What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, July 02, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Julia Landau
Some foods you can just feel. Maybe your fingers automatically prepare it, maybe your eyes jump straight to the choice ingredient at the market, maybe you smell it from light years away. Point being – it’s not a science but a feeling and for many, not a recipe but a ritual.
Such seems to be the basis of the foods prepared in Breaking Bread: Recipes and Stories from Immigrant Kitchens, a collection gathered and narrated by Lynne Christy Anderson. In the homes, markets, and kitchens of 25 immigrants, Anderson is afforded a privileged view of international eats and personal histories as people prepare a familiar dish. Family tips abound. Memories flow. Frustrations seep out. But measurements are in short supply.
The cooks in this collection hail from far and wide, yet share a key element: a feel for the food. Certainly, they provide Anderson with approximations, and create steps resembling a recipe, but I have a hunch that it’s mostly to humor the eager reader like myself. In their narratives, it’s clear that memories about and associations with the food drive its preparation more than any measuring cup.
The cooks add flour until the dough gets that feel, they mash potatoes until they shouldn’t be mashed anymore, they pat out tortillas until they’re just thin enough. They take cues based on experiences and anecdotes, and their foods are born from visions of their homes both past and present.
Now this is my kind of cookbook. These people and foods have stories, and I find myself considering how I might remember my aunt’s fried okra and collard greens when reproducing memories of home. Yes, when reading Breaking Bread the anxious cook in me wonders if I have a prayer of knowing when the tortilla is “just thin enough.” But then, I take a moment to relax: recipes travel and evolve, as do we. We develop our feel for food every time we cook, wherever we are.
Posted on Wed, June 30, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Patrick Keeler
“You are what you eat.” It’s a trite aphorism amongst us sustainable food advocates, but never so literally has this adage been applied than in the new novel Animals by Don LePan.
We don’t often get the opportunity to digest fiction books about the food system at the SFUSA office, and one of my favorite genres is the utopian* or dystopian story, so with great enthusiasm I leapt at the chance to be among the first to read Animals.
Set in the 22nd century the premise of the novel is this: we’ve so terribly screwed up the food system due to our dependence on factory farming for the source of meats and proteins, that the result is mass extinction of our feedstocks. Pandemic disease and genetic engineering have wiped out all traditional sources of meat (and many vegetable products) in a matter of decades. Panic follows; there’s a deepening gap between the rich who can afford better alternative food and healthcare and those who cannot; there’s economic collapse along the entire supply chain of the meat-processing sector. Not to mention that genetic engineering (amongst other environmental ills) has led to a dramatic increase in the number of birth defects.
Panic about how the human race will survive sans meat in their diets, coupled with a crippled healthcare system now burdened with a 1 in 5 severe birth defect rate, leads to a deterioration of morality. Those with any birth defects or handicaps are classified as “mongrels,” and are kept either as family pets or are sent to “chattel pens.” You guessed it – those who can afford it eat human flesh. And with a new product to market, the former meat industry’s infrastructure is revived by demand for factory farmed human animals.
Posted on Tue, June 29, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Mikayla Moretti, Slow Food chapter at University of Rhode Island
What could possibly be better than eating food you can feel good about without breaking the bank? Author and Slow Food extraordinaire Amy McCoy recently wrote and published a cookbook that does just that; she calls it Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in style on a bare-bones budget. In this cookbook, there are over 200 pages of recipes that call for seasonal foods, sensational flavor, and savings beyond your wildest imagination.
The best part about this book is Amy’s creativity and sensibility behind each and every recipe. With the turn of every page you will find good, clean, and fair ingredients combined together to make a delicious gourmet meal that won’t wipe out your firstborn’s college fund. The recipes account for the cost of every ingredient used to prepare each dish down to the cent, allowing even the most sophisticated palate to eat well despite the effects of the current economic recession.
Where did this all begin you may ask? A few years back Amy created her blog, the original Poor Girl Gourmet, at the start of the recession. She began posting the recipes of meals for her readers, all of which she prepared herself at her home. The essence behind Poor Girl Gourmet enables us all to deliberately keep costs low without sacrificing the integrity, flavor, or locality of our food.
In addition to her talents as a freelance writer and culinary expert, Amy is a gifted photographer and the mastermind behind the beautiful pictures in this book, as well. In fact, Amy recently visited the University of Rhode Island in April to impart her comprehensive wealth of knowledge on students and the URI community. Amy’s agenda at URI included a visit to several journalism classes during the day and a special sneak peak of Poor Girl Gourmet in the evening. Amy’s book discussion featured the complete story that brought her from blog to book and the process she encountered after being sought out by a publishing company.
To top it all off, Amy has served as the Slow Food Rhode Island chair for the past two years and has seen membership grow exponentially in this flourishing chapter. Currently Amy is on tour for the summer – check out her blog for a more complete schedule of Amy’s whereabouts and book signings. Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Poor Girl Gourmet at your local book store!
Posted on Tue, June 15, 2010 by Slow Food USA
by Monika V.I. Kunz
I’m going to spill a secret: even though I try my best to exclusively eat local, sustainable food, I’m not 100% a locavore. I can blame it on the fact that I’m Southern California grown and had the luxury of fresh—and locally grown—produce for most of the year during much of my life. But, truth be told, I didn’t exactly intentionally eat locally while a Californian.
When I moved to the East Coast six years ago I was suddenly appalled by how bland my grocery store-purchased fruits and vegetables tasted. I’d review the label, see they were grown in California, and wonder how avocados from the homeland could taste so terrible in the North East. It look me awhile to fully grasp that West Coast food is meant to be consumed while your feet are planted near (or, even better, in) the Pacific, and vice versa.
In Amy Cotler’s bookThe Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food
, she guides the reader through three simple steps on how to become a fan and advocate of local buying and eating. Step one is to shop for local foods—meeting your farmer actually does enhance the flavor of her harvest; step two is to eat seasonally and simply—your ingredients do all of the work when they’re as flavorful as locally grown items tend to be; and step three is to connect and engage—you have a backyard (or fire escape / windowsill), so why should people with over an acre of land have all the fun? She manages to make waiting for something to come into season compelling, even to a self-described instant gratification junkie. At one point Amy writes about how she only eats strawberries while they’re in season because the delight that comes from consuming these perfectly ripe berries is worth the months of deprivation.
I’ve gotta say, after enjoying ramps, and rhubarb, and asparagus, and greens, and finally strawberries recently that were produced by farmers I chat with at my greenmarket each week, Amy and her Locavore Way are spot on. This isn’t to say I won’t still sneak some greens in the winter months (old habits die hard!), but spring greens that taste of the (East Coast) earth mixed with love and patience are better than just about anything grown and bagged in California then shipped to Brooklyn.
Posted on Mon, May 10, 2010 by Emily Stephenson
Temra Costa knows a thing or two about farming. She has a degree in agriculture from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and has been involved with CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) in California for many years. For a better part of the past decade she has been promoting Farm to School programs at CAFF through their Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative.
And she certainly is not the only woman doing exciting things when it comes to changing the way America eats. So she selflessly decided to use her first foray into writing to tell you about plenty of other women working on a wide variety of amazing projects. Deborah Madison, an influential restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author, and a founding member of the SFUSA Biodiversity Committee. Costa profiles activists as well, like Anna Lappe, who travels the country educating people about the environmental effects of their food choices. Throughout the book are profiles of female farmers from coast to coast. It features the owners of well-known Bay Area farms such as Pie Ranch and Fully Belly Farm, and influential urban programs like Growing Power and City Slicker Farms.
The most fascinating aspect of the book, for me, was the wide variety of reasons these 26 women decided to do what they do. Some were born and bred farmers and others entered the scene a lot later in life. Some had an epiphany well into adulthood, or were raised by parents who shared the values that permeate the book. But the common thread through all 26 stories is the need these women feel to share their lifestyle through positive example and education. Costa obviously shares this trait, and peppers the book with “recipes for action” that range from small life changes to huge volunteer projects.
The book is truly inspiring to get an idea of what women are doing across the country to promote good, clean and fair food, as well as learn a little more about some familiar names.
Posted on Tue, March 30, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Valerie Scott
We all know what local, sustainable food can do for the health of our bodies, but could it also be a cure for the health of ailing economies? Ben Hewitts book The Town that Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food delves into this question, exploring the growth of a vibrant local food economy in Hardwick, Vermont, population 3,200.
Hardwick is a lot like how it sounds unemployment in the town is 40 percent higher than the state average; incomes are 25 percent lower. But in the last few years, Hardwick has returned to its historical roots in farming, with a new twist local, sustainable agriculture. Its growing a vibrant local food system that is restoring not only some jobs and higher wages, but a sense of community and food thats connected to it.
A diverse network of agrepreneurs in Hardwick High Mowing Organic Seeds, Petes Greens, Jasper Hill Farm, the Vermont Food Venture Center and so on - are producing organic and artisanal foods and seeking investors. Business owners share advice, capital and facilities. About a hundred jobs have been created.
Sounds great, but is the story of this one towns thriving local food system unique, or is it a viable model for other communities? As I read, part of me hoped to find an easy-to-follow plan - just do it like we did! Farm this way, market that way, save the world, take a nap. Sadly, social change isnt that easy, but while Hardwick doesnt offer an exact blueprint, it is a thought-provoking example of a thriving local food economy.
Hewitt suggests that a couple of unique, and surprising, variables have contributed to the towns growing local-ag economy: poverty and small size. Hewitt believes that Hardwicks success is founded upon trust and collaboration which are in no small ways social and cultural responses to economic hardship. He also suggests that the population had a just right quality that was big enough to be ambitious, and small enough to be fast-acting and flexible.
The best lesson to be learned here is about cooperation and inspiration. The Town that Food Saved is a story about the ability of a group of likeminded folks to come together in pursuit of a passion for sustainable, local food not without challenges, but with dedication to a bigger vision. Thats what Slow Food is all about too.
If youre interested in learning more about thriving local food entrepreneurs, BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) has some exciting network programs focused on sustainable agriculture. And for ideas on how to invest in other inspiring small food enterprises, you can check out Slow Money, a non-profit dedicated to investing in local food systems and connecting investors to local economies.
Posted on Fri, February 26, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Christine Binder
Last month, I attended a meeting of parents at a Brooklyn public school. Janet Poppendieck, the author of Free for All: Fixing School Lunch in America, led a discussion about the state of school lunches, describing to us the changes in the National School Lunch Program over the years, and explaining the various forces that continue to shape what students eat. Afterward, we discussed the potential of the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization which only happens every five years to improve school lunches.
In researching for Free For All, Dr. Poppendieck, a professor of sociology at Hunter College, visited school cafeterias and kitchens all over the country, and even spent time working in one. Along the way, she met many people striving to improve school food in their own communities, whom she describes in the “Local Heroes” chapter of the book. It is heartening to hear their stories of success, but I cant help but agree with her when she says, It shouldnt be so hard. One should not have to be a superhero, a magician, or a saint to get healthy, tasty food into the school cafeteria, or to make school food truly accessible to children.”
Currently, there are many obstacles for those working to improve school food. It is very difficult to serve delicious, healthful meals to children with a food budget of less than a dollar per meal. Many schools need to sell junk food in vending machines and snack bars in order to break even. Procuring local food is not always possible, due to bureaucratic and logistical barriers. Poppendieck points out, however, that the National School Lunch Program is ultimately the responsibility of Congress, and that only Congress can “step up to the plate to enact changes in federal law that make local improvements much easier to achieve.”
Towards the end of the meeting, Dr. Poppendieck asked a profound question: How old will your children be in five years? Everyone in the room sat in thoughtful silence, imagining the state of school food and the well-being of their children five years from now. When you think about it that way, its very clear; Americas children cannot wait any longer for healthy school food. Tell Congress to prioritize school lunches. To quote Free for All one final time, Its time to see what we can do if we put children first.
To contact your legislator, click here!
Posted on Thu, February 25, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
For meas for many of my colleaguesthis isnt so very different from a regular week. I usually make my lunch at least 3 days, if not all 5 workdays. Although lunch eats in DUMBO are better than in some neighborhoods, stuff I can make at home will almost always be better. It seems to be merely a matter of organization/planning, and making the time to prepare something. True, Ive been eating kale salad for four days running, but it did have blood oranges and avocado on top, and those sweet potatoes I baked in the office toaster oven sure made the office smell good.
On Monday, Anna Lappe came to our office and wrote this lovely piece about the merits of eating in and how it made her lunch date with Josh (Viertel) more fun and more delicious.
I myself found that the challenge got me:
The bog trick will be the weekend, which is often structured around dinners and brunches and the like. Wish me luck.
Posted on Mon, February 15, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Thanks to Cathy Erway I right now have bread dough rising on my kitchen counter. 3 years ago I read Mark Bittmans NY Times article with Jim Laheys phenomenally easy bread recipe, but it took sitting down with Erways new book, The Art of Eating In, for me to get cracking.
Right around when I was reading Bittmans article, Cathy Erway was making a radical decision; in this capital of restaurants, in this city of buying and spending, she was going to stay in and cook. Every night for 2 years. So while other twentysomethings blogged about which new restaurants theyd tried, she chronicled her home cooking adventures on Not Eating Out in New York. But there are a million home cooking blogs out therewhy did hers capture peoples imaginations? Why did it capture mine?
Well it turns out that the somewhat odd and haphazard parameters she set up for her experiment allowed her to explore (and then blog about) NYCs emerging DIY food renaissance. She discovered and then immersed herself in a world of cook-offs, takedowns, park foraging, underground supper clubs, and dinner parties. She even hung with the dumpster-diving freegans once or twice. In the process she became entrenched in a new community of bloggers and foodophiles, becoming a kind of mini-celebrity herself. You know, that girl who decided not to eat out anymore.
And this is a young girl, a cute girl. One who the fellas might want to take on a date. In this town, a date basically equals a restaurant trip. Whats a girl to do? I am reminded of the Beavans of No Impact Man, and how when they gave up eating out, they sort of fell in love with dinner parties and family time. Erway, too, reminds usboth on the blog and in her bookthat there are many more fun and creative ways to court a person than going to a restaurant. Her #25 reason for not eating out? Creative dating.
She also learned that if you are making your own food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you had better get good at it, and learn new techniques and discover your creative side. What she makes plain is that cooking is fun, yes, and delicious, yes. And it will also save you a hell of a lot of money. And youll also create less wastesomething she actually calculates, by ounce, in her book. And guess what, youll also probably spend more quality time with people, and build community and make new friends and be healthier all around. The blog and the book inspire through storytelling, hence the bread dough growing on my counter and the parsnip pancakes I am making for dinner tonight.
Posted on Thu, January 21, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Julia Middleton
My mother and I have been arguing for years about how to make the perfect soft boiled egg so when she scanned the table of contents in the Best Food Writing 2009 and saw Eggs Enough and Time by Margaret McArthur, she felt obligated to put a copy of the book for me under the Christmas tree. After both of us read the article, I am happy to say we’ve solved the time disagreement amiably.
The Best Food Writing anthology has included answers to this question and many more food musings since it was first published in 2000. One of the most exciting things about the 2009 edition is the breadth of sources included in this collection. As you would expect, The New Yorker, Gourmet [RIP -ed.], Bon Appetit, The New York Times and Gastronomica were all represented. But what is more impressive to me is the range of newspapers and blogs that published noteworthy food writing in 2009. As Jerusha explored in a post on this blog last week, online food writing is upping the ante and helping to create not only better educated eaters but also rich food communities.
This edition of Best Food Writing 2009 is also filled with not only fine writers you’d expectRuth Reichl, Frank Bruni and Marcella Hazanbut others you may not. Douglas Bauer’s What We Hunger For, an elegy to his friendship with M.F.K. Fisher, is a beautiful reminder of the conviviality of food. The Misunderstood Habanero by Tim Stark, a struggling writer-turned-farmer-finally-turned-successful-writer, explores the spicy chili pepper and is another excellent addition.
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.