The Slow Food Movement: A Break from life in the fast lane.

So I’ve been using this term ‘slow food’ as my basis for talking about a lot of the ideas on this site. What exactly is slow food? And why is it so important to me? Well, The Slow Food Movement was started by an Italian man named Carlo Petrini in Italy to combat fast food. Some of the ideas the movement promotes are eating locally, preserving local culinary traditions/recipes, sustainable farming, ethical treatment of agriculture, animals, and farm workers, and most of all, acheiving immense gastronomical pleasure. The organization was started in Italy, however; now it has over 83,000 members (including myself) in over 122 countries worldwide.

In a world where convenience and speed are highly valued, we, as a global society, have lost touch with the true pleasures of the Earth; succumbing to the Fast Life and leaving very little time to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Life is too short to rush through things.

Through education about taste and local foods, we can learn to recognize what is truly good and where it can be found. As we become more educated about these topics, no longer do we need to rely on fast food (in the broad sense) to fulfill our gastronomical desires. According to the Slow Food Movement, it is time to rediscover our surroundings, one bite at a time.

From his book, Slow Food Nation, Carlo Petrini writes,

“Drawing on [the gastronome’s] long experience in the quest for the good, for culinary pleasure, he discovers that there is also a different world of production and consumption, parallel to the currently dominant one, which contains the seeds of a better global system.”

“At one point in our history, gastronomical pleasure was considered a reservation for the high cultured wealthy class; however, now this quest for good, clean, and fair food is the very basis of our survival. All people, from every socio-economic class, deserve to eat the healthiest, most pleasureable food possible.

We must join together as a society eat our way to culinary enlightenment, and break our addiction to the draining, fast-paced, and bland world we have accepted for too long.

I read the book and it totally changed my perspective on the realities and dangers of the industrialized food business. By getting informed I was able to re-evaluate my habits, and join with others to help promote a better future, both for myself, the environment, and my grumbling stomach.
Check it out, it makes a really interesting read.

YOU can buy the book from the Grassroots Gourmet Store! Conveniently located on the links section to the left!

And thus begins a new Category on the blog, “Slow Food”. As a Slow Food USA member, very exclusive (HAHA), I attend various events/lectures about current trends and whatnot in the Slow Food culture. Through me, you all can vicariously be a part of the fun. Updates about these events and Slow Food info will be added occassionally to this category.


 

Pesticides! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

As Jerry Seinfeld might say, “What’s the deal with always having to compulsively wash your produce? What harm is a little dirt going to do?”

Well my friends, if you buy non-organic produce, and are unafraid of the harmless “dirt” that might be lingering, you might want to think again…

While the long term effects of pesticide consumption are unknown, studies that are being conducted have confirmed some pretty alarming findings, especially with regard to children.

Here is some of the current data:

Despite consistent support from empirical studies that suggest even low level consumption of pesticides creates a hazardous health concern, the EPA ultimately has the power to determine what level of pesticide consumption is considered safe, and A-O.K. for us to put into our bodies. The “safety” level of these various pesticides is determined by the amount used on an entire crop, how much of the pesticide is retained on the fruit after washing, and the effects on lab animals after exposure to a single pesticide. What hasn’t been considered however, are the effects of multiple pesticides on the body when consumed, and how these pesticides will affect HUMANSSSSSSSS. oy.

Well, to give a little insight, the average life span of a migrant farm worker is 47 years…why might that be?

Why, then, are pesticides continually used by commercial growers if they are statistically proven to be harmful for human consumption? All commercially cultivated produce uses pesticides as a way to keep away insects from the yield, making the produce more steadily successful… In more plain terms $$$!

The following graph might add some perspective to the severity of this situation. Everyone is being effected.

Pesticide percentages of vegetables in the common supermarket.
Pesticide percentages of vegetables in the common supermarket.

What can You do??!

Although maintaining an all-organic diet is the best way to steer clear of these dangerous chemicals, sometimes it is difficult for everyone to consistently maintain this kind of lifestyle. After all, the produce section of the supermarket is fast, cheap, and convenient.

If you are going to continue to buy the commercially available stuff, at least be informed of the level of crap-ola you’re allowing yourself to consume. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research organization devoted to promoting public health, has comprised a list of the produce that contains the highest and lowest levels of pesticides.

Lets start with the Winners cup! (Scoring lowest on the pesticide scale)

Congrats Avocado and Onion, you make a mamma proud.

However,

Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Imported Grapes, Celery, Lettuce, Pears, Cherries, Nectarines, Strawberries, Spinach, Potatoes, etc. all had alarmingly high levels of pesticides, even when washed.

For more information, please visit www.ewg.org

How nice, we’re now living in a world where we must even fear our fruit!

Holy Heirloom!!!

You ever wonder why the majority of those seemingly flawless fruits and veggies that come from the supermarket have absolutely no taste at all? We’ve all had those moments when biting into that plasticized apple brought back memories of eating paint chips as a child….come on, you know what I’m talking about.

The majority of fruits and veggies you get at the supermarket are  produced and cultivated because these particular varieties can withstand trips from long distances and remain seemingly fresh for weeks before showing signs of age. The taste however, is usually closer to cardboard than a fruit or vegetable.

We begin to ask ourselves, where did all the real fruits and veggies go? The ones that our grandparents told us about when they were kids? These sweet, succulent, fresh, and delicious fruit and vegetable varieties, or heirlooms, can be readily found at local natural foods stores and farmers markets. This is where the consumer goes when he is fed up with the fake stuff.

Heirloom, or antique, is a word that is used for a fruit/veggie variety that has been cultivated for many generations. These varieties were cultivated much more at the beginning of human agricultural history than they are now on a large-scale.  Heirloom seeds have a long history, constantly adapting and changing to thrive properly within their respective environments, making them resistant to local pests and diseases.  Because these heirloom varieties have a pedigree,  they come in interesting shapes and colors, such as white tomatos, purple carrots, and striped beets.

The flavors of these products speak for themselves. Because they are only grown during their respective growing seasons, when purchased, these fruits and veggies are at the peak of freshness, and usually come from a relatively local farm.

So you may be asking, “If these Heirloom things are such a big deal, then why wouldn’t supermarkets carry them?” Well, unfortunately heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables are not as profitable as your generic mass produced varieties. They usually perish more quickly and can therefore not sit for long on shelves or keep well for cross-country/international shipments. Also, the varieties bred for the supermarket usually all look the same both in size and color, and ripen at the same time, allow for a more convenient/reliable product.

The commercial grower’s hybrid bred varieties are a sacrifice not only to taste, but to the rich culture and history of American agriculture. For example, before the mass production of commercialized hybrid produce varieties, nearly 7,000 varieties of apples existed in the country in the early 1900s, now unfortunately less than 1,000 exists and the number is constantly diminishing. This reality exists for a large array of our fruits and vegetables, including potatos, lettuce, carrots, and tomatos.

Home gardeners and small farms continue to cultivate heirloom varieties to maintain the richness of our agricultural past. It is something of a tribute to a memory of the centuries old fruit and vegetable lineage that is slowly dying out for more capitalistic motivations. This is the biodiversity that is being lost to the industrialization of agriculture, and what a shame. We are being denied the fundamental right to gastronomical pleasure, just so the commercial growers can make an extra buck!

To gain some perspective. Lets do some photo comparisons.

Apples:

The Grapple

The Grapple?
Because who doesn't want an apple that's genetically modified to taste like grapes?

Heirloom Fuji Variety

Tree-ripe Heirloom Fuji
Tree-ripe Heirloom Fuji: I'd prefer an apple that tastes like apples thanks.

Carrots:

The Supermarket Carrot
Is that a cheese puff?
Is that a cheese puff?
Heirloom Purple Haze Carrots

Purple Haze Heirloom Carrots
Purple Haze Heirloom Carrots

Tomato:

The Supermarket Tomato

Flavorless Genetic Zombie Tomatoe
Flavorless Genetic Zombie Tomato

Heirloom Variety Tomato:

Vibrant and Colorful Heirloom Tomato
Vibrant and Colorful Heirloom Tomato

My opinon may seem bias, but that is only because I can see and taste the difference between the commercially produced and the environmentally sound and delicious Heirloom varieties. Next time you find yourself in your local neighborhood market, pick up an heirloom fruit/veggie and give yourself a blind taste test with the other fruits and veggies you have at home. Tasting is believing.

You’ll thank me.

Monsanto: Rounding up an agricultural monopoly.

While the name, Monsanto, might not sound immediately familiar, this company has one of the most deep-‘seeded’ successful businesses in the history of American agriculture.Monsanto is the country’s lead producer of the genetically engineered seed, dominating between 70%-100% of the market for a wide variety of crops produced in the country. The company’s monopolization of this industry had created serious problems for the environment, small farm owners, and the health of millions of consumers all over the world.

The company began with its production of ,”Ready Seed Roundup,” one of the most used herbicides in agricultural farming. In order to combat the accidental death of wanted crops with the use of this herbicide, the company created genetically engineered seeds that could withstand the Roundup spray. Seems like the perfect combination, farmers could use the herbicide to get rid of unwanted weeds, while not having to worry about killing off any of their precious crops. The perfect plant, right?

Initially, it seemed like a foolproof plan, however; as the company continued to gain momentum, its success gave it enough power to almost completely take over the entire agricultural industry, bringing with it some severe environmental consequences.

Monsanto Cartoon
Monsanto Cartoon

The Monoculture: Death of Biodiversity: Before the birth of advanced agricultural technology, the United States flourished with endless varieties of fruits and vegetables, all growing in their respective local climates. Agriculture was biodiverse and soil was rich. Now, with the obvious profit benefits of creating an monoculture, that is: The agricultural practice of producing one crop over a large area, has made it almost impossible for other plant and crop species to flourish.

The Consequences? Catastrophic Crop Failure: If this one crop strain becomes affected by a pathogen, that means the entire harvest is gone. No variation=less adaptability to changing environmental conditions.

According to Ag-Journal Online “Statistics show a vastly shrinking innovation in biotech submissions and doubling of time to approval by USDA. Agriculture is in danger of losing its innovation due to single trait crop development many experts think. Roundup Ready herbicide resistance has so dominated the World’s commodity corn and soybean growing areas that few even bother to submit alternative trials. Studies by three major watchdog groups shows innovative biotech plant submissions drying up.”

The company has patented this seed, and made it almost impossible for small farmers to live in peace, without the anxiety of this seed to accidentally become entwined in their crops. The video below, a clip from the documentary, “The Future of Food,” gives some insight about the current situation that exists with Monsanto, its patenting of seeds, and the toll this takes on our environment and the jobs and financial security of small farmers.

To see more of “The Future Of Food” you can purchase a copy from the Grassroots Gourmet Online Store that can be found in the list of links to your left!

Monsanto is developing problems for our environment, economy, and personal health, but these problems are way too vast to try and swallow in one entry, plus, I wouldn’t want to ruin your appetite.

Monsanto posts will be regular, with updates and sections based on the environment, health issues, and economical issues as well.

More news to come..

California’s Prop 2! How it benefits you!

I don’t know about you but I definitely had my fair share of celebrations with the Obama win and all. We are at a truly historic time in our country’s history.

If you are from California, we had a pretty epic line-up of propositions this election. Of the important ones that passed, the 63.3% vote in favor of Prop 2 shows that we Californians have what it takes to move in the right direction towards eating ethically and responsibly! wooooo!

It seems that everyone agreed that paying a little more for our meat and dairy products is worth it to improve the quality of life of chickens and cows that sit cooped up in slaughterhouses awaiting their demise, all for our culinary pleasure. I’m no PETA fanatic, but this proposition made sense to me. Why should these animals be confined into an insanely small space, living in incredibly low quality conditions just so large distributors can make money in the cheapest ways possible?

You’d think with America’s obsession with food that passes health inspection codes, that this proposition would have been proposed earlier, but at least we can say we’re finally going to get our act together on a much larger scale.

Unhumanely Kept Hens at an Egg Farm
Unhumanely Kept Chickens at an Egg Farm in California

The specific requirements of this proposition include:

  • Prohibition of confining farm animals in cages that disallow them to stand up, sit down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs.
  • Specifically, the ban prohibits dense confinement of egg laying poultry, as well as specifically designed crates for mothering pigs and veal calves.
  • Violation of this proposition will result in a misdemeanor charge and up to $1000 in fines.

You may be thinking, “ok great, so now I have to pay 25% more for my eggs” but here are the ways that this proposition benefits YOU, the consumer:

  • Healthier Eggs/Meat/and Poultry
  • Tastier products (less stress from the animal=better tasting products!)
  • Sounder Sleep (were working towards ending animal cruelty and eating more ethically and responsibly!)

Endorsers such as The Sierra Club, the Center for Food Safety, and the Organic Consumers Association all agree that by spending as little as a penny more per egg produced, we as a community can create conditions for our animals that improve their quality of life, as well as ours.

For more information on the details of this proposition, visit. www.yesonprop2.com

Some other helpful links:

Thanks for making the right choice on this one California!

Slow down and Eat

In contemporary America, we are faced with all kinds of anxieties when it comes to what we eat. Whether it be for political, economic, health safety, aesthetic, or convenience reasons, Americans are consumed by mixed messages on what to purchase and how to eat in the safest, cheapest, and most convenient ways possible.

But this is food we’re talking about, one of nature’s greatest gifts. Eating, being one of life’s greatest pleasures should not be approached with fear and convenience obsession, but rather with a more responsible perspective. How can we eat well while still maintaining some degree of responsibility towards ourselves and our environment?

The purpose of this blog is to offer the public an alternative way to eat; responsibly, ethically, healthily, and most importantly, deliciously. You, the consumer, have the power to choose.

Topics of current concern will be discussed such as:

  • How to eat responsibly
  • What does it mean to maintain a “Local” diet?
  • Current issues in the food industry world
  • Ethical treatment of farm workers and animals
  • Local Organizations promoting Slow Food living
  • Fruit/Veggie growing seasons, when do our favorite foods taste best?
  • Events
  • Politics of food

Together we can work towards eating the healthiest foods, prepared in the most delicious ways, without harming ourselves, our environment, our wallets, and our contemporary conceptions of convenience.

So, sit back, slow down, and take a bite.