What Is Slow Food > Slow Food USA Blog
Posted on Thu, February 28, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
An article in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal on reducing environmental impact through use of a garbage disposal got us thinking about the various options for managing your organic waste (n.b. you'll need a subscription in order to read the entire article). There are garbage disposals, yes, but also composting. If you've been looking for ways to reduce waste in your household but have felt intimidated by getting started, now's your chance! Today's the day to begin.
Garbage Disposal: The above-mentioned article points out that environmental engineers and local government planners around the world are starting to acknowledge the positive benefits of disposing of organic waste through the water system rather than sending it to the landfill. They even cite a model project in Malmo Sweden that doen't use the sewage system but rather a special organic waste system that turns food into methane, which can then be used to produce power.
Backyard Composting: If it's just yard waste you're looking to manage, you can simply put it in a pile and nature will take its course. If it's food scraps you'd like to compost, you've got to build or buy a structure for it, or critters will show up to make themselves a feast. You can find some helpful instructions here at the City of Davis' website.
Urban Composting: What if you don't have a backyard? Here in NYC, you can bring your food scraps to various farmers' markets. When you have food scraps, put them in plastic bags in your freezer to keep the from decomposing, and when your freezer gets too full, you can bring them to the market, or to other drop-off locations, such as community gardens, ecology centers, urban farms, etc. Another option? Vermiculture–yup, worms. Read more about this here.
Posted on Thu, February 21, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Based on all the emails we got, Slow Food friends from around the country were captivated by the NY Times article about "slow design" a few weeks ago. It was such a hit that the San Francisco Chronicle also ran the story the following week.
It got us thinking about the intersections of Slow Food and design. The definition of "slow design" could extend even further than the Times article suggests.
For example, maybe recyclable cooking ware, as reported in Metroplis mag. You might not think of your plastic colander as sustainable, but if it's made in such a way that it can be recycled along with your empties, maybe it is?
Or how about the work of San Francisco-based design firm Futurefarmers? They are an innovative design collaborative that uses a portion of its profit to fund public projects, many of which explore the world of urban agriculture. Especially exciting, their Victory Gardens pilot project: "The program began as a utopian proposal and has now become a pilot project that supports the transition of backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into food production areas. VG2007+ has the mission to create and support a citywide network of urban farmers by (1) growing, distributing and supporting starter kits for home gardeners, (2) educating through lessons, exhibitions and web sites and (3) starting and maintaining a city seed bank."
Finally, and this time back to the original article: Carolyn Strauss of Slow Lab, who is mentioned in the article, introduced one of her students to us last year and an interesting project was born. Whitney Stewart, then a student at Parsons School of Design, created a "Slow Lunchbox," for Slow Food on Campus students on the go, which she described as "a lunch carrier that is fun and easy to carry in a book bag and also which will hopefully inspire long-term use." Below is the veggie love graphic she designed for the portable tablecloth, and the pb and j graphic at the top of the post is hers as well:
Posted on Fri, January 25, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Elizabeth Bird
Last week, an article caught our eyes in the Washington Post about the recent trend of restaurants who are seeking "Green Certification." These "green certified" restaurants are looking beyond the food they serve and whether it's organic, or even locally grown. They are seeking to be green businesses, creating efficiencies where there were inefficiencies, cutting waste, even striving to achieve "zero waste" through composting and using renewable energy sources or biodegradable products.
According to the Green Restaurant Association, a Boston-based non-profit, the restaurant industry accounts for a third of all energy used by retail businesses. Their research of the restaurant industry shows that the average restaurant meal served produces a pound and a half of trash, half of which is compostable food waste.
So what does it take to become green certified? The GRA, whose mission is to "create an ecologically sustainable restaurant industry," functions as a consultant to restaurant owners to help make the certification process more convenient and efficient. Covering everything from energy and water efficiency and conservation to using sustainable food products, composting methods, and incorporating green building design, the GRA's 12-step environmental guidelines give a systematic approach to redefining a restaurant as "green." The GRA will also do a cost-benefit analysis for the restaurant to help determine which areas of improvement will be most beneficial in the long-run for that restaurant, as well as linking member restaurants to manufacturers, distributors, waste collection companies and government agencies who also provide environmentally suitable products and services.
And the benefits? The Washington Post article quotes a report by the GRA that a quarter of restaurants surveyed plan to spend more on going green this year. Why? "Besides the environmental benefits, restaurant owners hope that such efforts can in the long run help them deal with increased energy and waste-management costs." Another tip sheet that might be helpful comes from the City of Irvine website on their Zero Waste initiative for the food service industry.
What do you think? Are you a "Certified Green" restaurant? Any inclination to go green in the future? We'd love to hear your thoughts.
Posted on Tue, January 22, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Continuing our series begun in last month's Snail (Slow Food USA's quarterly magazine), Slow Food Northeast Regional Governor Rosemary Melli shares her childhood food heritage as an Italian American growing up in New Jersey:
In the 1950s it was all about being American if you were 10 years old and desperately wanted to fit in with your peer group. All my friends, especially my next-door neighbor Karen Lupson, ate American cheese sandwiches for lunch and always had their mothers' homemade pies and cakes for dessert. We in our second-generation Italian-American family ate gorgonzola and provolone. My grandfather would bitterly complain if the provolone wasn't sharp enough, stating that it tasted like "potatoes" and not cheese.
We lived in rural New Jersey, which was very pastoral in those days, with an abundance of chicken and dairy farms. During our first six months of life, my sister and I were fed on my mother's milk, unlike our peers and even some cousins, who were mostly bottle- and pabulum-fed, that being the new modern way to nourish a baby. As we were growing up, we ate pasta every Sunday and Wednesday and NEVER drank milk with supper. My grandfather, who we lived with, was outraged at the thought of tomato sauce and milk entering the stomach at the same time. Sunday dinners were always elaborate and filled with visiting relatives, goumpattas and goumattas, bearing Italian pastries and candies from across the river in NY. When on occasion we traveled to Great-Uncle Vincent's house in south Jersey, the aromas of fresh basil and tomato sauce coming from Great-Aunt Mary's kitchen were enough to awaken our appetites for the Sunday bowl of macaroni, followed by braciole, meatballs, and sausage. The concepts of hors d'oeuvres, aperitivo, and antipasto were well known to us, but completely foreign to our more 'Americanized' friends. We weren't crazy about those sharp and smelly cheeses, but you can bet we scarfed down the lasagne, ravioli, eggplant parmigiana, veal cutlets, spaghetti, and rigatoni.
Christmas time was, of course, the height of Italian-American gastronomic indulgence. The days leading up to December 25 were filled with making stuffed pastas and a pastry made only by those who came from my grandparent's province. Called crispadella this was an intensely sweet and rich dolce, made with egg-laden dough that was fried in Crisco (an American substitute for the traditional lard used in Atena Lucana) then covered with honey and dusted with confectioner's sugar. Christmas Eve was the Seven Fishes Feast: baccala (salt cod), fried smelts, and various crustaceans, spaghetti aglio olio (which, in later years, morphed into olio, aglio, and alici (anchovies) with the addition of a Sicilian uncle), and – always the main event of our now prosperous Italian grandparents – lobster tails fra diavola. Christmas day dinner started with antipasti of cheeses, cured meats, and olives and vegetables jarred in olive oil and vinegar from the summer. The primo was always tortellini in brodo, which our grandmother, mother, and Aunt Clara had made with fresh eggs for the pasta, ground pork, fresh ricotta, and imported proscuitto. Those tortellini of my memory were yellow, not pasty white. No turkey graced the Italian-American holiday table. That was only for Thanksgiving, only after the first course of ravioli, and stuffed with Italian sausage and rice stuffing, certainly not chestnuts or oysters. In the '50s it was roast capon, the '60s stuffed, rolled veal or filet mignon with stuffed mushroom caps. As the southern-Italian-Americans prospered, so did their dinner table, and their culinary landscapes broadened.
As young children we were encouraged to try every vegetable they presented, but never forced. I think intuitively they knew that the latter would prove a gastronomic handicap later on in life, and besides, we got our vitamins from so many other sources in the Italian immigrant diet. However broccoli di rape, bitter cipollini, and radicchio were the three things we wouldn't touch back then. Of course, now I can't get enough. My dear mother was big on protein and made sure we had plenty of meat. Every week's menus included loin lamb chops (eat the marrow, it's good for you), fried veal cutlets (my brother's favorite, he could eat three or four at a single meal), and sirloin steak on Saturday – grilled by my father in the backyard during the summer. We hardly ever had soda, although I envied my NJ cousins their actual soda delivery man who brought them cases of Coke and orange soda every week. My grandfather would always insist that we have either water or water mixed with a little wine at dinner. As we grew older the water gradually became less and the wine more, until we arrived at age 16 or 17 and were allowed a full glass of Chianti or Soave and of course Asti spumanti on birthdays and holidays.
No one was more surprised than I when, in the 1970s and beyond, these foods became not only more popular, but positively the height of great cuisine in America. Thank God those immigrants paid no attention to hot dogs and Velveeta and persistently but gently pushed the arugula.
Posted on Fri, January 11, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver has a whole chapter entitled "What do you eat in January?" (and she lives on a farm!). And although it is a baffling 50 degrees here in NYC, the calendar does suggest that it's January, as does the food at the market (potatoes, onions, winter squash).
A quick look at the links on Field to Plate will show what's available by season in your area. For us New Yorkers, it's basically a handy tool for figuring out where we wish we lived instead right about now–January is pretty slim pickings compared to, say, California.
And so: what do YOU eat in January?
Slow Food Northeast Regional Governor Rosemary Melli had this to say:
Here's what we do in the dreary New England winter, while we're dreaming of the first greens of spring:
- My friend who runs Eva's Garden here in So. Dartmouth, MA choppes up fresh parsnips, carrots, Macumber turnips, chick weed, parsley, and leek tops, which are still growing on the farm, and marinates with olio & balsamic for a salad course.
- I jar small, hot red peppers in olio & vinegar, then stuff them with whatever sparks my imagination - capers, anchovies, cheese, breadcrumb mixture, etc.
- I use good, polenta meal, cook it in the oven in stock til it's creamy, then use as a base for roasted root vegetables, stews, etc.
- Beans, beans, beans - must be fresh and cooked just right; combine with sauteed winter greens (kale, collard, mustard, swiss chard); seasoned with pancetta, bacon, proscuitto, sausages, etc.; add pastas and cheeses; combine as soups, ragouts, ragus, etc.
Posted on Tue, January 08, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
Slow Food USA members should have just received the issue 4 of The Snail for 2007. The theme of the issue is American Food Traditions; we asked some people to share with our readers their personal food heritage in a feature called "I Am What I Ate: Food from my childhood." Below, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini shares his own (non-American, of course!) childhood food tradition.
by Carlo Petrini
My family's origins lie somewhere between the working class and the middle class. Our food culture was first and foremost a product of subsistence, and my grandmother was its guardian. I remember afterschool snacks of soma d'aj, a slice of bread toasted on the stove, rubbed with a clove of garlic and sprinkled with a little salt and oil sprinkled on top. Few would probably dream of preparing such a thing for their children these days, but for me, it was a sort of "education in garlic," and I certainly don't regret it. Two other dishes that were important to my childhood are meat ravioli, made to last the week and totally sublime in the delicateness of the pasta sheets, and rolatine, strips of meat rolled up around a filling of egg, vegetables, cheese, and breadcrumbs, served with Piedmontese salsa verde. This last dish is hardly to be found any more, but when I'm able to find it, it never ceases to bring back a rush of memories.
If you would like to receive The Snail, Slow Food USA's quarterly magazine for members, click here.
Feel free to use the comments section to share your food heritage.
Posted on Fri, January 04, 2008 by Website Administrator
Always a source of the inside scoop on what's great in the restaurant world from local folk, Chowhound also has an active discussion board on all-around food topics. Just two days ago one poster named "frugalscot" posted this simple query:
WINTER SEASON ….a little more difficult.
What type of creative meal can you prepare utilizing only ingredients that are native to your area/region? A radius of say 25 miles from home. (Not written in stone)
As close to 100% local ingredients as possible, please
As of this writing it's received 55 responses. Great stuff posted there
Posted on Mon, December 24, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
Here in the Slow Food USA offices, the weeks leading up to Christmas are marked by anticipation of, and then shortly thereafter consumption of, stollen. Fruitcake has been the butt of many jokes and the subject of much derision, but stollen–though both fruity and cake–is no ordinary fruitcake. It is German in origin (Dresden, circa 1450, or was it Torgau? Click here for an article debating the precise origins of stollen) but we buy it at our local French bakery, Almondine. We are not sure why this German treat is served alongside almond croissants and bouches de Noel, but we are not complaining; we cannot, as our mouths are full of stollen.
It is dense, but light.
It is cakey, but yeasty.
It is covered in a thick layer of powdered sugar.
And by Christmas eve, it is gone.
Only 11.5 months of waiting for the next ones.
There are still several hours until Christmas. If you don't live near a bakery that makes stollen, there is still time to make your own!
For an LA Times article singing the virtues of homemade stollen, click here.
For a recipe and an account of the making, click here.
Posted on Fri, November 30, 2007 by Jerusha Klemperer
The holidays have become a time when many people do their yearly community service, and often that service comes in the form of food. At a time when many are stuffing their faces with turkey and Christmas pudding and latkes, etc., it's hard not to think about people who not only don't have food, but don't have people to eat it with. As a chef, Slow Food member, or food enthusiast (or all three) working in soup kitchens and the like is a logical way to give back to the community during the holidays. Why not use what you know/love?
Recently, we here in the National office had the opportunity to meet someone who has created a way to do good with food, and not just at the holidays. Christine Carroll went to New Orleans on a 2006 Henckels Cutting Edge scholarship attending the Share Our Strength conference in New Orleans. There she found a rich culinary heritage and a community in need. But why go there and paint houses (etc.) she wondered, when her real skills lay in the kitchen?
As a result, she founded Culinary Corps, which brings groups of culinary students and professionals to NOLA to do food-centered volunteer projects. As she explains, "Culinary Corps provides team members with an opportunity to transform their kitchen skills and passion for food into community outreach tools." As we write, Christine is in on the Gulf Coast with a group of culinary professionals, on the fourth trip she's led this year, where she and her trip members will be slicing and dicing to help out a local farmers' market and a local church.
Because doing good once a year is a nice start, but year-round is better…
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.
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.