What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Fri, February 22, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
This list in The Chicago Tribune of "Food Movies that Deserve an Oscar," from 2007, got us thinking. With the exception of "Ratatouille," by the way, they're not really food movies, per se. But the mention of food's role in "The Bucket List" — a movie about two guys doing all the things they've dreamed of doing before they kick the bucket–evokes Melanie Dunea's October 2007 book My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals: Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes.
And you? Your last supper? What foods are on your bucket list?
Posted on Wed, February 20, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
"Only in America," points out Slow Food USA staffer Cecily, "is the choice between rent and food turned into an advertising gimmick."
And a question: is just one person meant to eat the two breakfast sandwiches AND the four cinnamon buns? Just checking.
On Sunday, as we all know, the largest beef recall in history. And papers around the country now advising consumers to "Eat local meat." Novel! For a nicely-put Q & A with Michael Pollan via Newsweek.com, click here.
As NYC-based site Gothamist puts it, it is all a moo(t) point–much of the meat had already been eaten. The waste (of recalled meat) is staggering, the videos (and the reality they reflect inside slaughterhouses) are upsetting. Incredulity all around.
Posted on Thu, February 14, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
The commercial/consumption aspects of Valentine's Day are not so slow, and yet, and yet…the "holiday" manages to hold its allure. Expressing love, eating chocolate, sharing a meal with loved one(s)–who could have a problem with that? And so, here goes our V-day round-up:
The New York Times ran an interesting article yesterday about the strain that different dietary proclivities can have on a couple. Even better? The lengthy comment debate unfolding on Serious Eats. If food is an aphrodisiac and my food makes you want to puke, what then?
Also fun to check out: the lineup on Evan Kleiman's radio show last Saturday, featuring The Sex Life of Food; Oysters as Aphodisiacs and a Chocolate Tasting. Click here to get to the show and have a listen. The FDA claims that aphrodisiacs are "folklore, " btw. But if the show leaves you in the mood for oysters and you don't believe the FDA, check out the Delaware Bay oyster (among others) on our Ark of Taste.
For some advice on "romantic cocktailing," check out the Wall Street Journal.
For a review of eco-chocolates, go to Grist.
And for those of you not feeling the love today, please consider some hearty winter BBQ and final parting words of wisdom that arrived to one of our staffers via email today:
Nothing says "I don't need a man" like pork belly and vinegary sauce.
Posted on Fri, December 28, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Calling all filmmakers!
The Media that Matters film festival– a program of short films that seek to engage viewers and "inspire them to action" — is seeking submissions. This annual festival begins with a launch in June that is followed by a year of screenings, DVD distribution, online viewing and national outreach. In 2006 they began doing FOCUS programs, including one on food politics called Media that Matters: Good Food. The shorts from the last edition are terrific, and this coming year, your food film could be in the mix.
The eighth annual Media that Matters Film Festival submission deadline is January 11, 2008. Details here.
Update: Extended Deadline announced by Media That Matters. "For those unable to make the January 11th deadline, the extended postmark deadline is January 18th. This is open to everyone, however the fee does increase by $5. To avoid the rush and the fee, get your films to us as soon as possible."
Next up after that is the official launch (after several trial years in Bra) of Slow Food on Film– "an international festival of cinema and food" to be held in Bologna from May 7 - 11, 2008. They are looking for shorts, docs, features and TV shows. The submission deadlines for entries is March 15, 2008–details can be found here.
Posted on Fri, November 23, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Roger Repohl keeps bees in The Genesis Community Garden in The Bronx, NY. His bees make a mighty good honey, PLUS, he gives funny and wonderful talks about bees and beekeeping. He can now add movie reviewer to his list of talents.
SEINFELD'S WORLD OF DRONES
by Roger Repohl
Here, take this little True/False quiz on honeybees. See if you know more about them than Jerry Seinfeld does.
1. Honeybees have yellow bodies with black stripes.
2. Male bees have stingers.
3. Male bees go out to gather nectar from flowers and are the principal workforce inside the hive.
4. Worker bees select one job in the hive when they are young and do it for the rest of their lives.
5. All the bees in a colony are cousins.
6. Bees have no use for pollen themselves but suck it up and spray it over flowers because they somehow know pollination is important for the ecology.
7. If a colony of bees has enough honey to meet their needs, they will stop working.
8. Beekeepers enslave the bees for their own profit. Their slogan is, "They make the honey, and we make the money."
9. Beekeepers use smoke to suffocate the bees.
10. Many people are petrified of bees.
Here are the answers:
1. False. Honeybees have brown bodies with black stripes. The yellow-and-black insects are yellowjackets, the wasps that go after your picnic and give honeybees a bad name.
2. False. Only female bees have stingers. The male bee's similar organ is for sex.
3. False. Male bees, appropriately named drones, do nothing at all except to fly out to look for and mate with a virgin queen (and to die in the process). The rest of the time, they lounge around inside the hive, being fed and cared for by the females, who outnumber them about 200 to 1. In the fall, the females push them all outside, where they starve to death.
4. False. Worker bees, all sterile females, perform many different tasks in the hive, depending on their age. They spend the last half of their six-week lives as foragers, gathering nectar and pollen from flowering plants.
5. False. All the bees in a colony are sisters and brothers, the offspring of the queen bee.
6. False. Bees bring back pollen to the hive and convert it into "bee bread," their source of protein. Honey is their carbohydrate. They eat nothing else besides these two foods.
7. False. As long as there are enough flowers, enough workers, and enough room in the hive, bees will continue to make honey, even though it's too much for them to use. This is why beekeepers can take the surplus honey without depriving the bees.
8. False. Unlike cows, bees cannot be domesticated or trained; they will do whatever they want. The best that beekeepers can do is give them a decent home and fields of flowers and hope they'll stick around.
9. False. Smoke calms the bees and when used in moderation will not harm them.
10. True. One tiny insect, especially in a car, will turn many people frenetic.
How did you do? Better than Seinfeld, I'm sure. Each of the above questions is based on scenes from his DreamWorks animated feature, Bee Movie. Only the last one is true, and his depictions of bee paranoia are uproariously accurate.
As a beekeeper who often gives talks to both adults and children, I wonder if there's something bad about dishing out all this misinformation. I'm mostly glad this movie's out there, since nothing makes a person realize the truth better than unmasking the lies. And after all, it's just a cartoon. If you can make bees speak English, why can't you make bee colonies look like the male-dominated American society of, say, 1967?
That's what this movie does. As you probably already know, having seen it yourself, heard the reviews, or read the McDonald's promotional packaging, it's a fly-weight Bildungsroman starring Seinfeld as The Graduate. Returning from Bee College on the other side of the hive and smartly dressed in black and yellow ("My sweater is Ralph Lauren, and I wear no pants") (see fallacy #1 above), Barry B. (for Benjamin?) Benson is pressured by his "parents" (fallacy #5) to get a job (fallacy #3), not in plastics but in honey, the only industry in this company town. Dreading the thought of spending the rest of his life doing a single task (fallacy #4), he sneaks out to accompany the macho Pollen Jocks air squadron (#3 again) on their flight to vacuum up nectar and spew around pollen from the flowers in Central Park (fallacy #6, except that there actually are flowers in Central Park).
Separated from his unit and after brushes with death by tennis ball and windshield wiper, he finds himself in a flower shop and is saved from the swatter by the human owner, cartoon-comely Vanessa Bloom (no relation to Molly), voiced by Renee Zellweger. He does exhibit the drone's drive to mate, but since the PG rating would be jeopardized and he doesn't have the right fixtures anyway (fallacy #2), they settle for a platonically passionate relationship, giving new meaning to a woman's cry, "You insect, you!" It's a pity there's no Mrs. Robinson, but there is a funny remake of the swimming pool scene.
The last half of the movie turns Marxist. Beekeepers are portrayed as capitalist exploiters of the apian working class (fallacies #8 and #9). Barry courageously takes the human race to human court and wins. All commercial honey is returned to the bees, who then grow so lazy by the surfeit that they quit working (fallacy #7), creating a pollination crisis that is solved by . . . well, you gotta see the rest for yourself.
Or else just forget about it. Like Seinfeld used to say about his TV series, Bee Movie is a show about nothing. Despite all the save-the-pollinators advertising (including a pre-movie plug by a chief exploiter, bushy-bearded Burt of Burt's Bees), it has little to do with either nature or human nature. It's clever and often funny, though you may find yourself wishing Jerry would ditch the bee costume — his face has always been at least as entertaining as his lines.
For millennia, at least as far back as the Roman poet Virgil, humans have looked to honeybee society as a model, utopian or dystopian, for their own. More interesting than Seinfeld's drone-world would be a feminist treatment reflecting the actual world of the hive.
My mind is reeling. Imagine the queen bee in an asbestos pants-suit.
Posted on Thu, November 01, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
The University Of California at Berkeley's online library has curated a rather amazing and comprehensive list of movies about food. Not the fluffy fiction stuff ("Babette's Feast," "Like Water for Chocolate," etc.), but the non-fiction, documentary pieces that look at the underbelly–often the dark underbelly– of food and the food industry. The list runs the gamut from well-known favorites like Morgan Spurlock's "Supersize Me," to the documentary, "Bullshit," about Vandana Shiva and her battles against Monsanto, to footage of Julia Child on Nova in 1988 making "fast food" from scratch.
There are many online video interviews, and several recordings of Michael Pollan's recent public talks on the Berkeley Campus. Several pieces can be viewed right there on the site, with Real Time Player. It's a list you won't find anywhere else and is sure to have movies on there you've never heard about but wish you had.
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 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 Thu, October 04, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
"Deconstructing Dinner" is a Canadian radio show that metaphorically roots through your trash and examines your meal scraps.
As they explain:
"[Our present] lifestyle of convenience leaves very little time to reflect on the history behind the food we purchase and the impact these purchases have on ourselves, communities, and the well-being of this planet."
With that mission in mind, they cover everything from the ethics of food marketing, to corporate vs. personal responsibility. The show is broadcast throughout Canada and available for us here in the US via their website.
Posted on Wed, September 26, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
In the 2 years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Slow Food leader/enthusiast/activist Poppy Tooker has been fighting hard to revive New Orleans food communities. One such community is the East New Orleans Vietnamese community, that is home to an outstanding farmers' market that is held at the crack of dawn every Saturday morning. Instrumental in the rebuilding of this market has been Father Vien thé Nguyen, who is the pastor of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church there.
In April of 2007, at a Vietnamese brunch, Poppy presented the church with $5,000 from Slow Food USA's Terra Madre Relief Fund, to go towards rebuilding the market and community garden there. Click here to watch a short video of the brunch, which includes some great footage of delicious, homemade Vietnamese food.
Also interesting: from the Southern Foodways Alliance website, an interview with Peter Nguyen, the manager of the community garden and farmers' market.
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.