Slow Food Nation/Important Lessons Learned

A couple of weeks ago I was sent an e-mail from FoodBuzz wanting to know if any featured publishers were interested in going and reporting on the Slow Food Nation event held in San Francisco this last weekend. I think I was at the computer going, 'I do. I do. Pick me. Pick me.' and lo and behold tickets were sent my way.

Let's cover some bases about Slow Food Nation and it's what it's trying to accomplish. Actually I'm going to give you some links then give you my Cliff Notes version of it.

Slow Foods International
Slow Foods USA
Slow Food wiki
Slow Food Blog

ECM'S Cliff Notes: Pay Attention Class!

So this guy Carlos Petrini gets mad because the Golden Arches, in their plan to take over the world with High Fructose Corn Syrup, decides it wants to open a Mickey D's near the Spanish Steps in Rome of all places. Carlos gets mad and starts the Slow Food Movement. Which wants to claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an eco region. Pretty common sense stuff.

First off anyone who has read this blog for a while knows every time I go to San Francisco the weather is beautiful and all I really want is a foggy and cool day. Mother Nature and S.F. tourist board will not listen to my insane demands of wanting bad weather. Look... it was crystal clear and gorgeous. I think Alice Waters has an in with God or something because she and the organizers of Slow Food couldn't have picked a better weekend.

Let's talk about Slow Food Nation and the event itself. I had been hearing about the Slow Food event last weekend for over a year and once I found out I was going I tried to study up but as with any inaugural event, practical things are hard to find because no one knows what to expect. I read a little bit on FoodBuzz, some in my local paper, The San Francisco Chronicle but it didn't prepare me for how big it really was. Sixty thousand people went and it seemed that that many people were standing in line. A line that went all the way out of Fort Mason and into the parking lot. We waited in line for about an hour just to get in, with tickets. There were no signs showing where to buy tickets [if needed] where the workshops were, if you needed to leave and re-enter where to get your hand stamped. I'm sure by the time the organizers do this again those things will be addressed.

Learning experience: if you go to the Taste Pavillion either pack very light [don't carry a purse and a camera] or bring an assistant. There were so many things to try and taste, it was like going to a great cocktail party. You have to make a plan of attack because your hands will be full. Carefully stalk the places you want to try and then pounce. Give yourself plenty of time and an empty belly or you will not last long.

*prosciutto and mortadella

The workshop I attended was Slow Sips & Charcuterie Snacking

Sam Edwards of Surry, Virginia, Kenneth Rochford of Medlock Ames, and Mark Pastore co-owner of Incanto and Boccalone tell their stories of how a prosciutto partnership saved a family business, a winery was founded on sustainable and organic principles, how chefs became shopkeepers, and how flavorful experiments in the charcuterie world are feeding America’s revolution of new aromas and flavors. You’ll snack on a sumptuous array of sandwiches layered thick with charcuterie and artisan pickled delights while slowly studying the piquancy of organic, sustainable wines.

*mark pastore of Incanto and Boccalone

This really wasn't a workshop, per se. More like a round table discussion. I think only two points that were mentioned in the description of the workshop were really discussed.

Sam Edwards of Surrey Farms discussed how he was was feeding pigs a diet of 100% fruit to see how the meat will turn out but he won't find out until September of 2009. He cures his hams and other products for up to 700 days. Truly a slow food.

When the subject of bio dynamic farming in the wine business came up even Kenneth Rochford of Medlock Ames Winery didn't fully grasp it so therefore doesn't do it just because it's popular to do so.

*on the left: 2007 Rose (Cabernet) and on the right: 2001 Merlot
Medlock Ames Winery, Bell Mountain Vineyard, Alexander Valley

Here's where I learned an important lesson. I now understand why 'foodies' and people who love food are sometimes [all the time] called elitist. When the conversation turned to offal and someone asked a question about buying tripe. They didn't want to buy tripe at a Mexican Market [add finger quotes] because the stores are dirty, so what do I do? And the subtle bashing of my hometown and it's regions is where the light bulb went off in my head and I tuned out. I know that was probably the wrong thing to do but... I will leave it at that because this isn't the time or place.

I was really conflicted about even writing this post. I like what Slow Food stands for but sometimes those ideas in practicality are hard for everyone to follow. It's hard to see past the snob factor when someone who obviously loves food or why else would they be there but yet will not go into an ethnic market to buy ingredients makes me really angry and ashamed.

Thank you FoodBuzz for sending me to Slow Food Nation. I'm sure this isn't the post you were expecting I would write and to tell you the truth this wasn't the post I expected either but all in all it was a good learning experience.

*sunset at fort mason... still not foggy.


Cheryl said...

Next time I will hold your stuff for you, I would love to go! and I am so totally NOT a snob!@!! thanks for the update.

noble pig said...

How cool that you went! Overall the learning experience was invaluable I'm sure.

But more importantly when are we going to go to Chez Panisse for dinner?

Mayberry Magpie said...

I'm so glad you told us about this! I've never heard of it. But I read Fast Food Nation before it was a book (it was serialized in Rolling Stone first) and became an anti-fast food fanatic. [Well, do last week's convenience store hot dogs count as fast food? :-) ] Despite the elitist overtones, it's nice to know somebody thinking about and offering an alternative mindset to our McWorld.

katie said...

Man I am so jealous!

sf'er said...

Dudes, please do not be jealous. This event was a total ripoff. The lines were long and we never got to really talk to the artisans because you couldn't waste any time not being in line. I read one guy's comment that it was like going to a salad bar where you waited in line for 20 minutes for the lettuce, then 20 minutes for the tomato, then 20 minutes for the dressing ... etc. It was actually worse than that.

We didn't even make it to all of the pavilions, because the lines were so long AND because they started closing them before closing time. (Closing the Coffee Pavilion at five-minutes-til-closing was completely insulting)

In the end, I felt like a total sucker for paying $120 for my wife and I to go to a 3.5-hour-long infomercial.

Rebecca (Foodie With Family) said...

What a neat opportunity (especially for free!) I think I'd have tuned out right next to you with Mr. Tripe. Either that or my inappropriate laughter problem would've kicked into gear. I can't help myself sometimes... I'm sort of the anti-snob.

Familia said...

I think you keep bringing the sun with you from Stockton!

ntsc said...

Ethnic markets have to meet the same quality of cleanliness standards as any other food market in the jurisdiction (or bribe the inspector).

There is a cook book out titled 'Slow Food' which has a two page essay about the butcher shop I buy my pork at - Dietric's Meat. One of two butcher shops they have an article on, the other is about an Islamic carcuterist so he can't taste his products.

I've been told to hang my dry cured ham for two years if possible so I will be buying two fresh hams this fall, one for 09 and one for 10.

jack's utter lack of surprise said...

those salamis look so yum.

chefectomy said...


I wish I knew you were attending I would have loved meeting you. Perhaps another time. I went with Foodbuzz as well and recently moved to the Bay Area.

Great post, I'll have more to say as well.


melissa said...

I like what Slow Food stands for but sometimes those ideas in practicality are hard for everyone to follow. It's hard to see past the snob factor when someone who obviously loves food or why else would they be there but yet will not go into an ethnic market to buy ingredients makes me really angry and ashamed.

Supremely eloquent. I can see what you're saying.

Hopefully that will change with time because yes, certainly what they stand for is a good thing.

Glad you got to go and wish I could have come up with you.

white on rice couple said...

I have been reading about the difference of opinions regarding the ideology of this movement and I have mixed feelings about this "Slow Food Movement" as well.

I think the intentions are good for spreading the awareness of understand, learning and being more connected to where our food comes from for preservation of the environment, culture, history, identity....etc...

But with that being said, I think some of the ideas become too extreme, non-realistic and at times, just plain insulting. Though,it would depend on who's doing the SFM talking. I have the same mixed feeling about the whole "eat only organic and local" bull crap. There's no friggin way I'm gonna eat local if I live in the middle of Alaska in winter. If eating "local with in 50 miles" means only melting snow for dinner, I say F&*% Y*$ to all these idealistic, political grazers.

So sad to hear that it was not as well organized and too HUGE of an event. But glad you went and exposed yourself to all the different perspectives that the food world offers. Hope you met some good folks though....maybe?

Neen said...

That's actually very much how I feel about the slow food movement in general. Parts of it are very cool, getting back into food as a complex creative art, but other parts are very much living in some arch-liberal Utopia (can you tell I'm still adjusting to Berkeley). Michael Pollan is a good example of a Slow Foodie that seems far more sane and realistic than, say, Barbara Kingsolver. BTW, Michael Pollan and 3 other key soeakers gave a talk on campus last Wednesday and it was AWESOME.

Anonymous said...