What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, September 19, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
After all of these months of reading and learning, and rallying and writing, it's hard not to be discouraged by the Farm Bill. A disappointingly familiar version passed in the House this summer, and now the Farm Bill is hanging out in the Senate, a place where (a cynic might say) good ideas go to die.
We here at Slow Food USA are committed to looking at the bright side, so here is a list of (fewer than) 101 reasons not to be discouraged:
1. It still truly is up in the air (otherwise known as "it ain't over 'til it's over").
2. It is not too late to write to your Senators to explain your priorities.
3. Did you even know what The (Food and) Farm Bill was 2 years ago? We, as a nation, as a group of Slow Food-ists, have educated ourselves, and well!
4. We are building knowledge and momentum for the NEXT one. In Washington, thinking ahead is important.
For Food Security updates, click here
For Nutrition updates, click here
For Conservation and Energy updates, click here
Posted on Sat, September 15, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Renee Ciulla, an organic farmer in Montana, has written an interesting and well researched piece on NewFarm.org on the Slow Food Movement, inspired in part by her trip to see founder Carlo Petrini speak in San Francisco on the topic of his book, Slow Food Nation. It does a fine job of covering the history and current mission of the Movement:
The Slow Food movement was founded in 1986 by an enraged Carlo Petrini after McDonalds attempted to open a franchise in Rome. With more than 80,000 members in 50 countries, the movement has secured a firm place in the world. Slow Food helps redefine people as "co-producers" rather than "consumers," showing how the choices about what we eat give us a role in the food system and puts us side-by-side with farmers in many ways.
Slow Food's international role has grown far beyond the pursuit of great taste and into the realm of making ours a better world, starting at home. Slow Food USA, founded in 2000, has been both revered and attacked by farmers and the general public. Consider this piece an invitation to join me as I delve into various views regarding Slow Food USA's effectiveness in connecting to small-scale farmers and the various convivia representing their local regions. As an American organic farmer and Slow Food (SF) member, I represent both sides equally with hopes of generating healthy discussion on the topic.
And delve she does, but only skimming the surface of what I consider to be the most important single issue facing the Movement in the USA:
Szanto believes the major flaw of Slow Food is ironically its great strength: its universally accessible brand with access for producers, processors, consumers, community organizers and activists, alike. Szanto views these many entry points as necessary for Slow Food, which believes in using cross-disciplinary action to bring about change; people want to be aware of food's taste, history, environmental impact, anthropological significance, production techniques, economics and nutritional benefits, he said. "You would also want people in places with wildly different food cultures to connect to a common cause and direction, so it does have to have a pretty wide and loose brand. That means at the local level, Slow Food looks different from place to place as convivia approach food through taste education, producer concerns or fancy food."
Szanto emphasized that it would be wrong to take the Italian Slow Food model and force-fit it onto the U.S. "One of the problems with food culture in the U.S.—aside from separate and simultaneous overemphasis on nutrition and convenience—is the focus on fancy food and food elitism. Good food becomes an aspect of consumerism, rather than about environmentalism, tradition or social justice. We are, after all, a highly consumerist society, and until that changes, food will remain a subset of that culture." There are really two Slow Food movements operating in the U.S., Szanto offered in wrapping up our conversation: the national leadership with its overarching culture, and the collectivized organization embodying a mosaic of cultures.
Szanto has a point. But the real issue is in that perception of elitism, an image almost impossible to shed in our culture once you are tagged with it. Sow Food's been tagged and it truly pins my ears back when I hear it because it simply isn't true. It is, however, easy to understand why people think it may be true, that we are just a bunch of well-heeled yuppies stuffing our craws with foie gras, even though what we are truly about is genuine salt-of-the-earth stuff, and not just figuratively. Our purpose in celebrating all these wonderful, unique (and yes often "gourmet") foods is not a way for us to demonstrate some ill-conceived moral superiority, as BR Myers tried somewhat whiningly to assert in his Atlantic Monthly piece this month, but rather it is our attempt to preserve the histories, traditions and cultures that make each of us who we are.
"Patriotism," Lin Yu Tang once said, is "love of the foods we ate as children." Looked at on a macro-level, then love of humanity and love of the earth is love of the foods that make people distinct. Protecting that food, whether it is fois gras and caviar or bread and salt, is not an act of elitism but instead of human love. As such it would be ridiculous not to also revel in the pleasures the food offers because what is the point of love if it does not also bring joy? And it is in that reveling that some see the tinge of elitism, even gluttony. But Thoreau said "he who distinguishes the true savor of his food cannot be a glutton. He who does not, cannot be otherwise."
Petrini said it very well on his recent US tour. "A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."
I hope that Slow Food Nation, the event, will go a long way toward dispelling these misconception. It had better.
Posted on Fri, September 14, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
By Kurt Michael Friese
It was the Jazz Age, a time of speakeasies, gangsters and bathtub whiskey. Railroad cars crossed the country carrying hobos and the occasional load of table grapes with stenciled warnings, "Caution: Grapes – Do Not Add Yeast or Fermentation Will Occur!"The Volstead Act had become law and the nation went dry.
Or more accurately, the nation's rivers of booze went underground and gave rise to a new industry: bootlegging. Almost overnight a vast criminal enterprise sprang up across the nation and gangsters became rich and powerful running whiskey and operating secret, password-protected bars. None became more powerful than the New York born Alphonse Capone.
Capone made his name in Chicago as the head of the vaguely named "Chicago Outfit," even though his business card referred to him as a used furniture dealer. In truth he was an accomplished manager of a network of bootleggers. Occasionally, the "heat" in Chicago would cause him to take refuge in the comfort of the Julien Inn in Dubuque, Iowa, where he frequently availed himself of a favorite whiskey, Templeton Rye.
The tiny town of Templeton is located in northwest Iowa, about an hour-and-half drive from Des Moines in Carroll County. The story goes that just before Prohibition, a traveler wandered through town and had heard that there may be some libations to be had. Stopping at the first house he came to, he inquired where it might be found. The kindly woman pointed to a yellow house down the street. "That house," she explained, "is the only house that doesn't sell Templeton Rye." That house was the Rectory.
When Prohibition took hold, and revenue agents or "revenuers" seemed to be everywhere, such openness and generosity vanished, although Templeton Rye did not. No one knows how many households continued to "cook whiskey," and only a select few will admit it even to this day, so strict were each family's secrecies, and so feared were the revenuers.
One family though, the descendents of Alphonse and Frances Kerkhoff, proudly proclaim the prowess of the family's prohibition-era recipe, and now Iowan's can enjoy it legally for the first time. Templeton Rye is now a licensed distilled spirit made only in Templeton and available only in Iowa (and just recently, appropriately enough, Chicago).
Rye whiskey differs from its cousins, bourbon and scotch, in number of ways, most notable that it must, by law, contain a minimum of 51% rye grain. Rye's contribution to the flavor of a whiskey is a spiciness, and it adds a sort of fruity dryness and a warmth to the finish, according to the late great Michael Jackson, author of Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide. "What the rye grain gives to bread, it also imparts to whiskey," he writes. "Rye whiskey has that same hint of bitterness. It is reminiscent of bittersweet fruit – perhaps a hint of apricot – spicy, a little oily, almost peppermint."
While Jackson told us of Rye's origins in colonial Pennsylvania and Maryland, it is Templeton's bootlegging history that the Kerkhoff's son Meryl, grandson (and master distiller) Keith, and great-grandson Kody hope will attract the attention of Iowa's (and some day the nation's) whiskey connoisseurs. They proudly flaunt the Capone connection and their family recipe's prohibition-era bona fides in all the marketing. The revenuers caught Alphonse and Frances three times back then, the third offense leading to prison time for Alphonse.
Some of the best stories are of the secret hiding places people would use to store, or in some cases distribute, the contraband whiskey. One story Meryl likes to tell was that his mother was told that the jug was hidden behind the toilet tank, and if any strangers were to come in the yard, she should dump the contents down the stool right away, before even opening the door because it might be a revenuer. One day while Alphonse was out it happened, and Frances dutifully dumped the whole gallon of whiskey only to find that it was just a salesman in her yard.
All this makes for great marketing, but still, it is the supple, amazingly smooth flavor that results from Minnesota rye, distilled and triple-filtered, then aged in oak barrels from Missouri that are what will really win the palates of whiskey enthusiasts around the country. Templeton Rye was very well received at April's "WhiskeyLive" event in New York City, where many patrons called it the best of the show. This summer, they plan to unveil a limited edition batch in honor of the town of Templeton's Quasquicentennial July 6-8.
The Kerkhoff's hope to be licensed to sell their Rye in Chicago by this fall, and around the country soon after, but for now legalities and a supply keep it exclusively in Iowa. Lucky us.
2 famous cocktails are traditionally made with Rye, the Sazerac and the Manhattan.
1 teaspoon Pernod or Herbsaint liqueur
1 teaspoon sugar, 1 sugar cube, or 1 teaspoon simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
3 dashed Peychaud's Bitters
1 lemon peel twist
Put the Pernod or Herbsaint in a chilled old-fashioned glass and swirl to coat the bottom and sides completely. Discard the excess.
In a cocktail shaker combine 4-5 ice cubes with the sugar, rye, and bitters. Shake and strain into the old-fashioned glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to extract oils, then drop in the twist and serve.
1 1/4 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry for garnish
In a mixing glass with ice, combine the rye, vermouth, and bitters. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass, garnished with the cherry.
For more information about Templeton Rye, visit
For more information about the Templeton Quasquicentennial, visit
Originally published in Edible Iowa River Valley. All rights reserved. © 2007, Kurt Michael Friese. No part of this article may be reproduced without the written consent of the author or publisher.
Posted on Fri, September 14, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food NOLA has a new little sister
Wait a minute.
Don't go so fast.
Join the Slow Food movement.
Slow Food of North Louisiana will hold its first chapter meeting — or convivium — from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, 3015 Greenwood Road in Shreveport. Convivium means "to live with, hence to feast with because conviviality is an essential ingredient of Slow Food."
The "Southern Supper" first session will introduce locals to the organization.
So what is slow food?
"Part of a growing national and international movement to foster awareness about the foods we eat and provide an opportunity to share local food customs and traditions," said convivium leader Becky Craft.
You can read more about it at The Shreveport Times
Y'all bon appetit, you hear?
Posted on Wed, September 12, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
For 22 years, Farm Aid has been traveling the country and making music to support family farms. Last Sunday, Farm Aid hit New York City, giving NYC the chance to show its love for farmers and to prove that urban landscapes are farm-friendly in more ways than one. For their arrival in NYC, Farm Aid partnered with a local group called The Food Systems Network New York City (a network of local groups working on issues in and around food) to bring the concert to a new level; FSNYC succeeded in making the event completely recyclable, and also in adding an educational component.
Slow Food USA was one of many non-profits to have a table set up with information and demonstrations for Farm Aid attendees. Under a tent called "Resurrect the Potluck," we joined FoodChange, Just Food, Sustainable Table, and The Cornell Cooperative Extension. Staff from the SFUSA office flipped Manoomin Wild Rice Pancakes, topped them with local New York State maple syrup and served them up to thousands of attendees. As they chewed, we talked, telling them about the endangered food tradition of wild rice harvesting, and spreading the Slow Food gospel.
Posted on Mon, August 27, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
The folks in Florida have noticed the wisdom of eating locally:
Rat poison in pet food from China. E. coli in bagged spinach from California. Peanut butter tainted with salmonella from Nebraska. Cans of chili sauce bursting due to botulism.
Food safety recalls and warnings are undermining our confidence in the commercial food industry. The response: Buy local from small-scale, local farmers you know.
"I don't trust the U.S. government when it comes to the food supply, said Fort Pierce resident Karen Cosoy. "If it's important for you to eat healthy, there's no option but supporting local farms. You know that they're not using pesticides. The stuff you get at the supermarket, you don't know how they processed it or whether they even processed it at all. You don't know what they used to make it look so gorgeous."
Eating local also has an environmental appeal. Most produce stocked in supermarkets — and even at many roadside stands and farmer's markets — comes from wholesalers who truck food here from afar, especially during our hot summer.
People have started telling me that " 'sustainable' has gone mainstream." Sure hope they're right.
Posted on Sun, August 26, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
In her latest blog, Suzi Steffen poses this rhetorical gem: Is eating local even possible?
Eating local — goat cheese from the farmers' market or eggs from my friends' chickens, vegetables and fruit as abundant as weeds — is easy right now in Oregon's fertile Willamette Valley. But I want to stay as local as possible in the winter. And that desire has turned me into an ant, the workhorse of food procuring — I don't even have time to read for pleasure anymore, except when I'm walking to the farmers' market.
It's a good question really, and one that we preachers of the Slow gospel need to be able to answer readily. What I usually say is that of course it is, because that's what humans have done for the entirety of their existence, save roughly the last 80 years or so. But Steffen too recognizes the lesson taught by Barbara Kingsolver in her current book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:
As Kingsolver says, "Eating locally in the winter is easy. But the time to think about that would be in August." So it is.
Posted on Fri, August 24, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA Board of Directors member Jeff Roberts has written the Bible of American Artisinal Cheese, and at Feast! in Charlottesville, Virginia it's received a tasty welcome…
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.–In conjunction with Jeff Roberts signing his book, "The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese," Feast! hosted a free tasting of American artisan cheeses and discussion on the importance of artisan and local food production on Aug. 23.
Following the discussion and tasting, Roberts answered questions and signed copies of his book that was available for purchase at the event. The tasting portion of the event included contributions by several of Central Virginia's food artisans including cheesemaker Gail Hobbs-Page from Caromont Farms and wine maker Gabriele Rausse from Gabriele Rausse Winery.
You can read more about it at Gourmet News
Posted on Fri, August 24, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
It's not surprising that there is an affinity between Slow Food mavens and cycling buffs. Each has an affection for simpler ways of doing things, and a way of appreciating the world around us. Thus…
Pemberton's Anna Helmer and Lisa Richardson have taken this mandate and modernized it through the highly successful Slow Food Cycle Sunday. The third- annual festival rolled through the valley last Sunday with more than 1,300 riders cycling the route and sampling the tastes of a community rooted in agriculture.
Our friends to the north have a great thing going there, and if you are looking to create a new event for your convivium, you can read all about it at the quaintly named Whistler Question.
Posted on Thu, August 23, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Such food luminaries (and friends of Slow Food) as Rich Pirog, Arlin Wasserman and Gary Paul Nabhan explain how and why Terroir is important in this August 22nd Washington Post article
…Wasserman has a growing roster of clients, from General Mills to a co-op of Amish goat and lamb farmers, as well as a group of Minnesota artisans with a line of charcuterie, preserves and wild rice dishes in the works. Similar projects are taking shape across the country. On Lummi Island, off the coast of Washington, salmon fishermen have formed a co-op to sell local sockeye salmon caught in reef nets, a traditional Native American method. Researchers in Iowa have done feasibility studies on bringing back the Muscatine melon (see "Certified Levels of Terroir," Page F6 [requires free registration to view]), a variety of cantaloupe that owes its juicy fragrance to the sandy soil on the banks of the Mississippi, and I-80 beef, ultra-marbled steaks from the northwest corner of the state.
I found it intriguing that General Mills is one of his clients. These are signs of real progress, when Slow Food's ideas make their way into the mainstream. We will not achieve a food system that is Good, Clean and Fair by demolishing the current system, but rather by transforming it. Every time they acknowledge the value of our ideas we must not feel threatened but rather say to them, "welcome to a better way."--------
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.