Monday, July 28, 2008

Anthony Bourdain, Slow Food, and Feeding the World

"As much as I admired and appreciated the slow-food movement, and the increased interest in better, more seasonal ingredients, there was a whiff of orthodoxy about it all that I felt contradicted the chef's basic mission: to give pleasure. I'd met a lot of hungry people in recent years and I doubted very much whether they cared if their next meal came from the next village over or a greenhouse in Tacoma. The notion of "terroir" and "organic" started to seem like the kind of thinking you'd expect of the privileged - or isolationist. The very discussion of "organic" vs "nonorganic", I knew, was a luxury. I've since come to believe that any overriding philosophy or worldview is the enemy of good eating." Anthony Bourdain

I greatly appreciate this quote as it states much of my feeling on why I participate in groups such as Slow Food. I believe Slow Food is a suburb organization, I just feel that some people forget that others don't have everything that they have received in life. Not everyone can afford the $4/lb tomato some of us buy, so just think of that before you start to lecture someone on their eating habits.

I have been a member of Slow Food for about five or six years and have found many a friend from participation. Just this past weekend I attended the first official dinner for the new Saratoga Slow Food chapter up at Top of the World in Lake George, NY. A very good meal, utilizing many local ingredients from local farmers, including Sheldon Farms where I cooked for a Slow Food fundraiser yesterday, both breakfast and lunch so I am a little burnt out.

Usually I find the conversations to be wonderful with great topics on food and culture and how we can "ideally" live. I occasionally get disappointed when I bring up topics of helping to feed those that are less fortunate than some of us. The conversation will invariably lead to how they should be eating locally and more nutritious foods, but I rarely hear how we can do this.

For the last year I have been researching this project that Rutger's University, I believe through the IR-4 program. The idea was to take a city block in NYC and convert it into a multi-tier farming facility with I think about 32 floors. Each floor would pretty much contain the necessary essentials for meals, with each floor coming into season after the prior floor was harvested. this one building would be capable of feeding the entire island of Manhattan for the full-year.

Many people would complain that this project is not "natural" due to the fact that obviously it would utilize artificial lighting and fertilizers. However, natural fertilizers could be used and quite honestly, I don't think the homeless or working poor truly care where their food comes from daily, this is evidenced by the growing waistlines reported as many have turned to cheap eats like McDonald's cheap menus or some that are in food-deserts and must shop at the local bodega which is over priced junk food. This project would be getting quality food into their homes, and for those of us that can afford the higher priced heirloom vegetables and other specialty items, we could still buy as we have been.

When thinking about our foodways it is great to idealize, but we also need to ground ourselves in reality. Yes, the localvore thing where you eat within 100 miles of your home is great, but it isn't always feasible for all people. So think about your audience and the lifestyles of some of the people you run into before you preach to them. Sometimes you can do more harm than good for the effort by putting off a person who has less than yourself.

Currently watching :
King Corn
Release date: 2008-04-29


Genie said...

I have no idea what "Slow Food" is but I thought instantly of the sun-cookers now being distributed as quickly as donations allow in areas where sometimes there is less to cook with (electricity, fuel, wood, paper, dried dung, etc.) than there is to cook. Solar cooking is definitely slow cooking, but I know Slow Food is not really about that.

Moving on....
I'm one of those Americans gaining weight because eating healthy is too expensive. Even my treasured Atkins diet is no longer affordable for me, although it was always more expensive than any other way I could eat. It's disgusting that food has gotten so pricey. Yet, there is no shortage of food in my life. There is always something I can afford. It just tends to be the last things I ever imagined myself relying on for my main sustenance (like corn products). I always thought I'd make healthier choices. But that was back when I could afford to!

I applaud you for trying to get through to your Slow Food fellows. I can't imagine why the IR-4 project couldn't be done almost entirely organically. I think of all those people growing pot hydroponically in their attics and basements--maybe Rutger's should be asking them for tips!

Christopher Allen Tanner said...

I added some links to find some of the items i was talking about, I wrote this blog in sort of a mental haze. I will stand on my soap box for a second again against things like the Atkins diet, which are so American in origin with their support of blind consumption of one ingredient, meat. The consumption of meat drives the prices of all other items up as well as we have to feed all of those cattle that take up the space where vegetables and other alternatives could be grown. We all need to eat a balanced diet, once you jump off those extreme diets, the weight always comes back, not your fault, it is the "system" we live in.

Well the problem people have with the Rutgers program, and it has been with many many people I talk to, especially in Boston, it isn't "natural" as it is all indoors, I don't think the people who don't have enough to eat each day have such reservations.

Genie said...

Atkins isn't for everyone, but it's actually perfect for me. Meats, cheeses and veggies. I never felt better--it wasn't just about the weight, it was also about maintaining my blood sugar, keeping my skin clear (on bacon and pork chops, no less!), and curbing my serious no-joke addiction to carbs. Plus, wheat and grains make my joints ache. I had two doctors cheering me on with it, by the way. No, I don't think extreme diets are the answer for the world, but it helped me tremendously. Perhaps it's because I grew up on the typical and unhealthy American diet that I need an extreme diet to balance things out. I have no idea, but it helps me.

I'm a huge fan of Joel Salatin and his program for raising cattle. We are doing our best to emulate his grass farm. His aim is to mimic nature as well as he can to produce the most natural cattle feed and beef as possible. That's all the IR-4 program has to do to produce mass amounts of healthy food--mimic nature. It doesn't have to BE natural.

Genie said...

To be a little more precise, Salatin seeks to imitate nature's cycles. Farming isn't natural, not really. So, in our gardens and on our farms, all we can really do is try and set up a cycle of life that mimics nature's cycles.

Christopher Allen Tanner said...

i have made the exact same point of farming with people. My other item of contention which throws people for a loop is seasonality. What time of year were tomatoes in season in Italy in the year 1300? Never, because they didn't exist there in 1300, but one would never argue that Italians shouldn't be eating tomatoes in Italy because they are not indigenous, so what is the issue with growing a product that has good flavor in a different area other than your locality as long as it is grown organically and with a minimum of detriment to the ecosystem I see no issue.

Genie said...

Excellent point. If people really want natural food then they need to go out and find it in nature. Otherwise, we can only try and come close to nature.

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