What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, October 10, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
If you don’t know her, Slow Food New Orleans founder and leader, Poppy Tooker, is a chef, food activist and champion of the Eat It to Save It philosophy. In this MSN Practical Guide to Healthy Living video, follow Poppy around the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden as she visits with Ark of Taste farmers and food producers and discusses the importance of saving and reviving our delicious rare foods and food traditions.
Posted on Mon, September 22, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA Staffer Julia De Martini Day
photo by Slow Food USA Staffer Cecily Upton
The first thing I wanted to do after arriving in San Francisco from Brooklyn, NY the Tuesday before Slow Food Nation was visit the Victory Garden. When I got to the front of the garden I saw a sign above the small entrance gate Victory Garden hours, 9am-4pm. “Shoot, I missed it,” I thought to myself. But before I turned away, a woman walked in front of me and opened the gate, Come in, she said. Its open.
It was a beautiful, sunny, and quiet afternoon, and the garden was empty. The woman offered to show me around, pointing out the native species and medicinal sections. She noted the translation of certain vegetable names into Spanish and told me how she had been coming here every day since it opened, and eating food from the garden, too. In the middle of the garden, between lettuce, kale, and rainbow chard, she opened a composition book and began humming a song she had written about the garden. In a way it read as a list of everything growing, but it also had a chorus reminiscent of this land is your land, this land is my land.
This is our garden, a place for you and me. This is our garden, where we come to be.
I knew the Victory Garden was producing food for a food bank and growing all kinds of wonderful things, but I hadnt imagined it would also be generating community ownership from neighborhood residents. Im sure not everyone living nearby felt this way, but this one womans poetry was a beautiful symbol of how the garden was contributing more than just food to the city.
Posted on Wed, September 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food staffer Julia De Martini Day
Brian Campbell from Uprising Seeds flew from Northern Washington State to San Francisco to attend Changemakers’ Day at Slow Food Nation, and to be presented with the financial component of the Betsy Lydon Ark Award. Uprising Seeds works to preserve and promote the use of rare and native seeds in Washington State, as well as run a farm and low-income CSA in Bellingham.
During Changemakers’ Day Brian joined the “Eat it to Save it” panel , alongside biodiversity and native food tradition champions Gary Nabhan and Poppy Tooker, in order to discuss how co-producers can contribute to protecting biodiversity through the pleasure of eating.
Saturday evening, Uprising Seeds was presented with the financial component of the award at a Slow Dinner at Cavallo Point. Neal Peterson, pawpaw grower and researcher, and the 2006 award recipient, (and at Slow Food Nation to participate in a Taste Workshop with his pawpaw fruit - read more about the pawpaw fruit on the Ark of Taste website here) presented the award to Brian.
Brian spoke briefly about his excitement to continue educating people about not just saving seeds, but finding the right seeds to grow in their environment, as well as for being honored with the award.
“As farmers our work is our passion, and we accept that we will at best make a modest living in the work we do, so it is awards like this that make us feel rich in community and the things that really matter…For us, this recognition shows a growing awareness of seeds and regional seed stewardship as being a real cornerstone in what it means to grow and eat local food,” Brian said.
Up next for Brian and partner Crystine Goldberg? The Terra Madre conference in Turin in October!
Uprising Seeds plans to use part of the award to develop a website, but in the meantime you can read more about their CSA serving people with food stamps here.
Posted on Tue, September 16, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Leigh Belanger, Chefs Collaborative
For everyone trying to purchase, prepare, and eat good clean and fair food, navigating the ocean waters can be a tricky proposition. Wild fish populations are crashing, farmed fish is all kinds of controversial—and all the while, demand for seafood is on the rise.
At Chefs Collaborative, the national network of chefs and culinary professional working on sustainable food issues, we think about seafood all the time. How can chefs work with other members of the seafood industry and the conservation community to push for more sustainability when it comes to seafood?
At Changemakers Day during Slow Food Nation, Chefs Collaborative explored these questions. Our panel, Rising Tides, Sinking Catch, looked at ways that fishermen, purveyors, and chefs—all groups with a commercial stake in the oceans—can work together to support responsible fishing practices and build markets for sustainable seafood.
Panelists Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild, Paul Johnson of Monterey Fish, and Joe McGarry of the Bon Appetit Management Company each shared with the roomful of chefs, sustainable seafood advocates, fishermen and women, and curious consumers the ways their respective businesses approach responsible practices.
The highlights? Starks is building a market for pink salmon, a lesser-known, under-utilized salmon species that, if marketed and cared for properly, he hopes will take pressure off of prized species like sockeye and coho—and give Starks’ small-scale reef-net fishing cooperative an income boost at the same time.
Johnson, seafood purveyor to top Bay Area restaurants, talked about the industrialization of the fishing industry as the number-one threat to maintaining sustainable seafood populations and healthy marine ecology. Johnson urged the crowd to support small-scale fishermen using responsible practices.
McGarry, an executive chef for the Bon Appetit Management Company, talked about how seafood fits in to the company’s Low Carbon Diet. By focusing on lower-down-the-food-chain species like mussels, clams, and sardines—and taking shrimp off the menu altogether—McGarry and BAMCO are demonstrating how to put sustainable ideals into everyday practice.
Each panelist had a unique perspective, but their presentations had a couple of ideas in common. The work of promoting and supporting sustainable practices in the fishing and seafood industries is never done. And it’s based on two main things—whether you’re a chef, fisherman, purveyor, or consumer: education and relationships. In the pursuit of good, clean, and fair food, we need to be aware of the issues—and we need each other.
Posted on Thu, August 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
On August 27th, on the eve of the Slow Food USA National Congress and Slow Food Nation, the Slow Food USA Ark Committee held its annual meeting in Mill Valley, CA to review, taste and “board” new foods to the Ark of Taste (you know, like the animals, two by two…).
The Ark of Taste—a catalog of foods threatened by industrial standardization, the regulations of large-scale distribution and environmental damage—is a tool that helps farmers, ranchers, fishers,
chefs, retail grocers, educators and consumers celebrate our country’s diverse biological, cultural and culinary heritage. In an effort to cultivate consumer demand—key to agricultural conservation—only the best tasting endangered foods make it onto the Ark.
Yesterday’s newly boarded foods include the Fuerte avocado, Reefnet salmon fishing method of Northern Puget Sound, New England Boiled cider and cider jelly, Piki bread, Randall cattle, Black Republican cherry, Kiawe honey, Gallberry honey, Sourwood honey, Datil pepper, Black Sphinx date, Cayuga duck and the Hatcher mango.
Now back to the Reefnet salmon fishing method…this one’s particularly interesting because it is not a food, per se, but rather an endangered method, one that’s sustainable and historically significant and, sadly, one that is all too rare. Says Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild:
“It is wonderful that this endangered Northwest Native American fishing method is getting this recognition. It shows that truly sustainable fishing methods deserve to continue and they are valuable, not just to the fish stocks but to people who rely on the fish stocks.”
Posted on Thu, July 24, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
If you haven't already seen it, check out Kim Severson's article about Slow Food and Slow Food Nation in yesterday's Dining Section of the NY Times. It's well worth reading all of comments on their site as well. In particular, thanks to Mike in Chicago for explaining things so well:
I think different aspects of Slow Food appeal to different people. Not everyone wants to trek out to a local honey farm and meet with the owner to talk about sustainable bee keeping. Some people just want to sweeten their tea. But if you are interested in the political aspects of how we produce food, the activism aspect of the Slow Food movement has the potential to positively affect everyones environment, health, and overall well-being.
Likewise, if you simply love cooking and enjoying food that tastes good, then the Slow Food Movement validates taking time out of our busy schedules for these pursuits. It celebrates food and its central place in our, and almost every, culture.
At some point, eating slow will have to become the default again, as our current means of production are environmentally and economically unsustainable, not to mention unhealthy.
By the way, nobody in the Slow Food Movement thinks they own the idea of enjoying food, eating locally, staying healthy, etc. It's simply an organization for people who particularly like these things and don't want to see them lost.
Also a nice blurb about Slow Food Nation by Brian Halweil on the Edible blog. We like his characterization of Slow Food USA: "the American brand of Slow Food has always been more eco than gastronome," since it acknowledges all of the incredible biodiversity work that we, our partner orgs and our local chapters are doing around the country.
Posted on Mon, July 07, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA Intern, Sara Hoffman
According to the American Farmland Trust, "America is losing 1.2 million acres of farmland annually, much of it the best and most productive farmland near where most Americans live." This is a problem not only because fewer farms mean less food productivity. Farmers can be excellent environmental stewards and the loss of farmland exacerbates the problem of unchecked developmental sprawl in the U.S.
Another problem? The loss of plant diversity that occurs when these lands are cleared. The National Plant Salvage Foundation, near Olympia, Washington, has found a wonderful way to rescue the native plants found on land set to be cleared for development. Though the areas to be bulldozed aren't always farmland, these rescues help to preserve biodiversity and restore the vegetation lost to industrial development, much of which does occur on farmland. Their Salvage Program rescues native plants and then rehabilitates them with the help of volunteers. The plants are then replanted on land where habitat and water sources have been damaged by human enterprise.
This replanted native vegetation helps to repair a site by collecting stormwater run-off and replenishing underwater aquifers, for example. The foundation also holds educational workshops and field trips to teach residents about how the native plants can reduce pesticide use and improve natural habitat.
If you are interested in biodiversity protection such as this, you can also check out Slow Food USA's RAFT Program (Renewing America's Food Traditions) which works to identify, protect, restore and celebrate North America's most endangered native seeds and breeds.
Posted on Thu, June 05, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Here in New York City we've finally made the annual swift jump from late winter straight to summer. (We have heard there is a season called spring; here it is merely the name of a street). That being said, summer is a glorious thing, full of long-awaited produce, and outdoor fun–like picnics.
Last summer, Slow Food USA partnered with several other farms and local food organizations around the country to produce five American Traditions picnics, and we've now got instructions on our website for how you and your food community can plan one for this summer.
"Aren't all picnics an American Tradition?" you might ask. Well, these picnics celebrate endangered foods–such as those found on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. Given the arrival of the Renewing America's Fod Traditions Endangered Foods book, and our new partnership with LocalHarvest (both reported on here, last month), now is a perfect time to plan one of your own.
How do you plan an American Traditions Picnic?
Producing a meal or dish with endangered ingredients has great rewards—the ingredients are extraordinary in flavor, color, smell, feel and taste. Before the fork hits the plate though, many things must happen—farmers need to be consulted, the rare fruit or vegetable may need to be planted, and orders for rare, regional beef, pork, or poultry need to be placed. There (usually) isn't a one-stop shopping destination for endangered foods. So just how do you produce an event with endangered foods?
Check out our website for ideas and directions!
Posted on Mon, June 02, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
"Amazingly, there is very little attention being paid to what fundamentally underpins all of our food systems - biodiversity and the services provided by ecosystems, such as soil, water and resilience to disasters." - Gonzalo Oviedo
As the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization convenes this week to discuss food security and rising food prices around the globe, small farmers slam the UN's "empty policies," and a senior adviser on social policy Gonzalo Oviedo argues for the essential role of biodiversity in securing our food supply and the health of our ecosystems.
6/4 Update: Summit convenes today, and the Times of London has an overview of what has transpired.
Posted on Fri, May 23, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA has begun an exciting partnership with online food locater LocalHarvest. Local Harvest is an easy-to-use site that helps consumers all over the country find the sustainable food in their area–that means farmers' markets, family farms, CSAs, retailers who sell free range poultry, grass-fed beef purveyors, etc. Now, for the first time ever, LocalHarvest will be keeping track of producers of Slow Food USA Ark of Taste products. They announced the partnership in their April newsletter.
As they explained:
Together we will bring more attention to the role small farmers play in preserving our food heritage and protecting some of the biodiversity that is threatened by corporate scale agriculture. Central to the new partnership is a joint outreach effort. We are using the LocalHarvest database – now over 13,000 strong – to find more farmers and artisanal food producers who might be interested in producing Ark of Taste products. Many of these foods are quite difficult to find in the marketplace, and one of the main goals of the Ark program is to increase their availability, and thus their longevity.
This will help us in our efforts to bring the Ark of Taste off the page and into farms and kitchens! Already, over 600 farmers have added their Ark products to the database.
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.