THE DELICIOUS REVOLUTION
World-renowned chef, restaurateur and author Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, famous for its great locally grown organic food, calls the mission to transform the way we eat in America the Delicious Revolution. Her term rises triumphantly like a banner from the intellectual bouillabaisse of Carlo Petrini's Slow Food Movement, an Italian-born campaign dedicated to the idea that " a firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of FAST LIFE." Launched in 1986 with a protest against McDonald's in Rome, Italy, Slow Food has grown into a worldwide effort to resist industrialized food culture and its dire health consequences. "It's public face," writes Albert Sonnenfeld in his introduction to Petrini's wonderful little book, Slow Food, The Case for Taste, "has become that of a primarily educational organization, which realizes that food consumption cannot be divorced from issues of food production and distribution."
Paradoxically, Slow Food has moved fast in communicating this message to the public, which is reflected in the rapid growth of local alternative food networks organized at the grass roots level in the form of cooperatives, revitalized small family farms and a proliferation of farmers' markets, the later growing by leaps and bounds since the turn of the millennium. The whole arising seems to be a spontaneous yet concerted quest to fulfill Petrini's proposal for a new model of agriculture, one that eschews the current order of unhealthy fast food dominated by the likes of McDonald's and Pizza Hut and seeks to raise awareness of the benefits of traditional foods produced and distributed with an eye on biodiversity and sustainability. As Petrini characterizes the movement, the basic idea "is our conviction that alimentation is and essential part of life and the quality of life is therefore inevitably linked to the pleasure of eating in healthy, flavorful, and varied ways." The Slow Food Movement, according to Petrini, aims "at gaining and spreading knowledge about material culture, preserving our agricultural alimentary heritage from environmental degradation; protecting the consumer and the honest producer, and researching and promoting the pleasures of gastronomy and conviviality."
Local organic farms, community supported agriculture networks, natural food
cooperatives, small family restaurants and neighborhood farmers' markets are all powerful agents of change that can, in Petrini's words, "Stop the fast-food virus and its collateral effects . . . If deranged habits of nutrition and fraudulently labeled foodstuffs threaten our health, then let's rediscover the well-being that comes from healthy food; if the invasion of agriculture by the chemical industry and senseless management of land are menacing the environment, Slow Food supports growing methods that respect Nature."
Local farmer's markets are enjoying a new found
popularity these days as increasing numbers of Americans seek to avoid the health hazards of the industrial agribusiness food system, an unsustainable
paradigm that relies on massive inputs of fossil fuel
and yields produce saturated with carcinogenic petrochemicals and animal products contaminated with antibiotics and growth hormones. The number
of farms with CSA(Community Supported Agriculture) programs has grown from about 400 at the turn of the
millennium to more than 7,000 today. During the same period the number of farmers' markets has more than doubled and the trend continues as more people seek healthy, sustainable sources of food. Known in Japan where the concept first emerged as "farming with a face on it," the Community Supported Agriculture movement is a good deal for both farmers and their customers. Farmers working within a CSA system get better wages for their labor and use less energy to market their products. Consumers can satisfy their demand for organic and pasture-raised animal products grown close to home and without supporting a business model that consumes more natural resources than it gives back to the ecosystem. According to Pallavi Gogoi, a writer for Business Week Online, "Consumers increasingly are seeking out the flavors of fresh, vine-ripened goods grown on local farms rather than those trucked to supermarkets form faraway lands." The average item purchased at the supermarket today travels 1500 miles or more from the source to the point of sale, an energy wasting consequence of globalization and rise of factory farms.
"The best thing about farmer's markets is that people talk," says environmentalist Bill McKibben. "Shoppers at farmers' markets in one study had ten times as many conversations per visit than at supermarkets." Before factory farming practices interrupted the intimate connection between production and consumption, most marketplaces facilitated authentic, two-way information exchanges rather than the slick, one-way ad campaigns designed by corporate marketing departments that prevail today. But according to a fascinating book called the Cluetrain Manifesto, people growing up in the Internet Age are no longer receptive to messages that target them as "consumers." The days of autocratic, broadcast style product marketing are apparently numbered as customers insist on being given the opportunity to have a conversation about what they buy. Shoppers at a local farmers' market, for example, want to know how the produce was grown, where it was grown and who grew it. The buyer wants to have a conversation with the producer based on "intersecting interests," as the Cluetrain Manifesto puts it, "without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations," all strategies that kill real conversation.
"What I am proposing, in short, is that farmers find their way out of the gyp joint known as the industrial economy." - Wendell Berry
Mandy and Thomas
Jessica, visiting from LA, with a sunflower for her niece . . .
MARK scores some summer veggies . . .
Mandy's melons are the best . . .
Go ahead, Baby, it's Kosher!
Hot & Sweet
Gourdness Gracious CHAS!
The apple of ELLEN'S eye
Gourd Afternoon, MANDY!