What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
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 Tue, October 27, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Tomorrow night, “The Botany of Desire” airs on PBS(check your local listing for channel and airtime). In anticipation of this, we partnered with the producers of the film to put on an heirloom apple scavenger hunt, and are today announcing our 9 winners. Those who entered were asked to take photos of as many heirloom/heritage apple varieties as they could, including the farm or farmer where the apples were located, and send us their list of apple varieties, their photos, and a recipe for something they made with one or more kind of apple. What a way to celebrate apple season and the work being done by Renewing Americas Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance to identify rare apple varieties, coordinate regional forgotten fruit workshops and compile resources on apple diversity!
For a review of “The Botany of Desire,” check out Paula Crossfield’s post over on Civil Eats.
And for beautiful apple photos and some terrific apple recipes form our winners, read on…
Posted on Mon, October 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
What happens when an adventurous mayor of a small town in France decides to introduce local, organic produce into the school cafeteria? I was curious, so I headed off to a screening of Food Beware, which had its NYC debut last week.
Ten minutes into the documentary I was convinced that I was about to sit through a French version of Food, Inc., which hit American theatres this past summer. Fifteen minutes I was proven wrong. The main voices of the documentary are almost exclusively those of the towns residents, lending it a tangible degree of humility and the personal which other films in the food-doc genre (Food, Inc. included) are missing, in my opinion.
The film is shot predominantly in the idyllic town of Barjac in the Languedoc-Rousillon region (NE of Avignon) in Southern France. The progressive mayor, along with the school districts central kitchen chef, embarks on an experiment to shift the districts school food to an entirely organic menu. The result is that the kids love it. But, the parents love it too, and the local farmers, and a few local business owners, and You can see where Im going with this: there is a ripple-effect throughout the towns families and economy. Even the local Meals-On-Wheels program is overhauled.
Aside from the school experiment, upon which the film centers half of its attention, the other focus is on the farmers and citizens who call the Languedoc their home. The region is bread basket and wine country. We see the stark difference between the soil tilth of an organic vineyard with that of the scorched and eroded landscape of a neighboring one. We see farmers gearing up and riding through their orchards to spray toxic chemicals. Underscoring these scenes are conversations with the peach farmer who becomes sick from his use of pesticides and whose own children suffer from genital deformation, and a mother of a child who died of leukemia, whos doctors can only explain was caused by environmental factors.
Posted on Wed, October 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Setting the scene: young woman and her beau dining out. Later, woman dies of unknown poisoning. Suspect: boyfriend - until its discovered that she contracted an über-deadly new strain of e-coli. Did it come from the restaurant? No! the chef explains, bitterly. She runs a tight ship: it had to have come in from the fields.
Sound like the latest in a string of headlines? Nope, its the story line from the most recent episode of CSI: Miami titled Bad Seed. Yes, Im a sucker for cheesy crime shows, David Caruso one-liners and overt Miami sexiness. I never thought Id see overlap between my own passions and day job, with the CSI franchise, but its telling, I think, of how our movement has managed to get our messages across to the wider American audience. Baby weve made it to primetime! In a way.
Warning: If youre intending to watch the episode Im totally going to give away the ending here!
How so? The episode was complete with shots of corn and tomato monocrops and undocumented farmworkers who work for one of many organic growers contracted by a mega-firm known as Dickson Organics. It just so happens that one of these farmers has an irrigation well where the e-coli contamination seemed to originate from, which of course lies just downhill from a huge cattle compound.
Case closed, right? Fine the farmer for negligent homicide? Well, in another plot twist, the original victims boyfriend has himself suffered from a poisoning, leaving him brain-dead and paralyzed. Turns out that this farmer has become the victim of drift from his neighbors, and water contamination from another, as he explains to the CSI team. Dickson Organics is going after his land and livelihood because they discovered genetic markers from their patented corn on his land.
In an effort to support this farmers fight against a likely lawsuit, the CSI team tracks down the GMO corn genetics. What they find is a bacterial gene has been fixed to the corn in order to better break down cellulose, and in turn allows people to more easily digest corn products. A seemingly beneficial quality of GMO corn, yeah? Except the bacteria is directly related to the bacterial strain that causes botulism and paralysis and the Dickson Organics CEO knew about it.
Posted on Tue, October 20, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by intern Shanti Prasad
Posted on Mon, September 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Win a DVD of the upcoming film The Botany of Desire! Apple season is here, orchards are producing their first fruits, and the Renewing Americas Food Traditions Alliance continues its work identifying rare apple varieties, coordinating regional “forgotten fruit” workshops and compiling resources on apple diversity.
What can you do? A lot! At the community level, you can find where old orchards still exist, take cuttings from them, learn how to graft those onto rootstock (or find someone who knows how to help), organize apple tastings and celebrate your own local apple culture. Today, we invite you to create your own Heirloom Apple Scavenger Hunt at local farms and orchards, or even at your local farmers market.
Take photos of as many heirloom/heritage/old-timey varieties as you can, including the farm or farmer where you located it. Your own backyard counts! Send us your list of apples, your photos, and a recipe for something you made with one or more kind of apple.
We will enter your name in a drawingTen winners will receive a DVD of the upcoming film The Botany of Desire.” Winners will be announced on Oct. 28, the same day that the movie airs on PBS (8 pm).
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 Fri, August 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Earlier this week, in an interview with 11 year old Damon Weaver (yes, eleven. I was at ballet class at eleven), Barack Obama talked about the importance of getting healthy food into schools.
Then, yesterday, during a conference call on health care with Organizing for America organizers, he continued:
“part of what we also have to do, though, is teach our children early the importance of health…When it comes to food, one of the things that we are doing is working with school districts, and the child nutrition legislation is going to be coming up. We provide an awful lot of school lunches out there and reimburse local school districts for school lunch programs. Let’s figure out, how we can get some fresh fruits and vegetables in the mix?
Because sometimes you go into schools, and you know what the menu is. You know, it’s French fries, tater tots, hot dogs, pizza. Now, that’s what kids—let’s face it. That’s what kids want to eat anyway, so it’s not just the school’s fault. A, that’s what kids may want to eat. B, it turns out that that food’s a lot cheaper because of the distributions that we’ve set up.
And so what we’ve got to do is to change how we think about, for example, getting local farmers connected to school districts, because that would benefit the farmers, delivering fresh produce, but right now they just don’t have the distribution mechanisms set up.”
Anyone else’s head spinning?
Now we all know that just because Barack and Michelle are on board, it doesn’t equal a better Child Nutrition Act and a reformed Farm Bill, BUT, I think we are guaranteed an interesting conversation when the Child Nutrition Act does finally make it to the floor.
Posted on Mon, July 27, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA Biodiversity Intern Regina Fitzsimmons
Navajo-Churro sheep have sustained the Dine, Pueblo and Hispanic communities of the Southwest for over 400 years. In the late 1500s, Spanish explorers docked their boats on the Mexican/Texan coast and ventured into the Sonoran and Mojave deserts of the Southwest United States with flocks of sheep, brought from Spain.
Under the watchful, guiding eye of the native Dine and Pueblo people, the sheep adapted well to the semi-arid mesas and pinyon-juniper woodlands of the Colorado Plateau and desert canyons.
These sheep were valuable for their pelts, two distinct types of fiber, meat, milk, horns and wool. But despite their extraordinary value, they suffered two near-extinctions. The first came in 1863 when the Dine people were declared enemies of the United States. United States troops burned their crops and peach trees and slaughtered nearly all of the Churro sheep. A few clans escaped and small sheep populations survived. Several decades later, the Churro population made a comeback only to be pillaged again in the Dirty Thirties when stock-reductions of all grazing animals were ordered by the U.S. government (as a way of lessening ground exposure after grazing) in an effort to prevent more dust from billowing into blackening skies. By the 1970s, there were approximately 400 Churro sheep left, counted by a veterinarian on the reservation. Other sheep existed, but were scattered around the U.S. and not always identified for what they were.
Thanks to a loyal group of shepherds like Jay Begay Jr. from Hardrock, Arizona, restoration activists like Dr. Lyle McNeal professor of animal sciences and veterinary medicine at Utah State University, and the help from a few organizations (Navajo Lifeways and the Navajo Churro Sheep Association) these sheep have started making a third comeback. Today there are over 5,000 registered sheep nationally and approximately 3,000 unregistered.
In 2006, the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity recognized the Navajo-Churro Sheep as a breed of distinct cultural and biological importance and launched a Presidium to help market the meat, thus promoting the economic vitality of Dine shepherding traditions and preserving their rich cultural heritage while simultaneously reviving the breed.
In conjunction with the Presidiuma project of Slow Food Alta Arizonaa film was developed by Peter Blystone and Margaret Chanler over the course of two years. This movie, titled A Gift from Talking God: the Story of the Navajo-Churro, is now available for purchase by calling the Slow Food USA office (718-260-8000) and features Roy Kady, Jay Begay, Jr, Dr. Lyle McNeal, and Dr. Gary Nabhan. They explain the importance and traditions of the Navajo-Churro and speak of their stewardship to the sheep.
Posted on Wed, July 22, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Heidi Busse
Madison, Wisc. When students get to work in a garden, good things happen. An empty lot is transformed into edible fields, students learn job skills that connect them with their agrarian heritage and fresh produce is harvested for the local food pantry.
These are just a few of the benefits that students at Madison East High School are learning and sharing with the community. This summer, Community GroundWorks at Troy Gardens has created an urban farm in partnership with Madison East and the Goodman Community Center. If successful, their goal is to create a new model for high school agriculture education.
When we started [this spring], there was nothing planted here, says Megan Cain, East High Farm Manager. Now this 5-acre plot is a lush vegetable garden, a mosaic of newly tilled vegetable beds. The land was originally donated to the Madison School District in the 1950s by a retiring dairy farmer. The school district built an elementary school on the land, but kept 5 acres of woods and green space to use as a demonstration site for their agriculture program. When I walk the land and see the stands of edible fruit trees and wildflower prairie that stand among the newly planted vegetable beds, I cant help but dwell for a moment on the hard work and dreams that have been put into this place long before the students started farming this summer.
East Highs agriculture program has been eliminated other programs have higher priority and more interest but the district has kept the land as a community gardening site. The pressure to transform the site into something of value weighs heavy, because the district would benefit from the profits of selling the land. So this summer, Community GroundWorks came in to help the district realize the farms educational potential and provide jobs to East High students and Native American youth.
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.