What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, January 20, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Emily Vaughn
Raj, does everything for you always come back to food?
At a lecture at the New York Society for Ethical Culture last week, moderator Amy Goodmanhost of the independent news program Democracy Now!interjected this good-natured dig because Raj Patel had used food-centric case studies to answer questions about the World Bank, Haiti, carbon trading, and free market capitalism, and was starting up a new one (details later in the post). Patels affirmative response made the audience chuckle, and although Patel was smiling as he said it, those familiar with Stuffed and Starvedhis landmark study of the economic and political implications of global food production and tradeknow that he was mostly serious.
The connections between food and issues like social justice, international politics, and environmentalism are familiar to most anyone reading the Slow Food USA blog, as is the advice that Patel gave during the Q&A to boycott corporate industrial food and consume smarter. But hearing his words in an auditorium of like-minded people was inspiring, and when he urged us all to learn more about the Child Nutrition Act, La Via Campesina, and the Farm Bill, and above all, to take action, it renewed my belief that there are enough people who care about these issues to make progress.
Naomi Kleinauthor of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine was Patels co-panelist for the evening. Among her insights was that President Obama’s best and worst qualities are the same: he’s susceptible to pressure. Patel and Klein both suggested that the supporters who were vocal and active enough to get Obama elected have backed off, leaving him free to cater to the demands of big business without citizen repercussions. Klein mentioned several times how difficult it can be for activists to stay motivated, and said that if were going to come away from the one-year anniversary of President Obamas inauguration free of cynicism, we need to focus on rebuilding the infrastructure of independent social movements.
Posted on Fri, January 08, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Last night a local NYC bookstore convened some local-grown (but nationally known) food writers to discuss the state of online food writing. The panelists were:
Each of these panelists came to online food writing from different places—with Julie P. almost the young grandmommy of the movement. Looking at her old Salon blog, one has to smile—only 6 years old or so and it looks like an ancient artifact, a sepia-toned e-photograph of a simpler time. Fast forward to the lively, media rich sites like Serious Eats and Food52 and one is amazed at how far we’ve come. Conversation was lively, exploring how online food writing and real live books and newspapers can work together, even complement each other; what the demise of Gourmet meant, if anything; how online writing is exciting because it lacks the doubting gatekeepers of old institutions (who like to pigeonhole writers into their specific beats and who sometimes can’t think outside the box); how online writing can be used to form food communities (like Food52).
Interestingly not mentioned was how each of these folks use twitter—which most of them do!
One highlight: when Civil Eats editor Paula Crossfield asking about the transition we’ve all seen from food writing focusing solely on pleasure to food writing exploring provenance and politics. An extremely important point that hit home for this writer, certainly, as well as for Powell—now writing about whole animal butchery—and Erway—a regular on the NYC sustainable food scene.
Another highlight: a high school teacher in the audience got up and explained that he teaches a course called “Food and NYC” and asked the panelists for their suggestions on where to take a 16 year old for the afternoon in order to “enliven their relationship with food.” What lucky high schoolers! What a great questions! Most of the panelists seem to agree that meeting producers like bakers, pizzaiolos, farmers at the market etc. would be a great start. Also agreed upon were the ethnic culinary riches of Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Jackson Heights, Queens. Then the conversation veered towards the idea of bringing kids to high end French restaurants and my frustration grew….then, Cathy Erway to the rescue: “bring them to an urban farm!”
Phew, all was not lost.
Posted on Tue, January 05, 2010 by Jerusha Klemperer
Some people want to be told what to eat. Ever get asked about the Slow Food diet? I do. Countless times Ive explained that there is no slow food diet, that its not meant to be a dogmatic philosophy. But this doesnt stop well-intentioned people from wanting someone to spoon feed them a rubric by which they can figure out what the heck to eat. People, it seems, are overwhelmed and confused.
On The Daily Show the other night, Jon Stewart asked Michael Pollan to distill the 64 rules from his new book Food Rules, down to one simple statement. Eat food, Pollan replied with a smile. They both chuckled.
Some might wonder: if its that simple, why does Pollan keep popping out books like this? Why write a short, radically pared down book (his words) full of rules? As he explains in the intro, the 64 rules are basically 64 short roads back to eat food. This book is clearly intended for the overwhelmed and confused folks, not for Pollans faithful readers and acolytes who, by now I presume, are starting to understand the larger picture of our food system.
Pollan is the master of communication, and he somehow manages to produce a list that is decidedly not dogmatic, full of cultural expressions rather than scientific ones. Many are retreads, i.e. if you read Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food, you wont find much new to chew on here. But this book has great potential to reach a broader audience. It is, as Jon Stewart described it, fun-sized. Its small, easy to palm, and easy to understand. Its organized into three sections that act as tiers of engagement: section 1 tells you what to eat (food, remember?). Once youre eating that way, section 2 can help you figure out which foods. Finally, section 3 can tell you how to eat themand chew isnt an exaggeration. A bunch of them come down to chewing and it helps you realize just how far many Americans have traveled from the whole process we call eating.
Posted on Mon, November 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by SFUSA President, Josh Viertel
Jonathan Safran Foer and I hold nearly the same beliefs about eating meat. That said, I have a freezer full of goat necks, marrow bones, and pork belly, and he decidedly does not. You see, I eat meat and Jonathan doesn’t.
There is a simple and true notion underlying Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals: people should eat according to their values. Foer’s argument basically goes like this: Everyone has values. Apply your values to the choices you make about food. Sure, everyone’s values are different, but the truth is anyone’s values will do. The problems with food and farming—in particular farming and eating meat—aren’t caused by people holding the wrong values; they are caused by people not applying the values they hold. I agree with him.
[to read the rest of this article, please go to the Huffington Post, where it was first posted]
Posted on Mon, November 16, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Catherine King
I am constantly curious about what other people are eating. After friends return from traveling, I want to hear about their favorite meal of the trip. If I call my mom at dinnertime, I want to know what shes cooking. When I ran into a good friend shortly after she crossed the finish-line of the New York Marathon, I couldnt resist asking for details on her pre-race meal, even as she stood doubled-over nursing a cramp. My friends and co-workers know that any mention of an interesting meal could illicit a number of follow-up questions from my end. I just cant help myself When it comes to food, I have a curious mind.
So when I came across Mark Kurlanskys The Food of a Younger Land, based on the food traditions of the America my grandmothers grew up in, I felt I was the perfect audience. The collection of essays aims to be a portrait of American eating before our highways, chain restaurants and industrial farming made many of our dining habits homogeneous. And while I would disagree with Kurlanskys perspective that our food traditions have all but disappeared, I wont dispute the point that regional food is now something to be sought out; often buried under generic strip malls filled with Panera Bread, Chilis and Chipotle. The many traditions that make up American eating have unquestionably evolved, and The Food of a Younger Land is an interesting reflection on where weve been.
Following his earlier food explorations, Salt and Cod, Kurlanskys newest came together by chance. While doing research on another book, he stumbled across hundreds of unpublished essays by the Federal Writers Project (FWP), a depression-era employment agency created by the Works Progress Administration. The essays were meant to be published as a collective guide to regional American food, America Eats. But just as writers were sending in finished (or unfinished) pieces in December 1941, bombs rained on Pearl Harbor and the country went to war. Funding for the FWP dried up and the project dissolved before the America Eats essays could be edited or published.
Posted on Tue, November 10, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Daniel Lewis
The Young Readers Edition of Michael Pollans bestselling exposé, The Omnivores Dilemma, is a lot like the original. Both books contain most of the same information, but the way in which this information is presented changes the book radically. The main difference is that the writing style (and I wont say it has been dumbed-down) in the Young Readers Edition is a lot more blunt about Pollans ideas. The whole thing only took a few hours to read, whereas the original took a couple of weeks.
Dozens of pictures, graphs, charts, and side notes with cute names like Youre eating what? strategically placed throughout the book comprise the second change, and these make a big difference. It was worth reading the book just for the pictures; they dont overwhelm the book, but they helped me visualize the scenes Pollan describes as he describes them. Theres a picture of Steer 534, the calf Pollan bought and tried to follow to Poky Feeders (spoiler alert: hes not as adorable as I imagined he was) and an advertisement from the Corn Refiners Association, for instance.
To parallel Pollans style, this book begs an unavoidable question: Is it better? Better for what?Being the all important corollary here, I will say I think this book is better for a lot of people, and not just young readers. If youre between the ages of 10 and 15, youll definitely find the book easy to digest (pardon the pun), but its also a great choice for more mature readers who dont have a lot of extra time or just want a fast read..
However, if youre able to read and enjoy The Omnivores Dilemma, its Young Readers Edition quickly begins to feel like fast food. It doesnt have the philosophical depth, subtleties in language, and vivid descriptions of the adult version, which will leave the reader burning to get to the nearest farmers market. It has the macronutrients but not the flavonoids and anti-oxidants. Nevertheless, if you want to teach your middle school aged child much more about where her food comes from, this is the best way to do it. If she doesnt like it, theres always Food Inc.
A lover of food among other things, Daniel Lewis spends much of his free time cooking and reading cookbooks or articles about agriculture. He is 17, and lives in Saratoga, CA.
Posted on Fri, October 30, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Grace Mitchell
In July, I befriended a twelve-year-old boy, Jackson, who proclaimed to me his fierce love for vegetables of all kinds and his disappointment in his peers who, unlike him, were not raised on farms and had yet to find such love. He told me he had trouble making friends because “they just didn’t understand.” Lucky for our friendship, I too have an undying vegetable passion and appreciate like-minded souls, so Jackson and I became fast friends.
That soft-skied evening I ventured to the garden with Jackson’s grandfather where we admired his gargantuan squash plants that would provide bountiful and opulent meals come fall. I tucked full my mouth with the exquisite fruits of his raspberry patch, a fine deal of which would become wine to warm their bodies through the wet winter. Jackson introduced me to his hog, whom he was fattening up for the state fair competition, and who would, with or without prize, give Jackson and his family bacon and the like with the passing of October. After harvesting far too many sugar peas from their vines and eating plenty more, we moved inside where Jackson’s grandmother set aside the spare sugar peas for freezing and pickling, and we sat down to enjoy a glass of last summer’s raspberry wine and the past autumn’s dried pears. A meal followed, comprised solely of pickings from our evening garden stroll. What luxurious ease it was to dine so gloriously! And Jackson and his family would be eating in like manner all winter, thanks to their voluptuous garden and seasoned foresight.
Then one day I picked up and moved to New York City, where I still have yet to secure a dresser and other useful items of furniture, where I live in fear of lighting my antique oven, and where when the L train ceases to run (mm, going on four Saturdays?)I fail to make the one-and-a-half hour trek to the farmers’ market and too frequently find myself subsisting on spelt berries and a gifted and rapidly dwindling jar of apple butter.
Alas! How easy were those summer days of backyard vegetable bounty! If I lived like Jackson, my vegetable love could be fed not only all summer and into fall harvest season, but also through the winter by the overabundance of summer produce preserved through canning, drying, and freezing. It makes my heart prickle to know that while so many others committed to eating locally have been putting up their autumn harvest for coming months, I am preparing myself for a winter of vegetable doldrums and
more spelt berries.
Posted on Mon, September 14, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
In dieting, I learned early on, exercises in extremes do not yield good results. Starve yourself of chocolate, and you can be sure the first thing youll do when no one is looking is dive into a kiddie pool of chocolate, roll around in it and then lick your own arms. I once even tried to give up bread. After two weeks I sat down and ate an entire baguette, crusty end-to-end. Walk the middle ground, I decided, in food and all things.
Maybe it was this hard-earned (and hard-learned) lesson that led me initially to avoid Morgan Spurlocks Supersize Me. It reeked of gimmick, and seemed on the outside to offer no takeaway lessons. Nobody eats fast food all three meals (right?) so what could be the point?
I did see the movie later and had to admit that I was wrong. It turned out that the parameters of his experiment were more rigorous than I expected, and it also turned out that setting an extreme goal yielded behavioral and biological results that could be extrapolated for meaning in the not-so-extreme. And it turned out that, in truth, the way many Americans were/are eating is extreme. And I was forced to confront that extremity.
Similarly, I was wary of No Impact Man. I admired the gesture, and appreciated its Thoreauvian allusions (did I just make up a word?), but I wondered if there was anything of merit for me in there. Again, similarly, I had to admit I as wrong.
Posted on Thu, September 03, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
What the hay is an urban farmer?! Its a question both Farm City
author cum Oaklands Ghost Town Farm(er) Novella Carpenter and myself have wrestled with, and heck, had to come to terms with. Even while the word like locavore before it seems to have finally been uploaded to the American lexicon, the term still perplexes a great many, which only goes to show how much more work we have to do collectively to turn the tide in favor of sustainable cities and foodbelts.
I remember my own days in Rochester, NY as an urban farmer growing on school grounds and on borrowed backyard land across the city when Id be approached with the eternal question of what are you doin over there?! You can even imagine the looks of disbelief (and sometimes horror) when Id tell a handsome gentleman in a bar that I was a farmer. Theyd take one look at (cleaned-up) me and say You?!
Often times, when my kitchen floor was covered with dirt and produce awaiting delivery, my countertops lined with foul-smelling jars of moldy tomato pulp, and entire rows of Brussels sprouts thought to be collards were uprooted and sold on the street for crack money, Id stop and say to myself: I should keep a diary and turn this experience into a book. Well, Novella beat me to it. So you can only imagine my great interest in reading this book about a trailblazing young woman with more chutzpah than most dudes workin the land and raising livestock in one of Oakland, CAs less tasteful neighborhoods strewn with tumbleweaves (yes, discarded hair pieces that have become part of the landscape).
The book is organized not by the four seasons as one might expect of a farmers journal, but rather in three sections: Turkey, Rabbit, Pig. For each of three years on the farm detailed in the book, Novella Carpenter and beau gradually up the urban farming ante in the species that thrive on their squatted lot. At times there seems to be an inverse relationship to her level of sanity too hogs in the inner city? Yes, the book is complete with stories of dumpster diving in the alleys behind Berkeleys famed restaurants for pig feed and neighbors complaining of stench, and anxiety leading up to the eventual slaughter of the numerous residents of which she has become so fond. Novella is even a fan of Slow Food, and has taken to raising a few Ark of taste varieties of veggies and poultry.
Posted on Tue, August 04, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Youth Programs Intern Reece Trevor
At first glance, David WesterlundsSimone Goes to the Market seems to fit the bill for a standard childrens book. Its got a simple narrative structure, eye-catching pictures, and an educational message. Its in that message that Westerlunds book starts to look a little different, from, say, The Cat in the Hat
. He calls Simone a book of colors connecting face and food.
And what, exactly, does that mean? I wondered as I opened the cover. Just what it sounds like, it turns out. Westerlund describes a trip with his daughter, the title character, to their local farmers market. Simone and her father find purple pole beans, green serrano peppers, gold honey. And heres where the important part comes in: facing each image of vibrantly colorful food is a photograph of the farmer who produced it. The pole beans come from Gretchen, the peppers from Maria, the honey from Bill and his bees. This connection between what we eat and the closely personal image of its producer, Westerlund thinks, is vital.
I couldnt agree more. Ultimately, thats a huge part of the slow food movement. We need to reestablish that vital connection, and Westerlund is right when he describes how important it is to start this process at a young age. If children come of age in an environment where its clear that food comes from their neighbors instead of magically appearing on supermarket shelves, then well have made important steps towards systemic, grassroots change in the way we think about food as a society.
You can learn more aboutSimon Goes to the Market
and get a copy of your own at http://www.faceandfood.com.
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.