What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Mon, November 19, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
If you would like to support the small grower (yes, please), and voice your frustration with legislation that seems to miss the point (yup, count me in), please consider registering your comments on a mandatory leafy green Marketing Order with the USDA.
Background: over a year ago, news of E-coli- infected spinach rocked the nation. For those of us who favor small-scale local agriculture, it affirmed our beliefs and practices, and renewed, perhaps, our commitment to support small growers. In response to the outbreaks, the state of California passed voluntary growing standards for leafy greens. While these were intended to protect consumers, they were a response to the problems of big-ag that put small ag's head in a vise.
While this is for right now a California issue, California may just be the template for naionwide legislation. CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) has been fighting this issue both in-state and on the national level (thanks to them, Senator Feinstein withdrew a proposed amendment to the Farm Bill), and is leading the call for comments.
For CAFF's September press release, click here.
For CAFF's Judith Redmond's Op-Ed in the Sacramento Bee, click here.
For more information on this issue, click here.
For more information on the Federal Marketing Agreement, click here.
To register your comments with the USDA, click here.
Posted on Fri, November 16, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Ever looked at a market like San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Market and wondered: how did this get here? What did it take to bring this to fruition? All over the country farmers markets and other food markets are popping up. Robert LaValva, former Slow Food USA National Office staff member, has been working for nearly two years now to establish a permanent , public and sustainable market at New York City's South Street Seaport, called the New Amsterdam Market. Robert spoke with us about his process, and shared some of the challenges he has faced.
Q: Can you describe for us your vision for the market?
RL: The vision is to create an indoor permanent public market where all the vendors are people who are sourcing sustainably produced food from the region (500 miles from New York City). Our premise is that bringing together purveyors who represent farmers, will help jumpstart or create a new wave of sustainable food production. There are many interconnections that these purveyors can make—if you have a butcher and a greengrocer and a cheesemonger in the market, they can band together, bringing food down to the area on one truck. As a result, they will realize efficiencies. Farmers' markets were the beginning of this return to regional food and are one component of such a food system. Next there were chefs sourcing from local people, and now—the third wave—shops sourcing locally.
Q: How long have you been working on this project?
RL: I've been thinking about it ever since I started working for Slow Food USA 5 years ago. I saw an emerging need and Slow Food was definitely instrumental in helping shape my feelings about all this. In earnest, I began working on it in 2005, about a year and a half ago. I produced a Slow Food event called Urban Harvest and called it New Amsterdam Market —that was a test run of the idea. I put it in a magnificent civic setting: the vaulted arcade of the New York City Municipal Building, a Beaux Arts masterpiece. It was done in tribute to sustainable, regional food, and the people who grow and produce it, and those who cook and sell it - it's a broken system, and these are all real pioneers in its recovery. After that, I needed to think more thoroughly about what this market would be and think about the site that made the most sense. I began working with a friend - Jill Slater - giving a lot of thought to what the challenges would be and selecting the site of the Seaport, specifically the Fulton Fish Market, and creating a non profit – New Amsterdam Public.
Q: Where are you in the process now?
RL: We are at a stage where we have discussed the project with all of the stakeholders of the neighborhood—local community groups concerned with what will happen to the neighborhood, up to the elected officials and leaders in the sustainable food movement, and also various civic minded groups. Our main interest and concern over the past year was to walk all the political and elected representatives through these ideas. Knowing how NYC works, oftentimes people have great ideas but haven't garnered the proper support from that level, so ideas can't move forward. Now we are going forward to gather public momentum, One thing I've learned studying public markets is that they don't happen on their own, there has to be a public demand for them. Our next step is a one-day event at the Seaport in front of one of the old fish market buildings that we think should be a venue, bringing together purveyors from all parts of the city, and for one day giving the sense of what this market could or would be like. Besides creating a great event, we will be using it as a showcase for this vision.
Q: Does the city own the space?
RL: All the buildings along Fulton street and the pier holding up the shopping mall are owned by the city, but they are on a long term lease to a suburban real estate developer whose business model is to fill them as much as possible with chain stores. Our belief is that the empty fish market buildings were built to be markets, and the Seaport District hosted a constant succession of public markets since 1642 - which by all measures is a pretty long time! These markets have evolved and change according to the needs of their day. Just because the Fulton Fish Market outgrew its space doesn't mean that should be the end of markets in that neighborhood - which is a true public market district. It's just a matter of a new kind of market coming in. We feel it's the most appropriate use of that property. We want the city to understand that in this case it's a continuation of its original use.
Q: There are so many places in the country where public market buildings have been shuttered as public markets and are now turned into to condos, retail shops, etc. Cannery Row, as one example–do you know of any others? Is there a precedent for this kind of marketplace in NYC? In the country?
RL: The precedent I tend to cite is from London, where there is a market called Borough Market, because it has many similarities to what we're trying to do. It was a 200 year-old wholesale produce market (in its latest incarnation)—south of the Thames but in the heart of old London. About 10-15 years ago a lot of the wholesale traders and sellers had left so the stalls had begun to empty out. The people who run that market felt they didn't want it to die down and disappear so they began holding food festival events there. Those events grew in size and became more and more frequent and eventually transformed it into a new kind of market. It's about building momentum to build the market itself. You don't build it overnight–you have to build momentum, attract future possible purveyors, look for farms and suppliers we want to work with, etc. We are learning what is needed and what is problematic, and how to deal with those issues in an organic fashion that will lead to a solid foundation for the market itself.
Q: What have been the greatest challenges?
RL: Our greatest challenge is this: the Seaport has been a neighborhood in search of itself since it was first created as a public resource in the 1960's. Its buildings and streets are the last remnant of maritime 19th century New York. Everything was being torn down, and this little fragment was saved because it was a vital component of the city's history—the shipping history that made NYC what it is. Public markets are just as much a part of the Seaport's history as wooden ships. We believe we have a very good, viable, and appropriate vision for the Seaport—appropriate to the history, appropriate to what people are looking for in food now, and appropriate in being an incubator for small businesses for whom it has become harder and harder to survive. In the same way that farmers' markets helped save farms, we would like to save traditional professions like butchering. Our challenge is that we would like the City of New York to appreciate this vision for what it can do for New Yorkers and region, how it will provide real economic development which is never achieved via a "bottom line first" viewpoint. New York as a major world city should have something like this—there are much smaller cities that have fantastic public markets. We should have a market befitting our size and stature and if the city wants to be a leader in sustainability, this would be a logical choice.
If you are in the NYC area, please join Robert and Jill at their Wintermarket event on Sunday December 16th. For more information, see http://www.newamsterdampublic.org<./p>
Posted on Fri, November 16, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Samantha Taylor
With plans for this gastronome's favorite holiday beckoning just around the corner like an intimidating heap of rich, succulent and often stress-inducing delicacies, I am truly thankful for what the holiday is really about: the food. All uncomfortably inebriated family members, bland green-bean casseroles and football distractions aside, Turkey Day is a chance to gorge ourselves on a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of every comfort food Americans are proud to call their own, and if there is a way to feast free of the stress, guilt and anxiety typically served alongside, while keeping it slow, by golly I'll find it.
With that in mind, here are some tips for extracting all of the convivial wonder at the heart of the meal and none of the trimmings:
1. Shop Early, Sleep Easy: Find yourself cursing the solitary bag of cranberries left on the grocery store shelf come Wednesday night? Take advantage of your local weekend farmers' market and load up on the bounty of root vegetables so at home on a Thanksgiving table. Perusing the stands and sharing free range turkey-basting secrets is a pleasant (and conscientious) substitution for the chaos of the supermarket.
2. Ditch the Archetypal Meal: First time playing chef and hostess for the family? Rather than trying to live up to the yams of those who've come before you, manipulate the main characters of the meal with surprise combinations and novel cooking methods. Instead of a tart, runny cranberry sauce, try a buttery tart crust filled with cranberries, and a hint of orange zest. Fill your stuffing (the ultimate canvas) with your favorite tids and bits, sausage, chestnuts, apples, whatever strikes your fancy. With innovative sides your guests will be too busy praising your ingenuity to bicker.
3. Don't Fight the Urge to go Potluck: The vast array and magnitude of Thanksgiving classics is too much for almost anyone (save Ms. Stewart) to bear alone. Not to mention, potlucks are a fabulous way for all your near and dears to showcase their mothers' famous fillintheblank. Delegate a food group to each dinner guest, provide the ambiance, some good wine, the turkey, and a choice few accoutrements. Then sit back and let the eclectic meal (served family-style) be filled with quirky childhood memories and the host (that's you) with inner peace.
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 Wed, November 14, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Satish Kumar, advocate for land reform, anti-nuclear activist and editor of Resurgence magazine, spoke to the delegates of the Slow Food International Congress via video feed. He shared the following South African proverb which pretty much sums up the virtues of slow-ness, the virtues of community, and their inextricable link.
'If you wish to go fast – go alone.
If you wish to far – go together.'
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
In the garden, overlooking the ruins of a home for aged Franciscan friars, under white umbrellas and the blazing Poblano sun, we ate tortillas, drank mezcal, and met our neighbors, from the UK, Japan, Italy, Germany, Chile, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico….and on and on. Suddenly, a 70 piece mariachi band, dressed all in white–violoins, guitars, horns–broke into jubilant and beautiful sound. Carlo Petrini, at the center, wearing a sombrero and leading the song.
This was the Slow Food 5th International Congress. From November 8th - November 11th, Slow Food convivium leaders from around the world gathered in Puebla, Mexico to discuss the future of the movement, to meet each other, to share knowledge and passion, ideas and fried grasshoppers.
For more news about the Congress, check out Slow Food International's site, and please use the comments section to share with us all the images that stuck with you most.
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 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 Tue, October 30, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
We are lucky enough to have Poppy Tooker as one of our leaders and one of the vibrant and dynamic faces of Slow Food USA. Poppy, a New Orleanian, is the Chair of Ark of Taste Committee, and in addition to helping select which endangered foods make it onto the "Ark," she is an expert in putting together delicious and educational dinners that incorporate foods from the list into the meal.
On Sunday, October 21st, a crowd of over 50 people came together at the Astor Center, in New York City, to celebrate the Ark of Taste, support the upcoming event Slow Food Nation, and watch Poppy Tooker's pilot television show, "Eat It To Save It."
The menu – lovingly prepared by Culinary Corp alumni chefs – included a plethora of Ark foods from Wild Caught Louisiana Shrimp, Wild Catfish and Pineywoods Cattle to numerous Ark tomatoes, Newtown Pippin Apples and Dry Monterey Jack Cheese.
Guests were treated to a screening of the pilot episode of Poppy's television series, which champions Louisiana food producers and traditions. Before tasting the wild catfish served Joey Fonseca style, attendees got to watch Joey on the screen showing Poppy how to catch and cook this delicious wild fish.
Thanks to all who came out, and here's hoping you get to see Poppy's show on a TV screen near you!
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.