What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, May 14, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Marin County Oyster Farmer at Crossroads with National Park Service
A major debate is bubbling up in Drakes Bay in Marin County, Calif., testing the ideals of sustainable farmers, ranchers, fishers and foragers leasing Federal lands for their operations, especially when those lands are set aside for conservation.
Kevin Lunny, a local rancher, purchased his oyster farm Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2005. As part of his purchase he received a special-use permit from the California Coastal Commission. Since the Lunnys began to manage it, Drake Bay Oyster Company has focused on sustainable aquaculture methods for Pacific oysters. They have also collaborated with researchers, planning the recovery of Olympia oysters, purple-fringed scallops, and snowy plovers. Lunny Farms also raises certified organic, pasture-fed cattle on the land surrounding the Drake Estero. Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been honored by the National Park Service itself, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Society for Range Management for its sustainability initiatives.
Nevertheless, the Park Service has for the last two years taken actions to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2012, when its lease expires, to officially designate the area as wilderness. But Park Service judgment was recently called into question when a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel released a report finding the federal government lacked scientific evidence to back assertions the company is harming the waters or wildlife of Drakes Estero. In fact, in a breech of scientific integrity, Park technicians fabricated data on marine mammal disturbances in an attempt to evict the oyster company from Point Reyes National Seashore. Sen. Dianne Feinstein supported efforts to allow Drakes Bay Oyster Company to continue operating by recently sending a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
As Gary Nabhan, RAFT co-founder and a University of Arizona scientist states, We are at a critical moment in this controversy and need reconciliation not further conflict. National Park Service regional director Jon Jarvis has the opportunity to demonstrate his leadership position in driving collaboration between farmers, ranchers, fishers and foragers and conservationists to ensure sustainable food production that reduces our carbon footprint and is not pitted against conservation.
Leaders in sustainable agriculture are getting on board to help mediate the situation between the National Park Service and Drakes Bay Oyster Company. However, were interested in your thoughts about this debate. What are the challenges to developing a symbiotic relationship between sustainable farmers and conversationists? Legislative challenges? Perceptual challenges? What level of scientific integrity and collaboration should we expect from the Park Service? How would you resolve this specific situation?
Posted on Wed, February 25, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Gabrielle Redner
We may all be wondering what goes on inside the White House kitchen on a daily basis, but it is not every night that we get to peek inside. Yesterday, newspaper readers, blog addicts, and radio listeners across the country got a mouthwatering sneak-peak into the Obamas’ first state dinner, thanks to the slew of reporters invited into the kitchen by First Lady Michelle Obama. Here is the menu that is largely locally sourced (and built on American Relationships, in the words of Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford) for all you hungry and curious readers. Nota bene, the main course features a Slow Food USA Ark of Taste food, the Nantucket [Bay] Scallop!
Posted on Wed, January 07, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA staffer Patrick Keeler
Good Luck, and Good Fishin’
Those were the words of Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin on opening day of salmon fishing season in June of 2007 to the communities along the Nushagak river and the headwaters of Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska. These waters represent the largest wild salmon runs in the world, where over 60 million red sockeye salmon return each season from a single spawning event. Last night a few of us from the Slow Food USA office went to a screening of the new film “Red Gold”, which documents these shimmering fish, their fragile place in the food chain, and the livelihoods of the indigenous and small family fisher communities that depend on this resource.
The wild salmon industry represents over $300 million dollars of Alaskas economy annually, and the sport fishing industry $60 million. However, both the ecosystem and economy of this region are at risk due to a mining company’s proposed excavation of the largest copper (and gold) deposits in North America, and the second largest of its kind in the world worth an estimated $345-500 billion. In territory prone to earthquakes, the company (Pebble Mine) will need to build a toxic runoff catchment dam (FYI, the EPA ranks open pit mining the most polluting industry in the nation); the proposed dam would be larger than the controversial Three Gorges Dam in China! All of this is possible because the land in question is state-owned.
“Red Gold” is a cinematographically beautiful, and emotionally moving film that presents the natural beauty of this relatively untouched landscape, and the peoples that survive and make their livings off the land, rather than approaching it as community protest. Were to fall in love with the natural world here first, in order to realize how precious a resource this would be to squander on a few years return on metal.
Posted on Sat, November 01, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Jennifer M. Hall
There was no shortage of story displayed around the room, but as you would hope, the best story was on the plate…plate after plate of Salmon Nation. Al Kowitz, who explained that he went to culinary school (at an age when most are looking to retire!) to learn to cook with local foods, without a doubt taught more than he took away. Yes, he has a better handle on the mechanics now. But what he shared with his peers and instructors about the names, the names behind the names and the flavors of local foods was unparalleled.
Equipped with history as a farmer, Washington State University Extension specialist and doctorate in Communications, Al offered those he touched at Spokane Community College a new relationship with food daily. Not only did he serve ozette potatoes in his graduation menu, he grew them. He was the first student to break stride with the rules and personally source most of his meal. Al made a place at the table for tradition, indigenous culture and creative spirit (see how he plated his courses to match pieces of art).
Posted on Tue, September 16, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Leigh Belanger, Chefs Collaborative
For everyone trying to purchase, prepare, and eat good clean and fair food, navigating the ocean waters can be a tricky proposition. Wild fish populations are crashing, farmed fish is all kinds of controversial—and all the while, demand for seafood is on the rise.
At Chefs Collaborative, the national network of chefs and culinary professional working on sustainable food issues, we think about seafood all the time. How can chefs work with other members of the seafood industry and the conservation community to push for more sustainability when it comes to seafood?
At Changemakers Day during Slow Food Nation, Chefs Collaborative explored these questions. Our panel, Rising Tides, Sinking Catch, looked at ways that fishermen, purveyors, and chefs—all groups with a commercial stake in the oceans—can work together to support responsible fishing practices and build markets for sustainable seafood.
Panelists Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild, Paul Johnson of Monterey Fish, and Joe McGarry of the Bon Appetit Management Company each shared with the roomful of chefs, sustainable seafood advocates, fishermen and women, and curious consumers the ways their respective businesses approach responsible practices.
The highlights? Starks is building a market for pink salmon, a lesser-known, under-utilized salmon species that, if marketed and cared for properly, he hopes will take pressure off of prized species like sockeye and coho—and give Starks’ small-scale reef-net fishing cooperative an income boost at the same time.
Johnson, seafood purveyor to top Bay Area restaurants, talked about the industrialization of the fishing industry as the number-one threat to maintaining sustainable seafood populations and healthy marine ecology. Johnson urged the crowd to support small-scale fishermen using responsible practices.
McGarry, an executive chef for the Bon Appetit Management Company, talked about how seafood fits in to the company’s Low Carbon Diet. By focusing on lower-down-the-food-chain species like mussels, clams, and sardines—and taking shrimp off the menu altogether—McGarry and BAMCO are demonstrating how to put sustainable ideals into everyday practice.
Each panelist had a unique perspective, but their presentations had a couple of ideas in common. The work of promoting and supporting sustainable practices in the fishing and seafood industries is never done. And it’s based on two main things—whether you’re a chef, fisherman, purveyor, or consumer: education and relationships. In the pursuit of good, clean, and fair food, we need to be aware of the issues—and we need each other.
Posted on Tue, June 24, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
As we've discussed on this blog many times before, seafood stocks around the world are in trouble for a host of reasons, including overfishing, pollution, etc. Oftentimes chefs, consumers, and home cooks want to do the right thing, but don't know how.
Chefs Collaborative is a member-based organization that works collectively to support the use of high quality, delicious, local foods on our nation's tables. They provide essential resources for chefs who care deeply about having a sustainable food system, and provide educational resources for them, such as the just-released Seafood Solutions: A Chef's Guide to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood.
The great news: it's free, downloadable from their website.
(In addition, please note that Chef's Collaborative is a founding partner in the Renewing America's Food Traditions collaborative, which seeks to document and restore America's most endangered foods.)
Posted on Mon, March 17, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Scientists are scratching their heads over the mysterious dropoff of fall run Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River. Things are so bad that a federal advisory panel is looking at putting a complete ban on California salmon fishing.
There are several possible environmental factors that may be to blame; ultimately it's evidence that our oceans are a complicated ecological web, and that mismanaging a river (one possible cause), or building diversion dams (another possible factor) can have serious effects, sometimes several years later.
March 18th addition: Sea lions pay the price for human foul-ups. Now greenlight has been given to killing sea lions in order to protect the few remaining salmon.
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 Wed, January 30, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
We've noticed a trend lately, and one that we're pretty pleased with: food and ag stories are creeping out of the food sections and onto the front page, into the business section, etc. A quick look at the New York Times in recent weeks provides an interesting case study:
Last week we blogged about Marion Burros' tuna sushi/mercury story which was front page (if below the fold). The week before that had an article on the cover of the business section about how our tax dollars are going towards paying industrial meat farmers to deal with their waste lagoons. Then, this past weekend, cookbook author Mark Bittman had a Week in Review story on industrially farmed meat and its rise as a global commodity.
Please let us know if you're seeing the same thing–we'd love more examples.
Posted on Wed, January 23, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Yes, tuna troubles–but for whom? For a few years now, conservation groups have been sounding the alarum bell about the collapse of bluefin tuna populations. The increasing demand for the beautiful reddish pink flesh of raw tuna in sushi bars around the world (but most notably in Japan and the U.S.) has severely depleted tuna stocks to the point that last August, the U.S. called for a complete ban on bluefin tuna fishing.
You wouldn't know it, of course, to go into any high end sushi bar; front and center you'll always find large slabs of the shiny raw fish. Restaurants seem to have no problem flagrantly defying the cries of the E.U., the U.S. government, and conservation groups.
A report on the front page of the New York Times today reveals there might finally be something to curb people's appetite for the bluefin–their own personal safety. A survey of several of NYC's sushi restaurants (most of them quite high end) revealed unhealthily high levels of mercury in the fish, above the FDA's "action level" (which means they could have cause to pull the dangerous food off the market).
As of right now the article is the number one most-emailed article on the Times' website. Are diners finally ready to cut out tuna? Will the bluefin's high mercury levels be the thing that saves it from extinction? Perhaps the "tuna troubles" no longer belong to the tuna, but to the eater.
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.