pomological propagators, natural-born nurserymen and hard cider-makers concerned with the destiny of Malus X domestica, the single fruit most imbedded in the American identity. Their task was to determine the best means of restoring apple diversity to our farms, roadhouses, backyards and kitchens, and to revive apple culture in all its dimensions on this continent.
Posted on Tue, March 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Today I’m interviewing Poppy Tooker. Poppy is the founder of Slow Food New Orleans, a chef, a food activist, the chair emeritus of Slow Food USAs Ark of Taste Committee, and the author of the just-released Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook
among other things. I mean, what hasn’t this woman done?
The book is self-published by marketumbrella.org, an independent New Orleans-based non-profit that brings vendors and shoppers together to preserve local culture, generate wealth and support the local economy, with its central axis being the Crescent City Farmers Market. When you buy your copy of the book from marketumbrella.org, not only will 100% of net proceeds go to benefit the work of marketumbrella.org; in addition, you can request that Poppy personalize your book with a message!
Q: Reading the cookbook, I was struck that what you have there in New Orleans is not just a market, but a community built around food. Can you tell us a bit about that community, and how it came to be?
Tooker: People in New Orleans truly live to eat. When visitors come to the city they find that hard to believe…Ive had people say that they just stand still on a street corner and listen to the conversations of people as they walk by and what they are all talking about is food. As arguably the greatest food city in the US, it goes hand in hand that we would also care about where our food comes from.
Richard McCarthy [Executive Director of marketumbrella.org] knew that we needed a real food market that could create a real sense of community, more than a place to just buy food. We created guidelines that in order to be part of our market, you have to produce the food that you bring, and we only sell food at our market. The farmers from the Northshore were very suspicious about coming across the lake, but Richard sweet-talked them and that is how our little food community began.
Posted on Fri, March 13, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
This growing season, rare heirloom vegetables are getting special attention in the Northeast. Thanks to efforts spearheaded by Chefs Collaborative (as part of the RAFT Alliance, of which Slow Food USA is also a part), 3 cities in New EnglandPortsmouth, Boston, and Providencewill be experimenting with what is called a grow-out of rare seeds.
Using seeds donated by Seed Savers Exchange, Fedco, High Mowing, and Old Sturbridge Village, farmers will plant the seeds, grow them, and then sell them to local chefs, with the farmers and chefs working together to increase eaters awareness of delicious foods that have long and interesting histories in their region. For instance, did you know that in 1870, the Trophy Tomato was developed by Colonel George Waring of Newport, Rhode Island? At the time, the Trophy Tomato was grown by individuals hoping to win a prize at their local fair, and when they were introduced, a seed pack cost the equivalent of seventy dollars in todays currency.
The past two weekends the three projects were launched in each respective city, with buy-in and excitement from the local Slow Food chapters—not to mention other chapters throughout New England who have picked up the buzz and will do grow-outs of their own. As the season progresses well be checking back in with the growers and chefs to see how their peppers, squash, tomatoes etc. are faring, and ultimately to hear reports from eaters as well!
Posted on Thu, March 05, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Laura Kate Morris
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need Cicero
Perhaps youve grown your own vegetables in a community garden, infusing them with the terroir of your soil, eating them at your kitchen table. But that is only part of the circle what about the seeds? Nearly all seeds available today have been shipped from states (if not countries) away, and at the end of the season are lost back to the soil. What if, in the spirit of sustainability, we closed that circle of seed, plant, table and back to seed?
The Hudson Valley Seed Library in Accord, NY, is trying to do just that. It brings together rare and regional open-pollinated seeds, a sustainable business model, local artists, the conservation of traditional skills, and your local library? I spoke with the founder of HVSL for further insight into how anyone could possibly fit so many ideas into a tiny packet of seeds.
Co-created by Ken Greene and Doug Muller to support their homesteading habit, the company is committed to staying small and growing food without fossil fuels. Choosing to raise their seeds by hand, HVSL shies away from a bigger size that would require specialized seed-cleaning equipment, tractors, and machinery. They look toward a sustainable, community-focused model and away from the nationalized corporation. (To start finding out more about the corporate seed world, check out this post on Civil Eats.) The Seed Library operates in part like your local library, substituting seeds for books. You can become a member, check out the items of your choice, enjoy and learn from them (in this case, grow them and save them), and return them at the end of the season.
Posted on Fri, February 27, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
This year, for the first time ever, the RAFT alliance (Renewing Americas Food Traditions) will be focusing on apples. Filling us in on their activities is our apple expert, author Ben Watson. Ben is chairing the Ark of Taste committee and helping Gary Nabhan and the RAFT alliances efforts to record, restore and renew disappearing heirloom apple varieties. On the docket are fruit tree grafting workshops, an heirloom apple experts summit, and education efforts such as a forgotten fruit manual/manifesto, and a series of posts for us here on the blog.
by Ben Watson
(Ben Watson is Chair of the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste Committee and an amateur nurseryman and fruit grower.)
Late February, western New Hampshire. Tonight snow comes down in heavy wet flakes, leaving a fresh white comforter several inches thick over the landscape. Yet those of us who live and garden in this place arent fooled by the weather. The sun, when it shines, is stronger now, the days longer, and the signs of spring are only a few weeks away. Soon enough sap will be rising in the sugar maples, small sugarhouses will open their louvered roofs, and white steam clouds billowing from the wood-fired evaporator pans will puff into the bright blue sky. Soon too the snowpack will retreat, and on the sunny, exposed edges of the lawn the first species crocus will emerge, tentative and yellow, followed by other early bulbs: snowdrop, squill, and grape-hyacinth.
Its a season pregnant with potentiality. We order seeds, clean and sharpen our tools. Like baseball players arriving at spring training, our outdoor ambitions for the growing season are a blank slate. Anything is possible as we enter this Lenten season weve no hits, no runs, no errors. And now is the time that apple growers are contemplating the orchard, though in truth we have never forgotten about it. The trees have stood silent, dormant, but were still eating some choice, long-keeping fruits from cold storage: Roxbury Russet, Mutsu, Northern Spy.
Posted on Wed, February 25, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Gabrielle Redner
We may all be wondering what goes on inside the White House kitchen on a daily basis, but it is not every night that we get to peek inside. Yesterday, newspaper readers, blog addicts, and radio listeners across the country got a mouthwatering sneak-peak into the Obamas’ first state dinner, thanks to the slew of reporters invited into the kitchen by First Lady Michelle Obama. Here is the menu that is largely locally sourced (and built on American Relationships, in the words of Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford) for all you hungry and curious readers. Nota bene, the main course features a Slow Food USA Ark of Taste food, the Nantucket [Bay] Scallop!
Posted on Fri, February 20, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Laura Kate Morris
March. It conjures up thoughts of melting snow, hatless days, and pigs? Yes, for all you porcine aficionados, March 1st is National Pig Day. Interested in hosting your own pig-tastic celebration? Here are a few tips for more background info and how to sustainably enjoy your pork
To learn a bit more about the many shapes and sizes of hog, check out the American Livestock Breed Conservancys listing of threatened breeds and Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, which profiles four endangered American varieties.
As with other livestock, the popularity of conventional pig breeds endanger the broad genetic diversity found in heritage animals. Conventional pigs put on weight fast, maximizing output (and profit) for large corporations in controlled (and usually inhumane) environments. On the other hand, heritage breed pigs, ignored by many big farms, are a nod to our agricultural history with a look and taste that is genetically closer to their piggy ancestors. Heritage breeds tend to be heartier, good foragers, and suited to their respective regions. Not to mention their fantastic names like Red Wattle and Ossabaw Island Hog. Its organizations like the ALBC, and some very dedicated farmers, that are helping these breeds to make a comeback.
One of the major problems for conservationists is that without a demand, the breeds will disappear (hence the title of this post.) Emerging connections with chefs and restaurants are helping to create a market for specialty breed pork products. To source one of the four Ark of Taste-listed breeds, read their profiles on the Slow Food website. Also check out LocalHarvest to find a farmer near you that raises the animals. This site should help you source the ham of your dreams.
Posted on Wed, February 11, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Jerusha Klemperer
Last Friday, finding myself in Columbia, South Carolina, I took the opportunity to visit Anson Mills, where heirloom rice, corn and wheat are hand-processed and packaged in small batches before being shipped fresh to customers and restaurants around the country. Glenn Roberts, the founder/farmer/expert behind this 11 year old company—and one of the newly appointed members of Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste committee—was generous enough to take me around for a tour and a quick and dirty lesson on the history of Carolina Rice, the meaning of “landrace” grains, and the story of how his work as a historic art and architecture restorer led him to historic plant restoration through his Carolina Gold Rice Foundation.
Posted on Tue, December 23, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
It’s a little late in the game for buying holiday gifts, but hey, you’re slowwwwww and slow’s a good thing, right?
If you left your shopping for the last minute, and are feeling a little bit nervous and a lot uninspired, we’re here to offer some delicious, nutritious, (not that ambitious) sustainable gifts for you. Most of them won’t arrive in time, but you can give your loved ones an IOU that promises good things to come.
Happy and Healthy Holidays from your friends at Slow Food USA!
Posted on Fri, December 05, 2008 by Nathan Leamy
by Jerusha Klemperer
For a few years now, as part of my job, I have been preaching to others about eater-based conservation and the joys of keeping biodiversity alive by eating heirloom varieties, and heritage breeds. Conventional turkeys are not bred for flavor, don’tcha know; they’re bred for big boobs and fast maturation, and ability to freeze well; and blah blah blah and yup sure, I hear ya.
Finally this year I myself cooked not just a free range bird but a heritage one—an American Bronze from Frank Reese’s Good Shepherd Ranch in Kansas. Which for me is a bit like a football fan saying he ordered a football and it came from Brett Favre’s backyard where Brett Favre himself stitched the pigskin together with his own two (giant) hands.
I proudly served the beautiful 9 pound bird at the Thanksgiving feast called by one enthusiastic guest “the most delicious, least emotionally complicated Thanksgiving I’ve ever had!” And I found that I was suddenly my own target audience; this bird was weird. There was no light fluffy, watery breast. It didn’t taste like any turkey I have ever eaten before, and of course that was unnerving.
But by bite three I was won over by this flavorful, tenacious, lean meat, and finally understanding this idea of “real turkey flavor,” that heritage bird proponents talk about. My initial dislike helped me understand how deeply ingrained our food preferences are—we like what we know, and what we know is a Butterball. If I am to be any kind of spokesperson at all for the importance of re-shaping our palates, I must begin with myself, no?
*This post originally appeared on Jerushas blog.
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.