What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, January 21, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
You have read, in this space among many others, of the sinister nature of genetic modification and the patenting of seeds. I have ranted endlessly about the dangers of the food system being in the hands of just a few corporate land barons. No reason to stop now.
For about five years now the USDA and many large corporate interests have been pushing a program called the National Animal Identification System. NAIS is touted as an effective tool in battling the spread of livestock diseases such as cattle tuberculosis and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow. It provides methods for tagging livestock of any kind with RFID, the same sort of microchip that many people have put on their pets in hopes of recovering poor Fido if he ever gets lost. The thinking is that if a side of beef in a Greeley, Colorado meatpacking plant tests positive for mad cow, authorities can quickly and easily identify said cow, trace it back through the system, and discover other animals with which it may have made contact.
Currently, at the federal level, NAIS is a voluntary program overseen by the USDA and administered by the several states with help from organizations like the Future Farmers of America and the Farm Bureau. Farms, feedlots, and confined animal feeding operations apply for and receive a formal numerical designation that is then applied to microchips injected into or ear-tagged onto each animal. According to the USDA, in 2007 the state of Iowa went from 11,000 registered sites to more than 20,000, an increase of over 80 percent. All this despite a lack of any sort of government funding to participants for the program. Farmers must buy in if they choose to participate.
Setting aside for the moment that this system feels like a perfect bureaucratic method for closing the barn doors after the mad cows get out, all this seems fairly innocuous until we look a little deeper. The state of Texas has recently passed legislation requiring NAIS tagging for all dairy cattle. It goes into effect March 31. Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee now require participation for goats and sheep. In Michigan, farmer and now reluctant revolutionary Greg Niewendorp has endured visits from the sheriff reminiscent of scenes from and old Billy Jack movie.
The voluntary system is becoming perversely mandatory in many other states as well. In Colorado, according to Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, two families who refused to register their properties were kicked out of the state fair. In Idaho, the state included a NAIS premises registration form in the packets for registering one's brand (which has to be done every 5 years). The form was not clearly marked, and appeared to be simply part of the required brand documents. In Tennessee and North Carolina, where drought has made hay assistance necessary, you can't get any unless you register your property.
This has induced howls of outrage from a growing and vocal group of opponents, notably FarmAndRanchFreedom.org and NoNAIS.org, bringing together an odd-bedfellow mix of left-wing radicals and libertarian property-rights activists. They both feel that while such draconian measures may be necessary for an industrial food system that causes the very illnesses it now seems to need to track down, such procedures are overly-invasive, perhaps even Orwellian, for small family farms. The government is saying NAIS is voluntary while subsidiaries are making it mandatory. One needn't register one's guns, but goats are another matter. Seems we've met Big Brother, and he is us.
Posted on Thu, January 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Press Release, January 17, 2008
Slow Food International
The political crisis in Kenya is now turning into a food crisis. Some of the areas hit the hardest by violence — among them the Rift Valley, Coast Province, Nyanza Province, Western Province and Nairobi — are considered to be the eastern African nation's 'bread baskets'. They are also the areas in which many of Slow Food's 29 Terra Madre Food Communities are located.
Kenyan John Kariuki Mwangi, a 21-years-old student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, is one of the three newly elected vice-presidents of Slow Food International. He received an email from Slow Food's Central Rift Convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu saying that many crops ready for harvest, such as corn, potatoes and peas, are being burnt to the ground by roaming tribal militia, who are also killing livestock for food.
The Terra Madre Communities in Kenya, such as the Farmers of the Arid Areas of Kitui, Cow and Camel Breeders of Nairobi, Potato and Pea Growers of Nakuru in the Rift Valley, Taro Producers of Nairobi, Nettle Growers of the Rift Valley and Indigenous Chicken Breeders of Kilifi in Coast Province, consist of small sustainable farms made up of individual farmers and groups working to preserve local foods and traditions. The fighting is now endangering these farms, the heaviest of it taking place in the Rift Valley, mainly around Molo, Burnt Forest, Eldoret and Kitale, about a five-hour drive from Nairobi.
The fighting is mainly between President MwaiKibaki's Kikuyu tribe, opposition leader Raila Odinga's Luo tribe and the Kalenjin militia in the Rift Valley led by William Ruto. Since 1992 the latter have repeatedly carried out ethnic cleansing, and this time they are doing it under the guise of the rigged elections.
The opposition claim that the December 27 election was rigged. At least 500 people have been killed since then and, according to the International Red Cross, more than 250,000 have been displaced, many left with only the clothes on their backs (though, taking into account families from Kuresoi in Molo, the number could be even higher).
Mwangi, whose father is a small-scale farmer in Molo, in Rift Valley province, says help is needed in two areas. 'First there are the most urgent things: food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs. Schools will be re¬opening next week and children will need uniforms and books. Then, in the long term, people will need help resettling.' He went on to say that long-term aid will involve rebuilding homes, harvesting what is left of crops, replanting new crops where possible and setting up new farming systems.
Slow Food is very concerned about the events of the past days and the safety of everyone in Kenya. It is now working to find a way to help Terra Madre Communities receive the supplies they need to rebuild their lives and continue their work, which is of vital importance for the preservation of traditional foods and sustainable farming methods, as well as the provision of food to local communities.
To read Central Rift convivium leader Samuel Muhunyu's email to John, in which he gives details about Kenya's deterioriating situation, click here.
Posted on Wed, January 16, 2008 by Website Administrator
Regarding Joel Stein's Time Magazine article "Extreme Eating" - while Mr. Stein is of course free to eat whatever type of food he chooses, I must take exception to his contention that "Dodd was basically telling the Iowans that every night they should decide whether to accompany their pork with creamed corn, corn on the cob, corn fritters or corn bread. For dessert, they could have any flavor they wanted of fake ice cream made from soy, provided that flavor was corn."
I am forced to question whether Mr. Stein has actually been to Iowa (outside of a presidential candidate's rally). While there is indeed a large amount of corn, soy and pork grown here (more than anywhere in the world in fact), to say that this is all we can eat when we choose to eat locally is blindly absurd and typical of a bicoastal mentality that considers America's great Heartland to be little more than "fly-over states."
In fact Iowa farmers can and do grow anything that can be grown outside the tropics. Our support for local, sustainable agriculture is evident in the hundreds of farmers' markets we have, many of them year-round affairs, and the dozens of organizations that support the so-called "locavore movement." The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is at Iowa State University. Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa Farmers Union enjoy tremendous growth and prestige here and around the country. The Iowa Network for Community Agriculture supports local food resources statewide. There are five Slow Food Convivia here, and eight "Buy fresh, Buy Local" campaigns organized statewide. Edible Iowa River Valley, a member of the Edible Communities family of magazines, boasts a quarterly readership over 36,000.
My restaurant alone provides our guests with all its meat and roughly 60% of everything else (year-round) from more than 30 "Devotay Local Farm Partners," and not to belabor the point, but there is no corn on our menu.
Mr. Stein concludes by saying "I'm going to keep buying food from my foreign neighbors. Because it's the only way we Americans learn about other countries, other than by bombing them." While this may or may not be true, I suggest he spend a little more time learning about his own country first. He can start here, I'll have a table waiting for him.
Posted on Wed, January 16, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Continuing our winter eats series, we asked a few more Slow Food folks what they eat in January.
Slow Food NYC leader and NY/NJ Regional Governor Ed Yowell had this to say:
A few years ago I began to look forward to the winter disappearance of leafy salad alternatives. It only took dedication to my local, northeast food shed and a little creativity. Some "what and hows" are offered in "The Leafless Season" a piece I wrote back then.
Slow Food USA staff member Cecily Upton shares her passionate winter feelings for pork:
I like pork, a lot. Too much, some might say. For example, my recent birthday party involved friends and family chowing down on 3+ lbs of BBQ at Brooklyn's own Fette Sau. And even though the Year of the Pig is coming to an end, I'm already planning a summer pig roast in my new backyard.
That said, in the winter months, when there are no fresh berries or tomatoes beckoning to me from the Greenmarket, and when I can barely recognize my farmers under their layers of wool, I find solace in pork.
Last night I whipped up an easy dish, perfect for chilly, wet evenings - pork loin with a Curry/Mustard/Honey/Lemon rub/glaze and some sauteed beet greens. The whole meal took about 20 minutes to prepare. The recipe is a riff off of one of Mark Bittman's, my go-to for quick, easy, and delicious.
Mix 2tbsp. curry powder with 2 tbsp. dijon (or other gourmet) mustard. Add 1 tbsp. (or so) honey (mine came from my mom's hives in southern Maine), and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Season the mixture with some fresh cracked pepper and salt and rub generously over 1 lb. of pork loin (though most any cut will do). Broil for 10-15 minutes until center of meat is just pink.
While the meat is broiling, chop up those beet greens you reserved after making borscht the other night. Saute them for 5 or so minutes in olive oil. Season to taste.
Once the meat is finished cooking, remove from oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Remove from your broiling dish, reserving any excess rub (as it is great to use for leftover pork sandwiches). Slice thinly and serve. Dish out your beet greens and serve plain or with a side of garlic aioli.
Posted on Fri, January 11, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver has a whole chapter entitled "What do you eat in January?" (and she lives on a farm!). And although it is a baffling 50 degrees here in NYC, the calendar does suggest that it's January, as does the food at the market (potatoes, onions, winter squash).
A quick look at the links on Field to Plate will show what's available by season in your area. For us New Yorkers, it's basically a handy tool for figuring out where we wish we lived instead right about now–January is pretty slim pickings compared to, say, California.
And so: what do YOU eat in January?
Slow Food Northeast Regional Governor Rosemary Melli had this to say:
Here's what we do in the dreary New England winter, while we're dreaming of the first greens of spring:
- My friend who runs Eva's Garden here in So. Dartmouth, MA choppes up fresh parsnips, carrots, Macumber turnips, chick weed, parsley, and leek tops, which are still growing on the farm, and marinates with olio & balsamic for a salad course.
- I jar small, hot red peppers in olio & vinegar, then stuff them with whatever sparks my imagination - capers, anchovies, cheese, breadcrumb mixture, etc.
- I use good, polenta meal, cook it in the oven in stock til it's creamy, then use as a base for roasted root vegetables, stews, etc.
- Beans, beans, beans - must be fresh and cooked just right; combine with sauteed winter greens (kale, collard, mustard, swiss chard); seasoned with pancetta, bacon, proscuitto, sausages, etc.; add pastas and cheeses; combine as soups, ragouts, ragus, etc.
Posted on Tue, January 08, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA members should have just received the issue 4 of The Snail for 2007. The theme of the issue is American Food Traditions; we asked some people to share with our readers their personal food heritage in a feature called "I Am What I Ate: Food from my childhood." Below, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini shares his own (non-American, of course!) childhood food tradition.
by Carlo Petrini
My family's origins lie somewhere between the working class and the middle class. Our food culture was first and foremost a product of subsistence, and my grandmother was its guardian. I remember afterschool snacks of soma d'aj, a slice of bread toasted on the stove, rubbed with a clove of garlic and sprinkled with a little salt and oil sprinkled on top. Few would probably dream of preparing such a thing for their children these days, but for me, it was a sort of "education in garlic," and I certainly don't regret it. Two other dishes that were important to my childhood are meat ravioli, made to last the week and totally sublime in the delicateness of the pasta sheets, and rolatine, strips of meat rolled up around a filling of egg, vegetables, cheese, and breadcrumbs, served with Piedmontese salsa verde. This last dish is hardly to be found any more, but when I'm able to find it, it never ceases to bring back a rush of memories.
If you would like to receive The Snail, Slow Food USA's quarterly magazine for members, click here.
Feel free to use the comments section to share your food heritage.
Posted on Mon, January 07, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Grassroots International, a Boston-based organization that "supports the initiatives of peasants and family farmers, women and indigenous groups to protect human rights to land, water and food," has produced a primer on food sovereignty in partnership with Food and Water Watch.
Understanding that for many people food sovereignty can be a somewhat elusive term, they have produced "Towards a Green Food System," a report that explains the food sovereignty movement's natural alignment with the larger environmental sustainability movement, as well as with food-based movements such as Slow Food. It discusses the main conversational threads from the 2007 Forum for Food Sovereignty, laying out the stakes (the right to sustainably farmed land, the right of a community to control its own seed supply, the right to support small family farms), sharing specific examples from around the world, and making recommendations for individual involvement in the movement.
Posted on Fri, January 04, 2008 by Website Administrator
Always a source of the inside scoop on what's great in the restaurant world from local folk, Chowhound also has an active discussion board on all-around food topics. Just two days ago one poster named "frugalscot" posted this simple query:
WINTER SEASON ….a little more difficult.
What type of creative meal can you prepare utilizing only ingredients that are native to your area/region? A radius of say 25 miles from home. (Not written in stone)
As close to 100% local ingredients as possible, please
As of this writing it's received 55 responses. Great stuff posted there
Posted on Fri, January 04, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Here in NYC from 1989 to 2000, we had a large billboard right near Times Square that was a "debt clock." Up top was a running tally of our national debt, and down below was a second digital clock–moving at a frighteningly fast pace–that showed each US citizen's portion of that dollar amount.
It was an amazing tool–a scare tactic, sure, but an unavoidable beacon, casting its beam of light on the country's increasingly debt-ful future.
Here's another clock for you; it has two parallel clocks, one of which shows the world population (guess what! it goes up really really fast), and the one below showing the amount of productive–i.e. arable– land (guess what! it goes down really really fast). There's power in seeing an inverse proportion move with that kind of speed–hard not to see what's coming.
Posted on Wed, December 19, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
As our weather becomes more and more extreme, it seems that it's a story of droughts and floods, droughts and floods. When farmers get hit by these weather events, it can be devastating.
The floods that hit the Pacific Northwest on December 1st hit farmers and cheesemakers in the Portland region hard. The Black Sheep Creamery near Chehalis lost two-thirds of its herd and sustained devastating damage to the creamery, barns, and house. See below for articles about farmers in need and avenues through which one can help–some are best suited to local residents, of course. Thanks to Carol Havens, Jean Rogers and the Port Townsend Cooperative for compiling these resources.
Local Farmers Need Help!
Olympia Food Co-op - All farmers who supply the co-op
3111 Pacific Ave. SE Olympia, WA
or call Grace at (360) 357-1106 for information.
Olympia Farmers Market
700 Capitol Way S Olympia, WA 98501
or call: (360) 352-9096
or donate online at: www.olympiafarmersmarket.com
Neighborhood Farmers Market Association Good Farmer Fund - For growers who sell at Seattle markets.
Mail checks to: 4519 ∏ University Way NE #200, Seattle, WA 98105
Tilth Producers of Washington - For organic sustainable farmers within the Tilth Producers community.
Mail checks to: PO Box 85056, Seattle, WA 98145
Or donate online at: www.networkforgood.org
Karen Kerr, Adna Grange - Direct assistance and food for Adna area farms and families (not limited to farms) Accepting gift, debit and diesel gas cards with a set cash amount and financial donations.
PO Box #63
Adna, WA 98522
Full Circle Farm - For direct donations to farms, contact Lizzie. You can make a donation via Ace Hardware in Adna or Sears in Chehalis and Lizzie will pick up and deliver items to farms: (work gloves, extension cords, respirators, etc.)
Washington Farm Bureau Flood Relief - Lewis County farmers primarily.
PO Box 8690, Lacey, WA 98509
pledge form online at: www.wsfb.com
or call (800) 331-3276 to donate over the phone via credit/debit
Art Wedig Relief Fund - For any Washington Farmers that are with the company Organic Valley.
Art Wedig Relief Fund, c/o Organic Valley, 1 Organic Way, LaFarge, WI 54639
or call: 1.888.444.6455
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.