What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Tue, July 28, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA campaign intern Stephanie Miller
Here at Slow Food USA, we started our Time for Lunch campaign because providing kids with local, healthy food at school is a goal worth fighting for. Over the last few months, weve been talking with parents, food activists, and food service professionals from all 50 states about the challenges they have faced on the road towards a better National School Lunch Program.
Extreme environments often overlooked in the discussion of local food and nutrition are the frozen deserts, deciduous ranges, and rain forests of Alaska. According to Kerri Burrows, manager of the Alaska Food Coalition, the main food issue in area schools is not nutrition, but supply. Traditionally, native Alaskans have relied on a seasonally variable high-protein diet. But schools still have to comply with the nutritional standards of the National School Lunch Program. This means that most school food is shipped thousands of miles north from the continental United States. When perishable foods arrive, they are less than fresh, and very expensive. To account for these extra costs, school meals in Alaska are subsidized three times as much as the average in the rest of nation. The one thing that isnt unique about Alaskas school food is its impact on childrens health: as is the case elsewhere else, childhood obesity is spiraling out of control, especially among indigenous children who rely on a non-native diet full of the processed foods that are popular in the rest of the country.
Kathryn Carl, of Haines, AK, has been working hard to find a solution to this problem. She works with a school in nearby Klukwan, a Chilkat Indian village, to serve locally sensitive lunches. In order to implement the program, the school has opted to not receive lunches from the National School Lunch Program. They serve about 30 meals a day to local children and elderly residents of the small village. The program relies heavily on donations, such as local Halibut and Salmon, as well as a garden where they can grow produce such as potatoes. They are currently trying to raise funds for a greenhouse. Kathryns husband makes fresh bread several times a week, since shipped bread often arrives with mold in the middle.
On September 7, Kathryn and other residents of Klukwan will hold an Eat-In as part of Time for Lunchs National Day of Action. We hope that their example of hard work and ingenuity will inspire discussion in their region and in other local food communities, whatever the local challenges. Its not always easy to give kids real food at school, but its an important and absolutely necessary job: the health of our nation depends on it.
Posted on Wed, February 04, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Nathan Leamy
Make sure to check out Nathan’s last post, “Breaducation.”
Often when out and about with friends, I am introduced to people as Nathan: he bakes bread. Its true. I spend a lot of time baking and eating bread. But as much time as I spend with baked goods in a practical relationship, its not often I spend time thinking about it in the more abstract. What is at the essence of breadyness?
After some ruminating on the topic, I finally came up with a bulleted list which divides up the taxonomy of bread into four major categories based on how (or if) they rise.
Posted on Thu, January 08, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Our newest team member at Slow Food USA is Nathan Leamy. Nathan came to us from San Francisco where he was working to help organize for, and subsequently, clean up from Slow Food Nation. Prior to his adventures there, Nathan wandered the globe with a Watson Fellowship studying the impact of the Green Revolution on grain consumption in Mexico, India, France, and Egypt. A graduate of Oberlin College and Deep Springs College, Nathan grew up in Portland, Oregon. Here he starts what we hope to have as a series on his passion, hobby, and means of sustenance bread.
by Slow Food USA staffer Nathan Leamy
Though I have been a voracious eater all my life, my breaducation (cause that’s what the cool kids are calling it these days) started while I was living on a ranch in Eastern California. Since then, the works of Nancy Silverton, Julia Child, and Steven Kaplan have inspired me to find, produce, and eat better baked goods. Work in various quasi-professional kitchens, an apprenticeship at a bakery in Paris last spring, and the dedicated consumption of carbohydrates have rounded out my working knowledge of bread.
While I respect all breads, my passion goes out to traditional French loaves made with sourdough. Sourdough is a wild yeast which has been caught and tamed to produce slow developing, flavorful bread. Contrary to the term, sourdough breads need not be sour. Many breads labeled as sourdough in the US are still made with commercial yeast and actually just have extra acids added to them to make them taste sour, but traditional bakeries nationwide are seeing a resurgence of sourdough use. Sourdough breads can be made in any shape or size, but the traditional shapes are the boule, baguette, and epi.
Even where crusty, artisanal breads can be found, many fall flat in flavor. How can you tell if a loaf of artisan sourdough is good? For your reading pleasure - and perhaps even the first part of your breaducation heres an attempt to summarize the five easy indicators of good bread.
Judge a book by its cover. Ugly bread is rarely good. Pallid, dimpled, and dull bread should turn you away. Good sourdough should have a dark, caramel crust with weight to it. The bread should be aesthetically pleasing - well formed, balanced, even. It is saggy or looks over stuffed, no good. The crust shouldn’t shine like it’s been lacquered - but it should have a healthy amount of texture to it. If you’ve got a real winner it will have a pinhead sized, light bubbles evenly spread about it. Slashes across the top should be pronounced and should have prevented the bread from ripping at the seams during baking.
Listen to your bread. When picking up a loaf of good bread, it should have an even feel it should not be lopsided or off-kilter. Knock lightly on the bottom with your finger tips and you should hear a hollow thump like you are striking a drum. Squeezing lightly, the bread should have some give and make a crackling noise.
What’s on the inside counts too. The inside of the bread (called the crumb) should have air holes in it. Unevenly spaced, unevenly sized, with stretches of gluten on the edges. How dense or light you like your crumb is all a matter of personal preference, but you need to see some holes to show that there was some action inside the loaf.
Dive in, nose first. Good bread shouldn’t be just a neutral medium to pile other things atop. It should have a flavor and smell that complement what you are eating. Breaking open a loaf and pushing your nose in it should give you the best idea of what’s going on in there. Depending on the sourdough used, flavors can run the gamut - but most importantly there should be some sort of fragrance and not the dull, sweet, hollow smell of industrial yeast.
Eat it. Since the point of bread is eating, a bread should be, well, good to have in your mouth. Biting into bread you should have a bit of pull on the crust, but not have to fight with it. The crumb shouldn’t just dissolve, be so dry as to make you feel parched, yet not so soggy to make you feel icky. It should feel good to loll around in your mouth for a little bit before you finally get to eat your good bread.
That’s how you identify good bread. The most important matter is to stop and think about it. Though eaten nearly everyday, people often settle for something mediocre without giving it a second thought. These indicators arent prerequisite for good tasting bread but every little bit helps. Whether buying from a bakery or making your own sourdough treats at home it takes all of your senses to find that which is good.
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.