What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, December 05, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Ed Yowell, Regional Governor of Slow Food NY/NJ
While apples are not native to the New World, from the time they arrived during the 17th century, they became the quintessential American fruit. Here, European varieties adapted, becoming uniquely American. By 1872, more than 1,000 varieties, some local to a farm, a village, or a county, were classified, each prized for unique characteristics of taste and use cider-making, cooking, eating out-of-hand.
The Newtown Pippin is one of 129 American heirloom apples aboard the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste, a program to preserve foods in danger of being lost to our culture and palates. The Newtown Pippin, a chance apple sprouted from a random seed, or “pip”, hence the surname “Pippin”, is such an apple. It was first picked in 1730 on the farm of Gresham Moore, in Newtown, Queens County (now part of The City of New York). George Washington favored them, Ben Franklin had them shipped to him in London, and Thomas Jefferson grew them at Monticello and wrote of them to James Madison from Paris, “They have no apple here to compare with our Newtown Pippin.”
During the 20th century, for reasons of appearance, uniformity, transportability, and shelf-life, the interests of commercial food distribution reduced our local apple selections from dozens to a few. Alas, the short, lop-sided, green Newtown Pippin, while extremely good tasting, versatile in its culinary uses, and a keeper, lost the fight for shelf space to the tall, uniformly shaped, bright red, arguably bland tasting Red Delicious apple.
In 2003, Slow Food NYC determined to restore the Newtown Pippin to New York City tables. To start, Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of New York City’s Savoy restaurant, helped by hosting a fund raising dinner and, in 2004, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed Slow Food NYC Apple Week, citing the Newtown Pippin as the Big Apple’s “most historic” apple. With the help of Ben Watson, Slow Food USA Ark of Taste Co-chair and Tom Burford, a Virginia heirloom apple expert, Slow Food NYC supplied Newtown Pippin cuttings (called scion wood) to the Cummins Nursery in Geneva, New York. There they were grafted on to root stock suited to our region.
During April, 2008, Slow Food NYC donated 85 Newtown Pippin trees to three New York State farms, Breezy Hill Orchard, Prospect Hill Orchard, and Migliorelli Farms, these farms bringing apples to NYC Greenmarket farmers markets, and to the educational farms, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in nearby Westchester County and the Queens County Farm Museum, not too far from the site of Gresham Moore’s farm.
Posted on Tue, December 02, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The fact that the EU won’t allow in most genetically engineered crops is a fairly good indication that there may be good reason to be skeptical about the healthfulness of genetically modified food in our food supply.
The USDA doesn’t think so. They would like to deregulate the use of genetically engineered corn, specifically “corn genetically engineered (GE) to produce a microbial enzyme that facilitates ethanol production.” Because ethanol as an alternative to oil still seems like a really good idea to them.
If you have a strong feeling either way about this, (i.e.: keep those deregulations coming! or I ain’t scared of no GE corn!) you have a forum to express it, directly to the USDA; they are having an open comment period through January 20th, 2009, and will actually read and register and consider all of your comments.
Make your voice heard by clicking here!
Posted on Wed, November 26, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Dear Friends of Maveric [Heritage Ranch]:
It is with the deepest and most profound grief that I write this message. At 5:30am November 19th, 2008, we awoke to our beautiful 100 year old gambrel barn engulfed in flames. Trapped within the barn was my beloved stallion, several rare Mulefoot hog sows with their litters of piglets, an extremely rare Wessex saddleback boar, a favorite guinea hog boar and all of my dearly loved cats. Although we made attempts to rescue our animals, we were unable to save any from the barn.
We were able to run pigs from their pens near the barn to the pastures and get them away from the heat & flames. Many animals in these pens were burned and have suffered smoke inhalation. Though it is several days after the fire, we are still losing animals we have been nursing and trying to save.
The fire burned with such intensity that it caught a large tree and our new barn on fire as well. The firemen were able to save our new barn, but our gambrel was a complete loss. The fire marshal reported that the fire was burning in excess of 2000 degrees due to the way the metal items in the barn melted and puddled. The fire was apparently caused by a failure in the main power breaker. When the power transformer began to melt, we lost power to the whole farm. This also left us without water, as our well is pumped by electricity.
All of our feed (approximately 1000 bales of alfalfa), our tools, watering troughs & feeders, buckets, piglet pens, fencing supplies, power cords, winter heaters, saddles & horse gear, construction materials for our new barn and so much more were completely destroyed.
We cannot replace our rare breed pigs. They simply do not exist. Our work for nearly ten years has been to preserve and save these breeds of pigs. We cannot begin to express our sense of loss over these animals, not just from our lives, but from all future generations.
This tragedy has made it even more clear to us that these rare breeds are in a very precarious situation. At any moment, a disaster, accident or disease could take yet another species from this planet.
Our friends have already begun to rally around us and offer support. We have received many calls and emails from the folks at Slow Food USA, Animal Welfare Institute, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Dakota Rural Action. Because of this outpouring of encouragement, we feel compelled to persevere and insure that future generations are able to raise and enjoy these breeds, and that biodiversity amongst pigs is preserved.
Posted on Thu, November 20, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Cecilia Estreich
During the holidays, tradition tends to shine even in the most fast-food saturated kitchens. Despite Coca-Colas insistence that the stretch from Thanksgiving to New Years Eve is all about computer-animated polar bears and sugary, carbonated beverages, the real centerpiece of most holiday meals is a family recipe. Think about it. Whether its a cookie recipe brought over from Italy with your Sicilian grandma or the stuffing your mother learned to make in college, the holidays are a time when we celebrate our loved ones and our cultures through food.
This year, Slow Food would like you to add another element to your feasts: foods listed on the US Ark of Taste, an online catalog of more than 200 rare and regional foods in the U.S. If the holidays are a time when we celebrate and give thanks, it seems fitting to prepare foods that support people in our communities and reflect our local traditions.
Looking through the Ark list on the Slow Food website, there are so many endangered products that are perfect for a holiday table: heirloom apples for pies, Louisiana oysters for stuffing, heritage turkey breeds and regional cheeses from the American Raw Milk Cheese Presidium. There are also thirteen new products that were boarded on the list in August.
Posted on Tue, November 04, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern, Cecilia Estriech
As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are steeling ourselves for yet another holiday feast featuring a mealy industrially produced bird. Turkey, in most American households, is the white elephant on the buffet tableeveryone knows that the nearly ubiquitous broad-breasted white is dry and flavorless, but most of us are too polite to say anything (it is a holiday after all). The members of Slow Food Russian River are trying to change our turkey experience one heritage breed at a time.
Situated in Californias Sonoma valley where the broad-breasted white was first bred in the 1950s, Slow Food Russian River has established the Heritage Turkey Project to encourage the production of endangered breeds. The three-year old program partners with 4-H and Future Farmers of America to get kids in the region involved in raising the turkeys. Every year, six to ten young people raise two-hundred heritage breed turkeys provided by the Russian River chapter. Once they reach maturity, the birds are sold at market price$7.50 per pound this year. For their labor, the kids receive all the revenue from sales.
In addition to providing kids with hands-on experience working with heritage breeds, it also encourages consumers in the community to expand their palates. Russian River committee leader Rick Theis remarks that residents are learning about Heritage Turkeys and the Slow Food Movement, and tasting the results. The turkeys have become so popular, in fact, that they consistently sell out with an ample waitlist.
Posted on Sat, November 01, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Jennifer M. Hall
There was no shortage of story displayed around the room, but as you would hope, the best story was on the plate…plate after plate of Salmon Nation. Al Kowitz, who explained that he went to culinary school (at an age when most are looking to retire!) to learn to cook with local foods, without a doubt taught more than he took away. Yes, he has a better handle on the mechanics now. But what he shared with his peers and instructors about the names, the names behind the names and the flavors of local foods was unparalleled.
Equipped with history as a farmer, Washington State University Extension specialist and doctorate in Communications, Al offered those he touched at Spokane Community College a new relationship with food daily. Not only did he serve ozette potatoes in his graduation menu, he grew them. He was the first student to break stride with the rules and personally source most of his meal. Al made a place at the table for tradition, indigenous culture and creative spirit (see how he plated his courses to match pieces of art).
Posted on Thu, October 30, 2008 by Nathan Leamy
This Sunday at Back Forty restaurant, Jeff Lydon, Chef Peter Hoffman (Savoy and Back Forty), Hilary Baum (founder, Baum Forum), Francine Stephens (owner, Frannys Pizza) and Slow Food USA invite you to celebrate the third anniversary of the Betsy Lydon Ark Award and 2008 award recipients, Brian Campbell and Crystine Goldberg of Uprising Seeds/Uprising Organics.
While enjoying seasonal, locally sourced foods over brunch, Jeff will share the history and background of the award and introduce Brian and Crystine, who just got back from a fantastic week at Terra Madre 08.
Founded three years ago in Washington State, Uprising Seeds/Uprising Organics is a regional, organic seed company and fresh vegetable CSA farm that grows Ark of Taste produce and makes it available to all members of their community, regardless of income. To do this, they earmark roughly 75 percent of their CSA shares for families that receive food stamps. They also consult with farms nationwide to help them initiate Food Stamp CSA programs of their own.
Sundays brunch event will help to raise awareness and funds for the future of the Betsy Lydon Ark Award, and share the inspiring work of Uprising Seeds.
When: This Sunday, November 2nd
Where: Back Forty Restaurant 190 Avenue B at 12th Street, Manhattan
Price: $50/person for two course family style brunch, coffee and one drink (includes tax and tip)
RSVP: Space is limited to 35 people, so please RSVP by 5pm, Friday October 31st, to
If you cannot attend (or are too busy campaigning), but would like to contribute to the Award fund, please call Slow Food USA at 718-260-8000 or visit Slow Food USA.
Posted on Mon, October 27, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
By Paula McIntyre, co-founder of Up North Foodies
When Gary Nabhan visited northern Michigan earlier this month to lead a group of locals in identifying traditional foods at risk, I was stumped. The cherries and whitefish that first come to mind when thinking of our typical Up North menus are still prevalent. And the foods I remember from childhood are more of the Midwestern casserole variety; not a specific potato, or chicken or mushroom.
Stores and restaurants usually don’t list the varieties of their foods, with apples being a notable exception. And the generic term “heirloom” is the only hint a label might provide that a particular item isn’t your standard fare. I’m not conditioned to think of specific varieties.
So I wasn’t sure how much I could contribute to the conversation, and as it turns out, several other participants shared that same initial reaction. Perhaps the sheer size of Michigan’s list of potential at-risk foods intimidated us. Fifty wild foods and more than 300 historically cultivated foods were included, ranging from Frost Grape, Oswego Tea, and Aunt Mary’s corn, to the Shiawassee Beauty apple, the Beltsville White Turkey and Ayers Butternut.
Posted on Thu, October 16, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Gary Paul Nabhan
When the leaves of New England begin to glow with crimsons, purples and golds, many of us remember that its time for crimson, purple and gold apples to be picked, packed, sequestered in storage sheds, or processed into cider, butter, sauces or pies. Apples exemplify that taste of the fall for many of us, but just what kind of apples we taste depends upon just where exactly we live, and how well we know our neighboring orchard-keepers.
Some eight hundred kinds of apples once enriched the kitchens, taverns and inns of New England, but most of these have already disappeared from the regions cuisines. In fact, just nineteen varieties monopolize the bins in our grocery stores, the pies of our cafes and the ciders of our bars. That is but a paltry sample of what it means to be an apple.
When the Renewing Americas Food Traditions (RAFT) held workshops in Vermont and Massachusetts last year, we learned that at least seventy of the heirloom apples unique to New England that remain are so infrequently featured in nurseries, farmers markets and roadside stands that they can be considered threatened or endangered.
If nothing is soon done about them, their colors, textures, flavors and fragrances might forever be lost from Yankee culinary traditions. But we might also forget the lovely poetry of their folk names: Baker Sweet, Bottle Greening, Coles Quince, Gloria Mundi, Graniwinkle, Hightop Sweet, Pumpkin Russet, and Sheepnose.
Posted on Wed, October 15, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Hot on the heals of our last post about the Eat It to Save It philosophy comes this article, Survival of the Tastiest in (on?) FLYP Media, a new online, interactive magazine. Check out a video of Erika, our Executive Director, and explore some of the foods that the US Ark of Taste is working to catalog and promote in a cool little featurette.
While the article doesn’t necessarily break new ground for you old salts familiar with Slow Food and the Ark of Taste, it’s a good way to introduce others to our mission and one of our national programs. You can also remind them that that they can search for producers of Ark products at LocalHarvest.
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.