Slow Food Army, Unite!


The moment has arrived, from October 21-25, the biennial (this means once every two years, I looked it up) culmination of everything that the Slow Food movement stands for, Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto at the Lingotto Convention Center in Turin, Italy.

Though both events are sponsored by Slow Food, they are each directed at a particular target. Terra Madre is basically a UN type megameeting for invited representatives of Slow Food from all over the world. With over 5000 representatives present, this five day conference unites food communities, cooks, academics, artists, and youth who share the common goal of promoting sustainability in the food world.

Over the course of 5 days, various lectures and conferences take place about the current state of the world’s environmental health, learning traditions and cultures of others, and discussing crucial issues of these subjects that pertain to assuring a better future. Sounds a little bit idealistic… Kind of like the final part of “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland, where all the animatronic dolls of different races are mechanically bouncing up and down and rejoicing in their diversity. Haha…..just kidding.

Terra Madre is an exclusive invite only event for members of the Terra Madre network, my being a student at the University of Gastronomic Science has granted me access into an event that continues to make history (we hope).

Salone del Gusto, on the other hand is a public event for anyone who is passionate about food. I would use the word ‘foodie’ but I find it degrading. This is a convention where artisan producers, wine makers, chefs, and academics come together to celebrate their love of good quality and delicious foods. Producers from all over Italy as well as abroad come here to set up a stand and share the fruit of their labor with hungry patrons. Needless to say, this is THE place to be if you consider the pleasure of food to be on par with the pleasure of sex 😉

Ferrarini, the company I’m interning for, will also have a booth at Salone del Gusto, where they’ll be selling non GMO Parmigiano Reggiano, non GMO Butter, Prosciutto di Parma, Salami, and other delicious traditional specialities. We’ll see if I will be able to pull myself away from their stand to try the rest of the goodies offered, though it is difficult to separate from Parmigiano Reggiano; at this point it runs through my veins.

I will be going up to Torino on Thursday and will probably stick around until Sunday. The next update will probably just be pictures of me stuffing my face with food from all around the world but I’ll try to include some substantial information between bites.

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Organic vs. Zero Food Miles

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)

Environmentally Friendly Eating..But Honestly Who Cares?

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.

Perfect Marketing

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?

DISCUSS

Eating my Emotions: The ‘Heart’-Ships of a Gastronome

You know the days where the only thing you want to do is drink a bottle of wine with an incredibly long straw and hide under the bed?? Well, thank god I am in Italy because eating my emotions takes on an entirely new meaning, a superior echelon per se…

Eating an inordinate amount of various pastas, marinated vegetables, grilled shrimps, chocolates, and other various necessities at the ALMA culinary academy (the most presitigious in Italia) allows me to forget my troubles, frustration over my Italian ex boyfriend, and general disregard for life on gray days.

Today being Saturday, I tried to forget my aching heart (ah, Italian romance) and went the open street market here in Parma. I bought soo many vegetables and for so cheap that I almost feel guilty.

10 EURO!

Not to mention the most insanely amazing ricotta that has ever passed through lips. Let me tell you something, if tasting cheese and buying cheap vegetables is enough to make me cry…. perhaps there is an indication there of some underlying emotional upset, but you know what? I am eating my emotions, and loving every god damn bite.

Grassroots Gourmet is Expanding!!!: Your Opinions

So, now that I am soon to be a college graduate I am planning on making Grassroots Gourmet one of my main priorities…which means more time to update and expand the site.

As an expansion idea, I was thinking of locally shipping (within California) baked goods made from the freshest and most delicious ingredients I can find. My baking will include fruits from my local farmers market, which is always full of delicious things in the summer months, as well as artisan ingredients from distributors around Orange County.

So, This is where you guys can give me your opinion:

I would be willing to create recipes based on user requests, as well as adapting user recipes to really take on the Grassroots feel. I can’t wait to share with you guys. Thanks for being such a great group.

❤ your devoted eater,
Michelle

‘Tis the Season: Fresh Fruit in Spring

Being a Californian, I am totally spoiled by having access to delicious fruits and veggies all year long. But the Spring brings back some of my personal favorites to the farmers market.

Fresh Seasonal Strawberries
Fresh Seasonal Strawberries

To buy in Spring:

  • Avocados
  • Mangos
  • Pineapple
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Snap Peas
  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms

God, there’s nothing like buying fresh organic strawberries off the little farmer’s stand on the street corner. As I see them all start to open their doors, I remember it’s almost summer!

Some of my favorite farmer’s markets this time of year include:

The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market

And various farmer’s markets around the OC that can be found here

Seasons Greetings and Happy Eatings! Enjoy!

Organic Cigarettes: Saving your American Spirit, One Puff at a Time!

The Santa Fe Tobacco Co., manufacturer of American Spirit, has come out with a new line of cigarettes featuring organic tobacco, advertising their product as a ‘healthier’ alternative to regular blend cigarettes. What exactly is meant by healthy here?

American Spirit Organic Light Blend
American Spirit Organic Light Blend

Cigarette smokers unite! Now American Spirit cigarettes are not only additive free, but use organic tobacco! Sure, smoking cigarettes isn’t a health choice, but if you are already addicted, why not support environmental sustainability?

I was at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, CA this weekend, and I saw enough hipsters smoking these things to know they are catching on like wild fire. Apparently, hippies, hipsters, bohemians, junkies, and your average smoker are hopping onto this organic tobacco trend. Just think, at least in these cigarettes there’s no rat poison, cyanide, OR pesticides!

According to the guys over at Sante Fe Tobacco Co. the new American Spirit line has contracted with many small independent organic farms to produce hundreds of thousands of pounds of organic tobacco per year. As larger companies partner up with small organic farms, the opportunities for small farms in other business endeavours are exponentially increased!

Looking over the company’s website, I was particularly impressed with the amount of background info they give on the process and overall purpose of organic farming. Check it out here.

I suppose it seems pretty hypocritical to author a health-focused website and then write a press-release for cigarettes, but you know what? I am not one to judge people for their addictions (we’ve all got somethin’) so if you are having a stressful day at work and are in need of a good lung blackening, at least smoke for a good cause!