Grassroots Gastronomica, Taking a Bite of Food Politics
Author: Grassroots Gourmet
I'm just a 22 year old grad student at the University of Gastronomic Science in Italy with a big appetite for really good, fair, and responsible food. I'm not talking about your commercial, prepackaged, zombie food. I mean the real stuff, local, delicious, ethical and responsible foods that can be found right outside your front door.
Think of a world where you can identify where your food is coming from, and what exactly that food is made of! Oh, the possibilities!
Based on targeted marketing and the preach of pro-environment organizations, we all know that eating organic and local foods are important for the health of our ecosystem as well as our intestines… But in the battle between local and organic, which is ultimately a more important philosophy to follow??
Let us create a hypothetical situation: I am at the grocery store, and I see a tantalizing mountain of organic cherries imported from Michigan. I think to myself “Oh good, I am going to buy these cherries because paying the extra $3 is worth it to help the environment and to evade Parkinson’s from pesticide ingestion!”
…..But wait, right next to the pile of organic cherries is another pile of cherries grown in a non-organic farm just a few miles from my house. Automatically one might think “No, these are not organic and the organic man would be mad if he knew I had the option to purchase the ‘better’ choice and I didn’t because I found a less expensive option”
Although the cherries grown miles from your house are not organic, they are local, which means the amount of fuel used to transport them to your grocery store was much lower than those flown in from Michigan. It seems that buying non-local organic vegetables kind of contradicts the purpose of buying organic and supporting the environmental movement in the first place.
So I ask my readers, what do you think is more important when buying produce? Local or Organic?
(of course if something is both local AND organic you find yourself in an ideal situation, though this is not always the case)
One would think that going to a Slow Food university, being bombarded by information about deteriorating local food systems, biodiversity, and environmental travesties that have been caused by the global food system, would successfully work to change my ‘bad’ consumer habits. Being preached to about GMO foods and how each purchase of imported produce I make is single-handedly destroying the universe should have technically changed my consumer habits, but my friends, I have a confession to make…..
…..I buy out of season fruits imported from Chile, I enjoy eating meat, and I am a slave to convenience. Having the choice of going to do my shopping at the Saturday farmer’s market, I choose to go to the supermarket attached to my house, and buy the prepackaged, pre-washed lettuce because I cant stand the idea of having to wash dirt and insects out of my vegetables before eating them. *cringe*
What does this mean? I think that my eating habits reflect the reality of most of our society. A truth that is both relieving and slightly depressing. Every day, we are hit in the face with ‘go-to’ terms that are used to convince the average consumer to change their habits in an effort to save the environment. “Buy Organic!” “Buy Local!” “No GMOs!” “Unprocessed!” “Fair Trade!” “Zero Food Miles!” “Eat in Season!” But has the overuse and over promotion of these terms had a counter productive effect? Does the general population really care that some farm worker in Brazil is being disgustingly exploited for the sole purpose of providing us with freshly brewed Arabica coffee every morning?
It is impossible to completely change the eating habits and working routines of an entire population, which brings me to ask myself, is the Slow Food movement doomed to fail? Pardon my apathy, but it is a question that I continues to poke my brain. Is the ‘fairness’ and ‘morality’ of a locally grown indigenous apple enough to justify its higher price?
Perhaps we need a different approach. How would an overworked stock broker in New York approach the situation of buying locally grown food? Is he going to go out of his way after a busy day of work to find the farmer’s market? Probably not. What about the morbidly obese truck driver in Mississippi who disparagingly regards the organic movement as a corporate excuse to bump up food prices?
How much value does buying fair, organic, local, and environmentally friendly foods hold for the general population? Is it time to start reorganizing the Slow Food approach to make it more relevant for the average consumer? The answer lies in convincing marketing. People don’t want to be hit in the face with facts and figures, using guilt to motivate them to change their evil ways, because ultimately the only emotion that evolves is resent.
There’s nothing worse than protesting hippies outside of large supermarket chains, condemning the masses for consumer failure. The truth is, the fault is not the consumer’s but the large corporations that have jumped on the organic bandwagon for capitalistic gains. How much change is really being done?
You want people to stop eating fast-food? Don’t babble about the corrupt meat industry and the influx of greenhouse gases, because really, a photo is worth 1,000 words.
To make real changes, we have to make the messages relevant to the average consumers. Not just the elitist yuppies that live to boast about their elevated eating morality. The real world doesn’t have time to think about the unfortunate consequences of the corporate food system. It’s time to start thinking more strategically if organizations like Slow Food want to successfully spread their message rather than become lost in the sea of smug Al Gore clones.
What do you think? In the world outside of the microcosm of die hard organic/fair trade/local food eaters are the messages these organizations are trying to deliver effective?
The past week has been a rough one on my stomach, eating and drinking in Piedmont, an region in the North-West of Italia. Obviously I can’t complain because I am living quite the hedonistic lifestyle out here.. eating fine meats and drinking fine wines to my liver’s and stomach’s capacity…
Piedmont, home of the city of Turin (Torino in Italian) is famous for its sweet delicacies, specifically chocolates, candies, and pastries. Home of the Gianduja (the original Nutella), we were taken to the birth of it all, Guido Gubino’s chocolate factory.
Upon walking into the small workshop off a hidden side street in the center of Turin, the smell of freshly crushed cacao beans and hazelnut puree overwhelmed my senses. My mouth started to water as I took a self guided tour around the merch counters at the front of the factory. Towers of perfectly constructed chocolates, bon bons, truffles, hazelnut delights, each one more tempting than the next. Just as I was getting ready to rip open a box of the treats, we were asked to put on the protective garbs and take a trip into the heart of the factory.
Expecting to see oompa loompas prancing around and singing to the beat of the production line, I was not too far off in my prejudgments. The factory was dominated by what seemed to be over caffeinated women, extremely enthusiastic about the product, and eager to give us a taste. The rest of the factory workers were extremely flamboyant Italian men who expressed the same level of enthusiasm for their tea-infused truffles as a night at an Elton John concert… you get the idea.
At the end of the tour, we were offered a tasting of various chocolate delights freshly produced by the happy go lucky people downstairs, including: chocolate truffle infused with sea-salt and extra virgin olive oil (an award winner), chocolate covered ginger, 80% extra bitter dark chocolate buttons, Gianduja hazelnut bits, and crema di cioccolato.
If that wasn’t enough, right after the factory tour at Guido Gobino we were bussed off like slaughterhouse cows to the Pastiglie Leone candy factory on the other side of town….will write about that experience later because all this talking about candy is making my teeth hurt. For more info on the Guido Gobino chocolate company, click here
Needless to say, after all the candy, heavy meats (typical to Piemontese cuisine) and typical wines (Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbera, etc) I am on a serious detox diet, only fruits and vegetables for me this week. My liver needs a break.
The past week has been a difficult one for Israel, having boarded the Turkish flotilla and killing 9 “humanitarian” activists attempting to break the blockade in Gaza. I rarely voice my political opinions on this blog, but being that this is a forum for thoughts and opinions, I thought I would dedicate this entry to my support of Israel, the State of the Jewish people.
I don’t want to get into these endless arguments about who’s fault it is that there is unrest between Israel and Palestine, who threw the first stone, the first missle. Everyone’s opinions of course vary on their experience with the situation, and their historical ties with the land.Walking home from dinner at a friend’s house last night, I was bombarded by the new graffiti in the area… including “Israeliani=Nazisti” (Israelis=Nazis) which fundamentally bothered me.
So, in an effort to avoid the argument that has given me an ulcer the size of the sink-hole in Guatemala, I thought I’d put up a recipe for Hummus, a scrumptious chick-pea based dip and a staple in Israeli cuisine. Eaten as an appetizer or condiment, hummus is incredibly easy to make and full of Mediterranean flavor.
1 16 oz can of chick peas
1/4 cup liquid from can
4 tbsp of lemon juice
1 1/4 tbsp Tahini (sesame paste)
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Drain chickpeas from can keeping aside 1/4 of container’s liquid.
Place beans and remaining ingredients into food processor and mix for 3-5 mins on low until well blended.
Place blended mixture into a small bowl, leaving well in the center of the dip.
Fill well with pine nuts, paprika, and olive oil.
Hummus goes best with warm pita, fresh vegetables, or spiced meats. It’s too easy not to make, and too awesome not to enjoy. I highly recommend this recipe. It will definitely be the first thing I eat in Israel when I go for a visit next month.
Therefore, I realize many people will be against my support of Israel, and this entry might even raise some eyebrows, but as a Jew I feel connected to a land that is rightfully governed by my people, and will continue to be in support of Israel regardless of public opinion. No one is perfect, and every country makes mistakes, but it seems that regardless of what they do Israel is always portrayed in a severely negative light.
So, Enjoy some hummus, warm up some pita, and try to see the world from multiple perspectives, not just the ones regurgitated by the media.
(B’tayavon, which means Bon Apetit in Hebrew)
P.S. only a week after the flotilla incident and Parma has already become littered with Anti-Israel graffiti….It’s kind of sad to see in a city that I cherish so deeply…
Back to reality, I have had time to reflect on the amazing world that is southern Spain. I was blown away by the extensive world of food and drinks that Alicante had to offer, sunburnt and content I return to Parma wanting more.
My boyfriend, Andrea, having lived abroad in Spain, knew the ways of the land I and let him do most of the talking. After arriving at the airport at 9:30pm, I was worried we had missed the dinner hour, but Andrea reassured me that the Spanish don’t start eating dinner until at least 10pm. I was relieved and highly curious.
We began with Cañas, the Spanish term for a little glass of beer and a little plate of nuts and dried fava beans. Costing a small price of 2 Euros each, we enjoyed this world of Cañas a bit too much, having drunk about 6 liters of beer in the duration of the trip…my ass will thank me later.
After an entire day of sitting on the beach and baking in the hot Spanish sun, we enjoyed an aperitivo. I of course wanting to drink the culture, ordered the typical drink Tinto de Verano which was red wine mixed with lemon Fanta… I know this sounds really weird and kind of disgusting but it was one of the most refreshing beverages I have ever had… perhaps this is because I was on the verge of sunstroke but who cares?
Tapas, Paella Valenciana, and all the like, I fell absolutely in love with this strange world that we had flown into. In Spain, you eat little portions, and often, there are no rules. In Italy, if you curl your pasta the wrong way around your fork you might offend the waiter, but here people were relaxed, vivacious, and happy in the summer sun.
Now that I am back in the world of wine and carbohydrates, I can truly see the contrast of lifestyles between Spain and Italy that I had never before experienced first hand. I can’t wait to go back.
Thanks to my StumbleUpon options, I rolled across these creative photos of food yesterday that I thought I would share with you….People have way too much time on their hands, but I applaud the creativity.
Taking advantage of the European bank holiday on June 2nd, my boyfriend and I will be enjoying a short getaway to the beach side Valencian city of Alicante. Though my experience may be slightly lost in a sea of mojitos and late-night clubbing, I hope to learn a little bit more about the specialties of southern Spanish cuisine.
Not that I don’t love Italian food, but 8 months of overdosing on carbohydrates has got me yearning for something a little different. The area is famous for specialties such as Paella Valenciana and Gazpacho and the cuisine includes a lot of fresh vegetables, citrus fruits, and seafood.
A traditional rice based dish including: short grain rice, chicken, rabbit, butter beans, great northern beans, runner beans, artichoke, tomatoes, fresh rosemary, saffron, paprika, salt, garlic, and olive oil.
A cold, tomato based Spanish soup, using all raw vegetable ingredients.
I will be gone from Saturday to Wednesday the 2nd… and hope to come back philosophically, alcoholically, and gastronomically enlightened. Details to come….