Slow Food Nation, the anti fast food event staged this past labor day weekend, was much more than what a Sf community blogger called "a place for arrogant white snobs to chastise the working class for not being able to eat and live more leisurely" This event is truly about getting back down to basics... eating the stuff your grandfather used to pick from the garden or your grandmother bought from the butcher.
An expected 50,000 people gathered in San Francisco to participate in workshops, panel discussions, slow food journeys thru the bay area, and yes! lots of of tastings from the great harvest of CAlifornia's small farms as well as regional specialties throughout the US including Kentucky aged ham and Puebla Blue Corn Posole from New Mexico.
The vision and mission statement of Slow Food USA, that food should be good, clean and just and brings community together (its founder Carlo Petrini coined the term ecogastronomy when it started back in 1986) was exemplified beautifully.
The lawn in front of city hall was transformed into a Victory Garden. Take an urban plot, make it green and grow food for people in need.
The Youth Food Movement at Slow Food Nation held many events to bring together students with farmers and cooks, artisans and activists linking them to the resources they need for a broader food education.
Students could tour the edible schoolyard in Berkeley to learn about how food is grown and what food to grow in a public school garden, spend a night at Slide Ranch, a teaching farm in San Francisco, or participate in an EAT-IN at Dolores Park, where teams of young people pick up foods at local farmers markets, take it back to kitchens where chefs will lead them in preparing the food together.
The Food for Thought series focused primarily on three leading issues of our time; health; how cheap calories are contributing to obesity, energy; how we can make the shift from fossil fuels to biofuels to grow our food and lastly climate; how the worlds current food systems rely on trucks, trains and planes and how those modes of transportation are contributing to global warming.
A giant size scroll , unveiled on August 29th, 2008 called the Declaration of Healthy Food and Agriculture spelled out a radically different approach to food and agriculture in the 21st century. By fall 2009, the goal is to get at least 350000 signatures to present to congress in Washington D.C "The purpose of U.S. Food and Agriculture must change" says Michael Dimock former chairman of Slow Food USA who initiated the concept of the petition, " It can no longer focus on the production of cheap calories."
Slow Food USA is made up of many small local chapters(originally called convivium) each championing and defending the foods and food traditions of their particular area. We have three, Carmel, Santa Cruz and Monterey here on the central coast.
The Monterey Chapter has featured a Strawberry Celebration dinner featuring strawberry gazpacho, strawberry salsa, and even strawberry vinergar. The great Dungeness Crabs highlighted another dinner and a yearly fundraiser benefits the Freedom School Garden Project in Freedom, California to insure that kids learn from the ground up where their food comes from.
The Slow Food Nation showstopper, a 45,000 space at Fort Mason center transformed into a kind of Alice-in-food wonderland of Tasting Pavilions where the very best of the best were chosen by a select tasting panel giving the public the choicest Chocolate, Charcuterie, Tea, Coffee, Honey and Preserves, Bread, Fish, Cheese Wine and Beer. One could not be slow at this gastronomic extravaganza if one were to try everything. At the Ice Cream Pavilion, a futurisitic-looking igloo, you could have melonball sized scoops of strawberrybasil icecream, pistachio, molasses and Sharffenberger gelato. I loved the rhubarb chutney with a shmear of fomage banc at the Pickles and Chutney joint. Mason jar lids dangled above on nylon fish line and the names of the representative pickle makers were all displayed on the empty glass jars. Yes, you might call it a high brow feeding frenzy, but as one of the Mcwhitter brothers says as he sampled out his garlic dill naturally fermented cuke; "passed down from my great, great polish grandmothers recipe."