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 ūüėČ

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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Eating Your Pets: The Carbon Pawprint

Thanks to Al Gore and other various scaremongers for global warming (not that it isn’t an imminent issue) we as a society have become well acquainted with the term “Carbon Footprint” as we are constantly told of how our actions have a direct effect on the carbon emissions into the environment..

The obvious culprits of high carbon emissions are :

  • SUVs
  • Cattle (methane)
  • Oil Refineries
  • International Trade
  • Large Corporate Factories
  • Etc

But one serious contributor to high carbon emissions may be laying in bed next to you at this very moment….!!

No I’m not talking about your gassy spouse, but rather your family pet!

It’s true, your family dog places a serious carbon pawprint on the environment, in fact, studies show that over their life span, having domestic animal is worse (emission wise) than owning an SUV!

Here are some interesting quotes that came from the article I read on the BBC news site:

“The authors [of the book “Time to Eat Your Dog”] claim that keeping a medium-sized dog has the same ecological impact as driving a 4.6 litre Land Cruiser 10,000km a year.

They use a rather unusual method of calculating environmental impact.

Instead of measuring emissions of CO2, or CO2 equivalent, they calculate the literal footprint or “global hectare” (gha) – the amount of land it takes to support a given activity.

So they work out that constructing and driving the Land Cruiser for a year takes 0.41 gha.

Growing and manufacturing the 164kg of meat and 95kg of cereals a border collie or cocker spaniel eats every year takes about 0.84 gha.

A bigger dog such as a German shepherd consumes even more – its pawprint is more like 1.1 gha.” –BBC Article

The most environmentally friendly animals include: Hamsters, Cats, and Birds. But the most carbon efficient animal is the goldfish!

The best way to solve the problem with your domestic dog’s carbon emissions?! Eat it!! (so the article suggests) This is real sustainability folks!

And HERE is a recipe for Dog stew… for any of you die-hard environmentalists that want to jump on the train to reduce carbon emissions (though I do not endorse eating your family dog by any means)

Take it Slow, Face the Food.

slow_food

Why Slow Food?
This non-profit organization has made it a top priority to combat the ways of fast-food and fast life that have completely engulfed modern society… Something that many in the Western world have integrated so intensely into their lives that they don’t even realize the consequences of their consumption.

Now, I hate to be preachy, but, not only is fast-food ultimately unsatisfying (we’ve all hugged a toilet bowl), the negative repercussions of eating that quadruple bypass burger outWEIGH the 30 seconds of enjoyment one gets while eating fast foods.

anti-mcdonalds-ads
A little too much lovin'

Almost 30 years after its initial founding in 1989 by Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food movement has become a cornerstone non-profit organization that works in Europe and abroad to preserve sustainability and ethics within the food industry. Sadly the reason it was ultimately started was in protest of a McDonald’s opening near the Spanish Steps in Rome… but if anyone has been to Italy, McDonald’s locations are beginning to eat that country alive….

NONETHELESS the Slow Food movement has succeeded in communicating its goal to promote Ecogastronomy

Ecogastronomy: A branch of the ecology movement and as well as the culinary side of the anti-globalization movement.

Not only is the movement against fast food consumption, both on a personal and societal level, but also the production of these products. How much energy do we waste in producing mass amounts of food that will ultimately go to waste? Where has the culture behind cuisine vanished to?

I speak from the American perspective, but as a general society our relative loss of interest in food, and its origins may be one of the connections to our increasing body masses. When we no longer feel any real connections to the foods we eat, we break the chain in our relationship to the environment, our personal cultures and histories, and our health.

A quick exercise: Open your refrigerators for a moment. How many of the products that blankly sit on the shelves have readily identifiable ingredients? (if you answer is: “I only keep produce in the frigde”) Fine, how many of you know where that produce came from? Was that zombie GMO tomato grown in Mexico 3 months ago or was it grown organically by a local farm?

If you are interested in this subject and would like to join your local Slow Food chapter, become a member Here!!!!!!!

The movement has become wildly influential in Europe and abroad, with over 100,000 members in 132 countries, but together we can help it grow even further!

In the chaotic and unpredictable world we live in, it feels nice to be a part of something positive.

So eat well, and please, chew slowly ūüėČ

‘Going Green’ in a Brown Economy: A Restaurant’s Nightmare?

Living in Los Angeles during the ‘Age of Going Green’ has put me in the center of the battle between the sustainable folk and those to get off on using styrofoam (zombie food to go!)

2007-116-rising-sea-levels

Unfortunately I can’t be too judgemental on the restaurants that haven’t (yet) jumped onto the Green train. Why? Because with the current state of our economy, it is impressive to even have a restaurant that can stay open, let alone transform its entire food and production system to be more environmentally friendly.

What does it mean to be Green?

  • Adios to Styrofoam (the biggest offender): Styrofoam is not biodegradable and is filled with toxic chemicals that don’t make the Earth happy.
  • Get Rid of Energy Eating Equiptment: Regular refrigerators and other kitchen/cleaning appliances require quite a bit of energy to run. According to Panasonic, the average refridgerator eats up about 1000 kwH of energy per year, but they just introduced a new fridge that boasts a 350 kwH/year energy use. (I am not endorsing the product but that is a pretty impressive reduction.)
  • Low-Flow Faucets/Flushers: Restaurants consume a ridiculous amount of water, from dishwashing, cooking, and bathrooms. Low-Flow faucets increase the amount of air in the water and ultimately lower consumption. Double flush toilets, well, no more “if it’s pee let it be” rule.
  • Sustainable Eating: For a restaurant to be gastronomically green (and not in a way that causes food poisoning) it has to serve foods that come promote the long-term health of the ecosystem: foods from local sources, organics, foods produced with sustainable agriculture (energy/resource conservation), etc.

Consumers want their restaurants to be Eco-friendly these days so they can feel like they are making a small contribution to saving the world with each bite of their lunch. This is easier said than done.

Reading an article in the LA Times, the exec chef from the Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica gives a little perspective on how difficult it truly is for a restaurant to ‘Go-Green”.

It is much easier to go green at home, and much less expensive. But if you are fixed on eating out on a regular basis, http://www.dinegreen.com provides a pretty conclusive link of restaurants around the US that are certifiably Green.

The economy sucks, we all know that, but what would suck even more is UNIVERSAL ECOSYSTEM COLLAPSE!!!!!! (cue dramatic music)

Dinner with Scott Kennedy: Director of “The Garden”

Last night I was priviledged enough to have dinner with documentarian, Scott Kennedy, director of the Oscar nominated documentary, “The Garden.”

His film is a moving piece about the creation and destruction of a community garden started in South Central Los Angeles. The 14 acre garden was created as a way for the community to heal after the destruction of the 1992 L.A. riots.

Not only did the garden created by this community allow it to be self sustainable (environmentally friendly, growing its own food) but it also created an extraordinary sense of community that was lost to violence in the years prior to its creation.
Unfortunately, the city of Los Angeles decided to bulldoze the garden due to building plans, however the true reason for the garden’s destruction remains controversial.

Either way, dinner with Scott Kennedy was a truely wonderful experience and I am so happy that I was invited to meet with him.

Below is a trailer for the film. I highly suggest you check it out.

Fair Trade Food: Bohemian Trend or Sustainable Solution?

Free Trade for All?
Free Trade for All?
We’ve all been to our neighborhood coffee shops and seen the “Fair-Trade, no pesticide, organic yadda yadda yadda” but how many consumers actually understand what Fair Trade even means? Sounds like a term used on the play ground for teaching kids how to properly share their action figures…

But in FACT! Fair trade products, most popularly coffee, are the answer to sustainability and small farm support with in the international importation of products from developing countries. Sure, we love the local thing, saving energy on production and transportation of the goods we eat, but there are some things out there that you really just can’t find in your local area. Coffee from Colombia, quinoa from Ecuador are products that are particularly good when grown in these particular areas, but this does not mean we have to give into the money monster and support huge agrobusiness in order to get these products.

Oh no my friends, instead, we can import these products sustainably, and in support of small farmers in developing countries. This is actually what the elusive term, ‘fair trade’ actually implies, paying fair prices and promoting sustainable forms of production, while empowering and motivating farmers in developing countries to be able to work in their own businesses without crumbling under the pressure of the international food machine.

Raw Fair Trade Cherry Coffee Beans from Nicaragua
Raw Fair Trade Cherry Coffee Beans from Nicaragua

Here we find a variety of benefits of Fair-Trade fare:

a) Working against major industry to slow the run away train of international corporate food monopolies

b) Paying a normal amount for food

c) Eating food that actually tastes like something edible

d) Helping farmers in developing countries

e) Promoting community development

f) Sustaining local cultures/economies

g) Good Conscience?

TransFairUSA, a “only independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S”, tells us a little more about fair trade certification:

“Fair Trade certification is a market-based model of international trade that benefits over one million farmers and farm workers in 58 developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Fair Trade certification enables consumers to vote for a better world with their dollars, simply by looking for the Fair Trade Certified label on the products they buy.

Fair Trade Certified agricultural products including coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice, flowers, honey and spices (vanilla) are currently available at over 35,000 retail establishments in the U.S.

Fair Trade empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace. By guaranteeing minimum floor prices and social premiums, Fair Trade enables producers to invest in their farms and communities and protect the environment. But Fair Trade is much more than a fair price. “

So I guess that confirms it. Fair Trade products aren’t just a new-hippie label for meaningless feelings of good conscious, but rather, offer an alternative way to do business internationally without completely exploiting the little guy.

For more information please check out/support: (amongst many others)

So the next time you buy a cup of joe, take a break from your average Fascist coffee and make your morning caffiene buzz fair.

*Important to note that there are many other products that fulfill the “fair-trade” certification, I just chose to focus on coffee because fair-trade coffee is probably the most common fair trade product confronting average consumers.

Fear Not: Raw Milk Cheese

¬†Since the 1940s the FDA prohibited production/importation of any raw milk cheese that hadn’t been aged at least 60 days. Why? Well…because raw milk chese¬†is unpasteurized (heated above 140 Degrees) and is in theory¬†chock full of harmful, death causing bacteria…While most of the cheese in the States¬†is produced industrially, and therefore pasteurized, this¬†regulation was not a real problem; however, shortly after, a movement of angry(?)¬†American Artisan cheesemakers¬†ignited in order to¬†bring back the traditional methods of cheese production, using raw milk and traditional technology, produced on a much smaller scale than say… Kraft’s zombie cheese. (I hesitate to call American cheese, cheese, but for all intents and purposes..)

Sadly, at the same time that these artisan producers were “Bringin’ back” the old ways of cheese-making, an industrial cheese producer used fresh Mexican style cheese in one of its products that ended up¬† making a lot of people pretty sick, and even killed a few. What did this disaster mean for the American people? BAN ALL RAW MILK CHEESE!!IT’S EVIILLLLLLLL.

Now, Is this an appropriate reaction? Probably not. If we banned everything that killed people America you could say Ciao Ciao to pretty much everything from McDonald’s, most food products from China, anything with artificial coloring/sweetener, etc….. so basically everything on the industrial menu here in the US of A.

Thankfully, the FDA never went through with the raw milk ban. HOWEVER, they definitely don’t hesitate to¬†remind consumers about the hidden dangers of eating raw milk cheese….to be honest, I am more afraid to eat a piece of the plasticky¬†personality-lacking cheese¬†that is being produced industrially, that is much¬†more likely to make me sick to me stomach in all honesty.

Anywho, even though it is not illegal to produce, artisan cheese producers are having a hard time getting their feet back in the door of the industry. People are too scared to actually enjoy food, and good tasting food no less? Apparently Americans prefer the sterile, hospital quality, ‘SAFE’ foods that are so convieniently offered to the masses by these huge corporations. Many studies have been done however that prove the ability of raw milk cheese to be just as safe as the pasteurized stuff.

The Raw Milk Cheesemakers Association is committed to maintaining traditional standards of raw milk cheese production, and giving these artisan producers the opportunity to continue doing what they do best, making some delicious fresh cheese.

This is yet another example of why us Americans have very little sense of food tradition or craft, because every time something gets too good, we think it’s going to kill us.

Willing to take the risk…? Feast your eyes on some of these delish raw-milk cheeses that you have been missing out on:

"Oregonzola" and "Oregon Bleu" amongst many others from Rogue Creamery
"Oregonzola" and "Oregon Bleu" amongst many others from Rogue Creamery

Selection of Fresh Cheeses from Monteillet Fromagerie in Washington
Selection of Fresh Cheeses from Monteillet Fromagerie in Washington

Raw milk cheese produced by artisans in America is not only delicious but it is also environmentally friendly. Most of this cheese is made by hand or at least in small-scale production facilites, reducing carbon emissions. As well as the fact that most of the animal’s used for this processed are family owned and well treated. PLUS, by purchasing artisan cheese you are not only doing yourself a favor, but you are also supporting the local economy, instead of funding another one of Kraft’s (sorry but this is the biggest industrial cheese producer that comes to mind) new “food system facilities”.

 

For more info on Raw Milk Cheese, Check out :

Pass the Cheese please? ūüėČ