What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Wed, November 14, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
"The politics of food have changed, and probably for good," said Michael Pollan in his NY Times Op-Ed last week. He ended his frustrated death-knell-for-a-Farm-Bill-we-can-be-proud-of piece on this hopeful note.
The Food and Farm Bill (up for vote on the Senate floor this week) will most certainly not show the massive changes we all hoped and fought for. Commodity subsidies? Still there. Though Tom Philpott over at Grist questions them as the ultimate evil. He calls them the symptom of the problem, not the cause. The real problem, says Philpott, is overproduction. Check out the above link to see his article and the extensive debate that follows in the comments section.
There are some programs being written in and voted on–good programs supporting food stamps and wetlands preservation, and small amounts of money to specialty crops. Whether or not they are merely "fleas on the elephant in the room," as Pollan calls them, used to buy off critics, they might be the best thing we have to speak up for at this point. So use these final important moments to call your senators and speak your mind.
For Food Security updates, click here
For Nutrition updates, click here
For Conservation and Energy priorities, click here.
Posted on Mon, November 12, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
As the Slow Food delegates arrived in Puebla, news of the terrible flooding in the Tabasco region spread. With nearly a million people affected, Tabasco is in trouble. It was just two short years ago that Slow Food rallied around its friends in New Orleans, helping them to rebuild the food communities there. This new disaster, so much larger even than the floods after Hurricane Katrina, weighed heavily on the minds of the delegates to the Congress. Villahermosa, in Tabasco, is the home of a Slow Food convivium, a Slow Food community. A representative from Villahermosa–Dona Alma Rosa– came and spoke to the delegates, giving them a sense of the scope of the damage, and a sense of what exactly needs to be done to rebuild the food community there.
Within 24 hours, Slow Food Switzerland, Slow Food Italy, Slow Food San Francisco, and Citta Slow had all pledged thousands of dollars/Euros to help those rebuilding efforts. Tabasco produces 80% of the world's cocoa crops, and these will need to be revived, mills will need to be rebuilt, and new marketing channels will need to be carved.
This disaster is larger than any of us can comprehend–we will keep you posted on ways that you can contribute to the relief efforts in Villahermosa, and the larger Tabasco area.
Posted on Sat, November 10, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
With Thanksgiving almost upon us, many of us are trying to avoid buying a flavorless supermarket turkey and are wondering: where in the world can I find a heritage turkey? Some of you might even be asking: what is a heritage turkey?
For more information on the definition of heritage turkeys and guidance on where to find them, check out our Take Action page.
Since 2002, the market for heritage turkeys has approximately doubled annually, based on reports from producers and distributors in the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy network. This is in large part thanks to Slow Food Members who have showed increased support of heritage turkeys as well as the farmers who raise them.
Posted on Mon, October 29, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Jennifer M. Hall
SFUSA Ark Committee
When the RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions) project offered seeds last winter, I was faced with decisions. What to grow? Trim the list from 40 dreams to 20 realities. Tomatillos leapt off the list in the top five. Always a fan of green salsa and pork chili verde, I had plans for these fruit known historically as the Zuni Tomatillo and now on the Ark as the New Mexico Native Tomatillo (NMNT).
My boyfriend and I nurtured the starts along under the basement grow lights and put them in the ground at the first opportunity. Spokane, WA has very desert-like conditions with dry air, hot days and cooler nights, so I was hopeful they would do well. They quickly proved they need their "own space." I staked and tied mine like a tomato plant; Eric did not and they swarmed some other rows.
The early yellow blossoms gave way to countless husk-encased fruits. Mine grew fairly tall and brought a little romance to my back patio, looking like a tree dotted with hundreds of Chinese lanterns. Compared to a more mainstream variety, the NMNT tapers more to the bottom point of the husk.
Harvest time shows the real commitment in a tomatillo grower, particularly this kind. Lots of little fruit (on average, the diameter of a nickel), somewhat unwieldy bush, not very well-known, what will it taste like? Some of Eric's will make great compost, but overall I was proud of what we picked and honestly glad we didn't plant more!
So was it worth it? Cooked down into a sauce over wild salmon, pickled with peppers and in salsa, the flavor proved tremendous! In side-by-side tastings with a larger purple tomatillo and the Aunt Molly's ground cherry that our convivia members also grew, the NMNT was a big winner. Big aroma and almost a melony fruit flavor. Definitely earning its space on the Ark and definitely earning another go in my garden next year.
Posted on Mon, October 22, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
The documentary film King Corn is now playing at a theatre near you, mostly to raucous approval, but one fellah in Indiana isn't as enthusiastic:
In 2003, the two men moved to Iowa and grew an acre of corn. They then followed that corn as it made its way through the food supply. What follows is a 90 minute diatribe against US farm policy, modern agriculture, food processing, and more. At every turn they put a negative spin on every aspect of corn. Not surprisingly, slow-food movement advocate Michael Pollan was an advisor to the project, according to a New York Times article on the movie. Much of the movie replays Pollan's worn out mantra that corn is the cause of obesity.
"Worn out mantra?" Calling it that doesn't make it so, and just to be clear, Mr. Pollan does not claim that corn causes obesity. He states quite clearly (and backs up his claim with reams of data) that the overconsumption of corn - especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup - causes obesity, and that federally subsidized overproduction of corn makes it artificially cheap, resulting in said overconsumption
Gary Truitt, the Indiana-based publisher of an online newsletter called Hoosier Ag Today, is an adamant supporter of the so-called "Center for Consumer Freedom," which he links on his site. The CCF is a lobbying and advocacy group for industrial agriculture, restaurant, alcohol and tobacco interests. It runs media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them "the Nanny Culture — the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, anti-meat activists, and meddling bureaucrats who 'know what's best for you.' " CCF began as a group wholly owned and operated by Philip Morris, Inc., and its purpose was to advocate against, and rally restaurant owners to fight, ordinances that would ban smoking from restaurants. It continues to lose that fight on most fronts, but has widened its scope considerably.
Mr. Truitt continues his critique of King Corn…
Just like Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko, King Corn is big on one-sided criticism but absent on any solutions. We do have problems with our farm policy, corn production, and nutrition. But politically motivated slander films like King Corn do nothing to help find answers that will work for producers and consumers.
I'm sorry Mr. Truitt couldn't see the solutions offered by films & books such as King Corn - I'd include among them films like SuperSize Me (see clip here), which single-handedly stopped the practice of "super-sizing" in fast food joints and Eat at Bill's, which conveys the beauty and benefits of fresh, local food; as well as book's like Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. I'm pretty sure it was Upton Sinclair who said "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." Such is the case with the blinders Mr. Truitt wears. He is so buried in a lifetime of industrial agriculture he cannot see beyond its limits or appreciate the negative impact of many of its practices.
He is able to say that "We do have problems with our farm policy, corn production, and nutrition," but his view is that the solution lies somewhere in the same system that created the problems - at best an extremely unlikely hypothesis.
Posted on Thu, October 18, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Earlier this week, the USDA announced a Grassfed Marketing Claim Standard, one which they hoped would make things less confusing for consumers and hold producers to a more truthful, higher standard. They hope to eliminate the present issue of producers calling their meat "grassfed" when, in fact, it's finished with grain–an extremely common practice.
Sounds great, right? We looooove standards!
Well, according to our friends at the American Grassfed Association, this standard doesn't go far enough, not by a long shot. They issued a position statement in response which enumerates these shortcomings, including the fact that it's a voluntary standard (no enforcement, no requirements), that it takes no hard line on confinement (many producers allow their animals "access to pasture," which might amount only to an open door), and that it takes no stand on the use of antibiotics and synthetic hormones.
Basically, you can buy grassfed beef and think it means you are eating something very pure and delicious, when in fact, it's still a cow standing flank to flank with its neighbour, and being pumped full of chemicals. Blech! What's a consumer to do?
And to add another odd layer to this all, the Washington Post reports that due to the nationwide drought we're experiencing (officially "exceptional" in the Southeast), there ain't much grass this year for the cows chew on.
Posted on Tue, October 09, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
There's a new, worthy addition to the social action documentary genre, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis' "King Corn." This is no fist-waving, rage-filled exposé; it quietly investigates what Michael Pollan made famous in The Omnivore's Dilemma (and what Francis Moore Lappé also discussed years ago in Diet for a Small Planet): corn dominates our agricultural landscape in a very creepy way.
The open-faced and amiable Cheney and Ellis met in college, and later realized that both of their great-grandfathers were from the same small farming town, Greene, Iowa. The town they return to, in order to grow an acre of the local crop, is not the family farm friendly place it was in their ancestors' time. Instead of families toiling together in the fields, they find farmers who use tremendous machinery to do their work for them (like, tilling, planting, and chemical spraying), then sit around and wait for the growth of thousands of acres of a product that's only edible when it's processed. As Pollan explains in a cameo, these farmers are growing and growing, but can't feed themselves. The shots of mountains of surplus corn are chilling.
The film has been playing the festival circuit, and now is opening in theatres across the country:
NYC: Oct 12th
DC and Boston: Oct 19th
LA: Oct 26th
San Fran and Berkeley: Nov 2nd
If you've always wanted to watch two dudes make high fructose corn syrup in their kitchen, you've come to the right place. Read more about how the film came to be, in The New York Times.
Posted on Wed, October 03, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Close your eyes a moment. Imagine the open road on a long drive before sunset, sleepy eyed, towing a back breaking, albeit glorious load of just-picked produce, only to find that a neighboring farm stand, traveling a mere hour, has brought to the table the same kabocha squash varietals that until now, made your weekly trip worthwhile. Not to mention, your office hours are now 6:00am to 6:00pm, if you're lucky. For many of you, this hits close to home.
As the peak season of farmer's market plenty rounds the corner, we reflect on the underbelly of the utopian model and a few of the complications that arise when scale walks the line between blessing and curse. Carol Ness, in the San Francisco Chronicle, explores the issue that some Bay Area farmers are having: the expansion and proliferation of markets has made a profit margin too narrow to justify the taxing 12-hour work days and growing detriment of duplicate offerings.
Posted on Mon, October 01, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Bees pollinate at least one third of our diet. It is hardly surprising, then, that renting out colonies for pollination is many times more profitable than honey production—nearly $15 billion worth of crops utilize the insects every year.
American agriculture relies heavily on hives, which are piled into trucks and moved from coast to coast. California almonds, for example, depend entirely on bees. By 2012, it is estimated that 90% of current hives in the United States will be needed to pollinate the groves. Other dependent crops include blueberries, peaches, cranberries, squash, and pumpkins.
Thus, news spread quickly when, in late 2006, worker bees from Western honeybee colonies began to disappear. Hive afflictions are not uncommon, but colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a puzzling phenomenon because the worker bees vanish, leaving behind a queen, brood, and food stores that are not immediately robbed by other bees.
According to a recent study, a virus likely triggers the disorder. Researchers caution, however, that there are probably a variety of factors and not a singular cause. Toxins, pesticides, stress, genetic tampering, and other woes of commercial beekeeping are all suspected.
For more about bees and honey, click here to get to our Take Action page.
UPDATE: Check out this bleak assessment of the problem on AlterNet, October 16th.
Posted on Fri, September 28, 2007 by Website Administrator
Tell that to Arkansas:
The Slow Food perspective is that a lifestyle shift is needed — one that involves stopping to smell the basil. Instead of grabbing a burger at a drive-through, and eating on-the-go, we will have more fun and advance sustainability at the same time if we get to know our farmers and buy local food, support local food traditions and heritage agricultural varieties and breeds, and re-establish meals as social events. Ozark Slow Food wants to both celebrate and promote local food and good eating.
The Fayetteville Free Weekly goes on to say…
The Slow Food movement reached Northwest Arkansas before the name did. Although some people still believe that fruit and vegetable production departed this region many years ago, today a dozen farmers' markets are operating in NWA. And the number of markets, growers, and shoppers continues to rise. Increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables comes at the right time. Concerns about obesity among all age groups in Arkansas is encouraging more people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and none are better than those eaten fresh from local farms.
And local chefs and food lovers are in on it too:
One of those chefs is Vince Pianalto. "I have always been a fan of the Slow Food movement as long as I have been in the foodservice business," Pianalto said. "I was bolstered by the attendance at the first Slow Food event at my bakery in June, but never imagined the response. I expected around 50 people when over 130 arrived. Wow! Northwest Arkansas is obviously ready for a chapter of Slow Food."
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.