Monday, March 30, 2009

What's up with H.R. 875?

A note from the mothership, Slow Food USA...

Everybody’s asking: “what’s up with H.R. 875 ( a bill proposed in response to recent large-scale and well-publicized food safety problems)? Why am I getting hysterical emails and phone calls?” On this matter we direct you to our trusted colleagues.

1. Food and Water Watch breaks down the bill clearly and effectively, letting us know what it does and doesn‘t do. Their verdict=don’t panic, but do pay attention.

“There is plenty of evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation only tends to work for one size of agriculture – the largest industrialized operations. That’s why it is important to let members of Congress know how food safety proposals will impact the conservation, organic, and sustainable practices that make diversified, organic, and direct market producers different from agribusiness. And the work doesn’t stop there – if Congress passes any of these bills, the FDA will have to develop rules and regulations to implement the law, a process that we can’t afford to ignore.

But simply shooting down any attempt to fix our broken food safety system is not an approach that works for consumers, who are faced with a food supply that is putting them at risk and regulators who lack the authority to do much about it.”

2. Tom Philpott, over at Grist urges those of us in the sustainable food movement to resist baseless hysteria and focus on what’s there, quoting the Organic Consumer Association and saying “Quite sensibly, the OCA wants Congress to avoid “one-size-fits-all legislation.” Regulations that make sense for a 1000-acre spinach farm could push a diversified operation that includes spinach in its crop mix out of business. Sustainable-food advocates should oppose H.R. 875 until it adds scale-appropriate language. But effective opposition does not mean indulging in fictional rants about it. There’s no evidence that the bill aims to end farming; insisting that it does destroys credibility.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

SFKT Show-Me Restaurant Picks

Many of us have had to put our more ambitious travel plans on hold lately because of the economy. However, perhaps an occasional overnight in St. Louis, Kansas City or elsewhere in the state is a little more doable. A good meal--humble or high-tone--is, after all, an essential part of any snail's journey. When Slow Food members get together, where we've eaten and what is always a highlight of our conversations. Starting today, we'll share our favorite food experiences during recent trips throughout the state.

I'll begin with a humble one I discovered in St. Louis a few weeks ago--Banh Mi So #1-
Saigon Gourmet. This small Vietnamese restaurant at 4071 S. Grand, has won my heart (and, from pictures hanging on the wall there, the hearts of Robin and Jean Carnahan and Claire McCaskill, as well). It's a casual spot with just a few tables, but the kitchen turns out some wonderful food.
The Truong family, who opened their restaurant in 1994, take pride in using fresh ingredients and carefully preparing each dish to order. Since a sign in the restaurant window claimed they had been voted as having the best spring rolls in town, the choice for appetizers was a no-brainer. Of course, the Goi Cuon (spring rolls) were delicious--light, fresh and crunchy, with a little tilapia tucked in amidst the vermicelli, lettuce and mint. The Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio (charbroiled pork noodle bowl) was equally well crafted. I also loved the Mung Bean Pudding, a creamy tapioca and mung bean combination crowned with a creamy coconut topping. Sounds odd to the American palate, but trust me on this one--you'll love it if you are a tapioca and coconut fan.
The woman at the table next to me raved about the dish she was eating--Tofu Xao Xa Curry (tofu stir-fried with coconut milk, lemongrass and curry). She said, "Everything here is delicious. We've been coming here every week for years." Now I know why. Check it out for lunch when you find yourself in the big city. To whet your appetite,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An invitation to a taste of local farm life!

Now here's an opportunity you don't get very often--a real taste of life on a small, locally owned and operated farm. Please see the invitation below from our beloved Slow Food member and producer of wonderful eggs (and sausage etc.), Julie Walker.

If you saw "Food Inc." at the recent True/False festival, I know you are so appreciative that farmers such as Julie exist to save us from having to purchase eggs from the likes of the producers shown in the film. So let's help her out!

P.S. Delicious lunch included!

Dear Slow Food Katy Trailers (Yuck, Yuck)!

I have decided to start something I'm calling Greystone Farm Chore Days whereby I ask for volunteers from those folks I consider friends of our farm--Slow Food members, customers, vendors of our products, and others--to come out to the farm and help me with some of the bigger projects that would take me forever to complete myself.

These projects are usually difficult, dirty, time-consuming jobs that are the nature of raising local food the small-scale, labor-intensive, animal & environmentally responsible way. They require lots of elbow grease and stick-to-it-iveness. They are a great way for those of you who value the food we raise to learn about the nature of farming this way. You will be rewarded with an education, a day outside working with your body & your mind, and a first-rate meal I will prepare with as many of my own products and other local foods as possible.

I am hosting the first Chore Day next Sunday, 3/22/09, from 11:00 am until we get the task done (probably around 5:00 pm). I will need 8 volunteers to help me clean out nest boxes (120 of them).

We'll start at 11:00 with a walk followed by a lunch of Cassoulet, Roquefort Coleslaw and Mock Tiramisu (the cassoulet & tiramisu are recipes from Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way). We can begin the cleanout around 1:00 pm--the hens are mostly done laying by then. We will be removing the nest pads, cleaning and remaking those that need to be, removing the false floors and scraping clean these floors as well as the troughs where the eggs roll out. We will then vacuum out nest boxes & troughs, replace floors and add plastic liners that should make this job less work in the future (one that I can handle myself).

Let me be frank. This will be one of the dirtiest jobs you will ever do. You will need to wear old, crummy work clothes and shoes that will get some chicken manure on them. Your arms will get sore. Do Not Volunteer if you have an allergy to DUST or HARD WORK. Do volunteer if you have lots of elbow grease and want to feel like you've done a gratifying day of physical labor out on the farm paying homage to the hens that work hard to provide wonderful eggs!

Please let me know if you would like to help with this project by Tuesday, 3/17/09. I will send an email confirming the first 8 eager volunteers and let the extras know I'll put them on the waiting list for the next Chore Day I'm planning later this Spring. Thanks for your help!


Julie Walker

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wood-fired-oven pizza party

If you missed the SFKT pizza party last year, you won't want to make that mistake again! Once again, Richard Knapp, local baker and food enthusiast, has extended an invitation to Slow Food Katy Trail members to sample his brick-oven pizza.

Richard will fire up his wood-burning, hand-built oven early Saturday morning,
March 21, to have it ready for pizza baking by noon. He will supply pizza dough, sauce, cheese, a hot oven and some basic vegetarian toppings.

Exotic, rare and beautiful
veggie toppings or sauces are the province of the guests.
We ask that each guest pay $10 to cover the costs of the fabulous freshly ground wheat and other ingredients. Beer, wine, juice and mineral waters included.

This is a wonderful opportunity to make and taste some of the best pizza you've had since that last trip to Italy or New York.

Don't delay. Limited to 30 participants

RSVP by March 17 to:

Photos are of last year's event and courtesy of Dan Hemmelgarn.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Saving Seed

by Slow Food USA intern Laura Kate Morris

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” – Cicero

Perhaps you’ve grown your own vegetables in a community garden, infusing them with the terroir of your soil, eating them at your kitchen table. But that is only part of the circle – what about the seeds? Nearly all seeds available today have been shipped from states (if not countries) away, and at the end of the season are lost back to the soil. What if, in the spirit of sustainability, we closed that circle of seed, plant, table… and back to seed?

The Hudson Valley Seed Library in Accord, NY, is trying to do just that. It brings together rare and regional open-pollinated seeds, a sustainable business model, local artists, the conservation of traditional skills, and … your local library? I spoke with the founder of HVSL for further insight into how anyone could possibly fit so many ideas into a tiny packet of seeds.

Co-created by Ken Greene and Doug Muller to support their homesteading habit, the company is committed to staying small and growing food without fossil fuels. Choosing to raise their seeds by hand, HVSL shies away from a bigger size that would require specialized seed-cleaning equipment, tractors, and machinery. They look toward a sustainable, community-focused model and away from the nationalized corporation. (To start finding out more about the corporate seed world, check out this post on Civil Eats.) The Seed Library operates in part like your local library, substituting seeds for books. You can become a member, “check out” the items of your choice, enjoy and learn from them (in this case, grow them and save them), and return them at the end of the season.

Greene also holds workshops teaching the skills of seed saving which, like many heirloom breeds of livestock and varieties of plants, are in danger of being lost if they are not promoted. The Seed Library acts as a forum for skill sharing and to motivate preservation of regional heirlooms in the hands of local gardeners. Focusing on regionality, their goals include selling 100% locally grown seed within 5 years and strengthening the gene pool of rare and local varieties. Saving seed traditionally encourages the plants’ optimal performance by selecting for characteristics that do well in a specific region.

Overlapping with Slow Food, the HVSL also focuses on showcasing genetic diversity to consumers, encouraging us to expand our palates and eschew the generalizations of the corporatized supermarket. The Seed Library’s collection includes heirloom varieties on the Ark of Taste, vegetables featured by Seed Savers Exchange, and others found only in the Hudson Valley. “Hank’s X-Tra Special Baking Bean” is one, re-discovered in Ghent, New York, and now back in production via the Seed Library (check out its great background story). If that weren’t enough, thirteen of the seeds are showcased in “Art Packs” designed by local artists to celebrate the diversity that is a part of these culture of these plants.

Note – you do not have to be a member of the library to buy seeds – they have an online catalogue - and, if you are a member, there are no late fees! Find out more here.

Other small, independent seed companies, perhaps in your area!

Southern Exposure - Grows 45% of their offered seed and with their regional growers, makes for a whopping 70% of regional seed that they offer (located in Virginia).
Territorial Seed - Grow 20% of their offered seed (located in Oregon).
High Mowing Seeds - Grows 30% of their offered seed (located in Vermont).
Organic Seed Sourcing - a listing of small seed companies around the country.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fed up with the food system?

Those of us in the Slow Food movement applaud the movie, "Food Inc.," that was shown this past weekend at the True/False fest. It joins the pantheon of recent movies (King Corn, The Future of Food etc.) that lift the veil on how our food system operates.

If you saw the movie and feel moved to action, here is a simple way to voice your opinion. Go to and send a message to our policymakers. This declaration was signed at Slow Food Nation last September in San Francisco by all the heavyweights in the food-activist movement, including Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Marion Nestle, Daniel Imhoff and Wendell Berry.

It's a beautifully written document that will inspire you to make a difference! Of course, we encourage you to join the Slow Food movement, as well. We're working hard locally, nationally and internationally to promote food that is good, clean and fair.
Join our local chapter (Slow Food Katy Trail) today at