What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
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 Fri, October 26, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
This past weekend, Slow Food USA Executive Director Erika Lesser traveled to Bozeman Montana to give a keynote address at the Northern Rockies Satellite Bioneers conference.
The cornerstone of the main Bioneers conference which is held in San Rafael, CA, is an impressive lineup of plenary speakers who address issues of environmental sustainability and offer "practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities." These speakers are leaders and visionaries (MacArthur genius fellows, you know the type: very inspiring people!) and they are beamed via satellite to locations around the country, where local sustainability conferences are organized around them.
One of the largest of these satellite conferences is hosted by BORN in Bozeman, and their theme this year was food. In and around their conversations about the local food system (and other sustainability issues), were a few live keynote speakers, including Erika. The other keynote speaker of the weekend was Dan Imhoff, whom you may know as the author of the excellent "Food Fight," his comprehensive tome on the Farm Bill.
Satellite plenary highlights included Paul Anastas, the "Father of Green Chemistry," New York City's own Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, and Winona LaDuke of White Earth Land Recovery Project discussing the Slow Food Presidia product Manoomin Wild rice.
Bozeman is beautiful, and the community there is full of conservationists and local food enthusiasts, including our small but lovely Slow Food Montana convivium (who know how to throw a mean potluck). Erika's talk was a wonderful chance to reach a new, extremely receptive audience, and to meet slow friends out in big sky country.
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 Mon, October 15, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Grist magazine, if you haven't checked it out already, is a constant source of excellent writing, especially when it comes to food and agriculture. In the past week, they've produced a great piece by our own Slow Food leader and blog contributor Chef Kurt Friese, as well as an interview of Slow Food advisory board member Michael Pollan, by Grist man-in-the-field (literally) Tom Philpott.
Philpott has been doing a wonderful series on Iowa, examining the locus of all of our corn production (has this been the Year of the Corn? I think it has, thanks to Pollan, Philpott, and "King Corn"), and Kurt's article is a great contribution from the chef's perspective–what is it like to create a sustainable food community in big industrial corn country?
Posted on Fri, October 12, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Getting farm fresh fruits and vegetables to families in urban food deserts is no easy feat. It requires creative thinking, and usually a whole lot of gumption and perseverance from a few dedicated people. Last fall, on book tour with Carlo Petrini, a few of us saw first hand the farmers' markets that the Kaiser Center for Health Research has set up at their clinics, near Portland OR. Innovative, creative solution and great messaging: these foods= good health, so why not buy them while you're at a HEALTH clinic?
Yesterday marked the official launch of another creative solution many, many miles away from Portland, right here in NYC. Harvest Time in Harlem is one of over 30 Slow Food in Schools programs around the country (and run by National Office staff member Yuri Asano, who is pictured below in the white chef's jacket). After several years of terrific educational programming, they have–with the sponsorship of Slow Food NYC and the support of Go Green East Harlem– added a once-weekly farmers' market run by students. The market operates from 2-5 pm, the hours that parents pick their children up from school. Once again: innovative and effective, and great learning opportunity. The students are learning about marketing and economics, while also making sure that fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables are making it into their own family kitchens.
For more about The Children's Storefront School where Harvest Time in Harlem takes place, click here.
Posted on Thu, October 11, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Samantha Taylor
As the weather (at last!) turns cool and the isle Manhattan forms a thick layer of sepia crunch beneath the feet of foodies eager to shift their palates to hearty fall fare, we uncover a NYC gastro-visionary taking seasonality to drastic (if not garish) heights.
Park Avenue _______, a restaurant whose very name depends upon the season, is so serious about capturing the essence of each that it self-destructs four times a year to completely redesign—from wallpaper to server's outfits. By doing this the owners hope to embrace fully the seasonal climate of their star ingredients. Half way through its cycle, Park Avenue (Autumn) has recently transitioned from its canary yellow summer sheen to a majestic blend of brown leather and gold. Come white winter, the word wonderland (apparently) won't even be the half of it.
And while the effort speaks to a growing desire to keep your mind where your mouth is—I can't help but wonder about the ever-thinning line between culinary activism and trend capitalism. Is Park Avenue's chameleon eatery is just another fad to fade with the seasons (pun intended)? Would the funds be better spent sourcing that flawless autumn harvest from a local farm, than placing it against a lavish harvest background? Easier to play devil's advocate now before I've had the chance to-sample the pomegranate pumpkin-crusted venison which, for the record, sounds like it could be a deal breaker.
For an explanation of the restaurant, click here to see New York magazine's article.
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 Mon, October 08, 2007 by Website Administrator
As my attention is drawn to them, I'll make sure to post links to local convivium Slow Food blogs here. The latest I've come across is for Southeast Michigan (that's the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, for the geographically challenged folks out there).
Here's a glimpse of their most recent post.
I usually begin my Saturdays with a bike ride to meet friends for coffee, but sometimes I like to head first to the Royal Oak Farmers' Market, where the variety and quality of produce this time of year is just breathtaking.
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.
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.