Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Come to Slow Food Trivia Night!

Please join us this Thursday, December 10 at 5pm in Jaharis Café for Slow Food Trivia Night, in honor of Terra Madre Day.

There will be great snacks, fun facts and some of the coolest food scholars around... Please bring your own beer or wine, as well as dishware/utensils.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Day

I knew when Sara invited me to the Thanksgiving turkey harvest at the farm the only possible answer I could give was an enthusiastic “Yes!” Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to learn the intricacies of small scale poultry processing, spend a day on the farm and catch up with one of her closest friends?

So I woke up at 5am, dug out my favorite farming clothes from the bin under the bed (they are so lonely down there since going back to school) and drove the long haul for a full day of harvesting and processing about 150, 28-week-old ‘Broad Breasted Whites’ that had spent most of their turkey lives foraging on pasture. “Harvest” and “process” are, of course, pleasant euphemisms for the last stage of raising livestock and getting it to market: the slaughter.

As many Americans were in the pre-holiday frenzy of buying a frozen turkey at the store, I felt excited to experience the process from a new perspective. In this case, these birds were pre-sold (and sold out!) to a community of people who value small-scale agriculture and having a direct connection to the land and people who raise their food. A group of people willing to trek to the farm and pick up a turkey at its source.

I walked from my car to the barn with that familiar mix of excitement and nervousness roiling in the bottom of my belly. It was that first-day-of-school feeling, mixed with the squawk of the geese in the pasture and the warmth of the early morning autumn sun. I was in an unfamiliar place about to embark upon a new, and quite messy, expedition. I walked into the small slaughterhouse and slipped on a pair of the indoor rubber boots lined up by the door. “So, what made you want to come here and do this?” one of the farm crew asked as I walked toward him down the white hall. For me the answer was simple: one day I plan to raise poultry and I want to gain any first hand experience I can.

I had a few weeks between accepting the invitation and my morning drive to the farm to mentally prepare for this adventure. I spent this time recognizing my immense excitement at participating in harvest and learning a bevy of new skills about small-scale poultry processing. Not only did it feel like an important step in gaining poultry production knowledge, but also a deeper understanding of exactly what it takes to produce the food I eat. Tempering my overt enthusiasm was the awareness that turkey harvest unavoidably included killing a living animal. Would I be able to kill a turkey? Should I even be eating animals in the first place? I believe strongly that animals are an important part of the nutrient cycle of the farm…and of our food system. So for me, I concluded that if I’m going to eat the meat, it should be humanely raised using sustainable practices and that I should be able to kill it…or at least be intimately aware of how it ends up on my plate. But at my core, I was just so excited to experience a part of the food system in a way.

I knew, roughly, what to expect on the farm: from the large, upside-down cones that would hold the birds as their necks were cut to the hot water scald and the infamous plucker: the stainless steel cylinder lined with rubber fingers that quickly pull feathers from the birds as they spin around and around in the basin.

Then there would be evisceration…the process of removing the turkey guts by hand. I’ll call them guts because that was the depth of my understanding of the inside of a turkey before that day. This last step of the process was the biggest mystery, I could hardly name all the internal organs of a turkey, nonetheless how to remove them.

And so it began! I walked into the first room and waved a hello to Sara and met the rest of the farm crew. There is no hugging or handshaking when you are covered in turkey. Sara was working on a pile of turkeys as they spun out of the plucker. By this stage they looked, roughly, like a bird at the market: pink and featherless breasts, thighs and wings with necks still attached. Her job, and later mine, was to remove the oil gland, trachea, crop and neck. The neck was saved in a bucket of ice and the bird was then hung on a rack for evisceration. Two very skilled, and quick moving, apprentices cut a circle around the vent of the hanging bird and gently escorted the intestines, and everything else, out of the bird onto the stainless steel table below. The liver, gizzard and heart sorted into buckets of ice, joining the turkey later on. The intestines scooted into a bin for compost. I got to try my hand at this, and it was at first the equivalent of playing Operation, blindfolded. But one learns quickly where to find the lungs, the heart and the gizzard inside a still-warm bird.

OK, this is the point where you may say, “Stop! Please! Too much information!” The point of these details is not for the gross-out factor or to open debate about if we should be eating animals. But for those of us who believe in good, clean, fair food: this is it. This is small-scale production that treats animals, farmers and the environment fairly. And the more we know and understand exactly what it takes to raise this kind of food, the more easily we can find and support farmers, growers and producers who share these values. Each of us may value a different part of the process, but the power is in the knowing.

After about half of the turkeys were processed and resting in ice baths, we got to the task of cleaning out the gizzards. The gizzard is, roughly, the secondary ‘stomach’ of the turkey. Since turkeys don’t have teeth, the gizzard is the place where food is mashed up by the external squeezing of the gizzard muscle and internal, mechanical grinding of grit: non-food matter that’s eaten and stored in the gizzard for this purpose. Little did I know that each gizzard gets cut and cleaned out by hand before joining the liver, neck and heart as the (previously mysterious) giblets. We stood around the slippery-floored room, sharing small, sharp knives as we worked through the icy bucket of fist-sized gizzards. Each gizzard was cut open like a clam, exposing the gritty contents of the turkey’s stomach, surrounded by a rough lining. This is delicate, detailed work when compared to the previous hours of the day. I slowly opened my first gizzard, almost like opening a small gift, to find a pocket of nickel-sized rocks, short pieces of straw and something that looked eerily like sea glass.

Sea glass?

I paused, not quite believing what I saw. Maybe there was something about turkey digestion that I just didn’t understand. I glanced around the room; every other gizzard was full of the frosted glass too. “Um, is this glass?” I asked. Sure was! The best I could determine, through the rapid-fire banter of the farm crew, the teasing and jovial finger pointing, was that someone cracked the windshield of a farm vehicle while driving through the pasture. I think I heard something like, “That structure just appeared out of nowhere.” Of course, the fine turkeys, always attracted to sparkly goodies, pecked up the small pieces of safety glass that scattered in the field. This unusual grit was burnished into the equivalent of sea glass through the constant grinding of the gizzard. Not to worry, the glass didn’t harm the turkeys, as the inside of the gizzard is encased by a very thick lining, which we eventually removed before the gizzard joins the rest of the giblets.

Yes, there was the instant amazement of seeing glass in the ‘belly’ of the turkey, and it makes for a good story. More importantly, I very directly experienced the connection between what we put into growing and raising our food and where it ends up…be it the gizzard of the turkey, the food we eat, the water or the air.
I left the farm that day content, exhausted, dirty and empowered. Proud that I had learned new skills and gained a fresh understanding of what it takes to produce the food I eat. I left eager to prepare my own Thanksgiving turkey, ready to face the giblets with enthusiasm (not trepidation) and more steadfast than ever to make educated choices about the source of my food.

Want more information? Below are a few links addressing small-scale animal processing, ‘humane harvest’ and the culinary interest in small-scale butchering.

Grist Will Whole Foods’ new mobile slaughterhouses squeeze small farmers?

Gourmet Humane Slaughterhouses

Wilamette Week Ethical Butchers Do It Better

Dean Mullis of Laughing Owl Farm in the Charlotte Observer

NY Times Diner’s Journal Blog

Written by Vanessa Herald

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slowcal? You Tell Me

In an attempt to foster dialogue, I invite you to respond to the questions I pose here, in the hope that we can share ideas and learn from each other. I am withholding my conclusion to this post for a few days. In order to avoid any apprehension of baiting, I'll vow not to directly address any responses to this post. Any takers?

Q: Can the local foods movement support a food system that is good, clean, fair and economically viable?

The designation of locavore as Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year in 2007 was a nod to the ascent of the local food movement. Put aside the global implications, and the local feasibility of, a fully realized bioregionalism. Consider one aspect of the debate currently surrounding the local foods movement: the extent to which geographic proximity to your food source can be used as a proxy for sustainability.

The best-known proxy of this sort is the set of standards for organic foods under the USDA National Organic Program, which has been criticized for not going far enough. Widely considered a step in the right direction, the principles of the organic standards nonetheless fail to embrace principles of agroecology that might bring our foodsystem closer to sustainaibility.

Enter locavorism, which takes fresh aim at the moving targets of sustainability. So, Bullseye? Well...maybe. For example, while it can't be denied that choosing local foods reduces your carbon footprint, it turns out that a rather large proportion of the greenhouse gas emmissions - and various other forms of non-point source pollution - from agriculture occur as a result of on-farm management decisions. This suggests that, in pursuit of environmental sustainability, the methods of production may be more important than the location of the farm. That is, if I lived in California's semi-arid Central Valley, and I purchased lettuce from a techno-industrial farm in my county, the only thing green about this would be the color of my lunch.

However, another dimension of sustainability is brought into focus when considering the merits of locavorism: economic sustainability. An obvious boon to farmers is the increased income from being able to sell products directly to consumers through markets, community supported agriculture, and relationships with local restaurants and institutions. Slightly more abstract is the multiplier effect observed in local economies. Basically, the dollar you spend with your local farmer in turn tends to be spent locally, accruing economic benefits to the community. Given the steady decline of the urban economy in the last 50 years, this seems a rather significant aspect of the local foods movement. Coupling this factor with a sustainably produced local food supply makes locavorism an attractive option.

Yet, the questions remain: How do we complete this picture, and fuse economic and environmental sustainability with a local food system? How do we ensure that sustainable practices are both a necessary condition of our food system, as well as an investment that rewards farmers? Is it enough to buy local?

You tell me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daphne Miller's "The Jungle Effect" Full of Adventure & Ancient-Yet-Apropos Advice

According to SlowFood USA, food is a common language. We all share the same fundamental nutritional needs and the pleasure of the meal is not bound by time, place, or culture. Also like language, however, food can be mutated, manipulated and adapted. In her book The Jungle Effect Dr. Daphne Miller, M.D. traverses the globe and traces time to unearth several original, indigenous diets that have gotten lost in translation through the westernization of the world’s food system.

Through a bifocal lense – part clinical, part anthropological – Miller examines the traditional diets of 5 “cold spots”. These are places tucked away in far-flung pockets of the world where native diets remain largely isolated from American influence, and, not surprisingly, nearly free of the chronic diseases that typify western health. Her stories read more like travel writing than tired diet book, and she takes you with her as she hopscotches across continents and explores their native foodscapes.

First, in Copper Canyon, Mexico, a cold spot for type 2 diabetes, Miller observes the dietary practices of the Tarahumara Indians. While long-distance running is a trademark of their culture and undoubtedly plays a role in their preserved insulin sensitivity, Miller discovers that the Tarahumara also benefit from key indigenous ingredients. These are mainly three slow-release carbohydrate staples: heirloom maize, beans, and squash. Other antidiabetic ingredients indigenous to the area include nopales (cactus), jicama (aka “Mexican turnip”), and indigenous herbs and spices (like cinnamon, cloves, and fenugreek seeds).

In Crete, Miller sets off in search of the “real” Mediterranean diet and the secret to staving off heart disease. In addition to pointing out the standard Mediterranean signposts, like olive oil and wine, she also goes hunting for horta (wild greens) in the Cretan hillsides and introduces you to local cheeses (used in moderation) like anthotyoros and kefalotyri.

Then it’s off to Iceland, where rates of depression are astonishingly low. Since Icelanders’ resistance to depression cannot be attributed to any genetic predisposition, and it’s certainly not on account of the weather (think permafrost and endlessly dark winters), Miller arrived in Reykjavik to find the food-mood link. The answer, she discovered, lies mostly in omega-3 fatty acids – not just in the fish (though they do eat lots and lots of the stuff), but in their wild game, cheese, skyr (Icelandic yogurt), and milk. Turns out, the grass, clover, and moss on which their animals graze (free range!) is also an incredibly rich source of ALA. Between fish, meat, and milk, the average Icelander gets a healthy dose of depression-fighting omega-3’s at nearly every meal.

On her next excursion she takes you to Cameroon, a cold spot for bowel trouble. From colon cancer to acid reflux, Cameroonians have particularly healthy GI plumbing. After her time in Ntui, a small village in the rainforest of central Cameroon, Miller found that the benefits their indigenous foods can be summarized by the five F’s. First, fiber is a mainstay in the Cameroonian diet with starch staples like millet, sorghum, teff, local hybrids of maize, plaintain, and brown rice. Second, Cameroonians eat less flesh. A low-meat diet may be just as important in preventing colon cancer as a high-fiber one. The diet is also high in fermented foods and foraged (and folate-rich) greens and select fats. Interestingly, there may be an anticancer effect from both unrefined peanut oil and palm fruit oils, high in PUFAs and antioxidant beta-sitosterol. Palm fruit oil is also high in antioxidant vitamins A and E.

Her final trip is to Okinawa, where there are notably few cases of, among other diseases, breast and prostate cancers. While soy is an Okinawan staple, the proverbial jury remains undecided on soy’s role in breast and prostate health. However, one school of thought suggests that soy in its natural form, such as tofu, miso, edamame, and soy milk, may have protective effects; processed soy, like that found in soy protein powders, texturized vegetable protein, and energy bars may be detrimental. All soy aside, however, Okinawans small portion sizes, lean BMI’s and plant-based diet add significant pieces to the cancer puzzle. Antioxidant-rich Okinawan fruits and vegetables linked to breast and prostate cancer prevention include garlic, onions, and leeks, cruciferous vegetables, goya (bitter melon), tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, guava, imos (yams), and green tea. Active ingredients in their maitake, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms may also play a role in cancer prevention.

Miller asserts that you do not have to live in the outermost cultural edges to reap the benefits of an indigenous diet. Throughout her journeys from place to place and plate to plate, she discovers that common denominators are clear and can universally translatable (and oh-so aligned with the SlowFood mentality):

1. Choose foods that are fresh, local, and in season.

2. Learn, practice, and appreciate food cultivation techniques and recipes passed down through the ages.

3. Preserve endangered food traditions like communal eating, eating for satiety rather than fullness, and observing fasts and other food rituals.

4. Limit sugar to that found naturally in foods like honey, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

5. Get salt from natural, unprocessed sources such as fish, sea greens, and vegetables.

6. Eat meat in small quantities in favor of plant-based protein.

7. Select nonmeat fats from whole nuts, seeds, grains, and fatty fruits and minimally processed oils such as olive, palm fruit, or coconut oil.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This fall we've kicked off a new season of Slow Food Tufts events with a couple of skill-share events. Here are some photos from a tomato processing skill-share where we turned 50 lbs of tomatoes into 12+ quarts of tomato sauce. While waiting for the tomatoes to cook down we shared food and drink and took the opportunity to get to know each other and our relationships with food a little better!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tufts Farmers Market Thursday

Rain or shine, this Thursday October 1st from 11:00a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the Tufts Medford campus will host a farmers market. The market will be set-up outside the Mayer Campus Center. The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project will supply a variety of local sustainably grown seasonal fruits and vegetables. You can expect to see apples, pears, peppers, winter squash, potatoes, onions, and eggplant. Fresh apple cider by the glass and loaves of homemade pumpkin bread made with locally grown sugar pumpkin will be for sale.

If you're looking for some culinary inspiration to whip your fall vegetables into something amazing, check-out one of my favorite cooking blogs - 101 Cookbooks. (I'm sending directly to the roasted pumpkin salad recipe that looks amazing!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hungry world...

Recently, MSN money online published a series of pictures selected from the 2005 photographic book "Hungry Planet" by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Alusio.  A quick search found a Time magazine series with even more of these photos, really worth taking a look at. The book has an intro by Marion Nestle and essays by plenty of well-known writers and thinkers. 

The photos compare a week's worth of food for different families from all over the world, at every level of economic development.  The differences are astounding, and speak volumes to our national and global food crises.  

Especially notable are the statistics below the photos that tell the viewer how much each family spends on the amount of food pictured. But as a whole, this group of photos delivers some pretty bad news about where developed nations are, and where developing nations are headed, with regard to industrialized eating habits and health outcomes.

On a happier note, the USDA has rolled out its new "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative. Watch Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack make the announcement on Youtube.  (I'd rather watch Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan make announcements though, no offense to Secretary Vilsack.)

Secretary Merrigan has launched the "Know Your Farmer" website, which is a monumental step in the right direction.  The website is clean, well-designed, and user-friendly, with links to different categories of resources and tools -- for rural community development, conservation, organic conversion and community nutrition programs, among others.  

It's a clearinghouse of information on grants and loans available to farmers and food entrepreneurs, and is also attempting to also foster a dialogue and virtual social space for people interested in continuing the conversation.

To that end, Deputy Secretary Merrigan will be hosting a Facebook chat this Thursday, October 1 from 3:45 - 4:15.  You can submit a question in advance, though the USDA's press release doesn't make it clear exactly how. It says that more details are available here, but that just seems like the link to the webchat. Anyway, you can become a fan of USDA on Facebook and leave comments or join in the discussion there.

We're excited to participate in this new national conversation! Slowly and steadily, we can affect positive change in our world.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Come on down to our potluck dinner!

This coming Thursday, September 17, we'll be hosting our first event of the school year at 60 Brookside Ave., Apt. 2 (map), the home of our gracious Administrative Officer, Jalal.  It's a potluck dinner from 6-9pm, and since it's a Slow Food event, we ask that you do your best to bring food &/or drink that is good, clean, and fair. 

What does this mean?  To us, it means that the food tastes good, is good for us, and, to the maximum extent possible, (1) is produced in a clean way that doesn't harm the health of humans, animals or the environment, and (2) that those whose work went into producing it are fully and fairly compensated.

We also ask that you remember to bring your own utensils and dishes to eat & drink from to minimize waste and lighten the load for our host.

We hope that you'll join us on Thursday evening -- it's sure to be a delicious time! If you'll be attending, please click here to RSVP.  (Follow the blue "edit this page" link at the bottom right to add yourself.)

Thanks -- we look forward to eating with you!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Welcome Back!

Happy September to all! Our first meeting will be held in Jaharis 156 on Tuesday, September 15 from 12-1 pm. Bring your lunch and please be ready to participate!

Slow Food Tufts was formed last year, out of the remnants of the former student group, FOOD.  We seek to be active in politics, agriculture, food systems, ecology and local cuisine, to defend biodiversity in our food supply, spread the education of taste, and link producers of excellent foods to consumers through events and initiatives.  And of course, to eat and drink together in the spirit of gastronomy and conviviality!

 On behalf of Slow Food Tufts, thanks for checking out our blog.  We'll be updating it more frequently this semester, and hope that some new members will be interested in writing as well. See you Tuesday!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Food Independence

Take a small stand today. Sign the pledge to buy and eat all locally sourced food for the 4th of July. A coalition of organizations put together a petition and some other actions you can take if you want to take your food independence a step further. Here's what they have in store for you:

Here’s what you can do:

* Sign their petition either by going to www.foodindependenceday.org or Facebook
* Contact your state’s first family and ask them to share their July 4th menu with us (they can e-mail it to roger(at)kitchengardeners(dot)org)
* If you’re a kid and growing some local food of your own, share your story with others through the “Why I’m a Victory Grower” video contest.

For the skeptics out there who still aren't sure about this whole 'local food' thing and feel like it's an anti-growth, protectionist movement thrown together by a bunch of naive do-gooders I point to the economist John Maynard Keynes. While reading Saving the World at Work by Tim Sanders I came across this interesting fact about buying local that is usually left out. John Maynard Keynes coined the term "local multiplier effect" in his book The General Theory of Employment in 1936. The multiplier effect measures how many times a dollar stays in one community. The theory is that the higher the multiplier effect in a community the more healthy and vibrant that community becomes. So, the buy local movement is nothing new. It is protectionist but it's not anti-growth nor is it a harebrained idea thrown together by a bunch of foodies.

So, as you can see, buying local food or local anything is really the patriotic thing to do this Independence Day!

(Cross-posted on www.almondbean.blogspt.com)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Recession Impacting Your Grocery Budget? How About Wild Edibles?

I'm not sure what it is, but the people who are featured in the on-line videos like this one all have a bit of that wild-funk to their style. Someone needs to give these foragers a make-over if the expect people to:
a) trust them
b) take them seriously
c) for the movement to catch-on

But looks aren't everything! There is much to be gained from an expert forager. If you are curious about what wild edible (sometimes referred to un-lovingly as weeds) can be found in Boston and how to prepare them, you're in luck! There is a great event in Boston next month so mark your calendars.

Wild Edibles Walk at Allandale Woods
Wednesday, July 15, 6:00 p.m.
Meets at Annunciation Melkite Cathedral Parking Lot, 7 VFW Parkway,
West Roxbury

Event is free. Registration required. Contact 617-542-7696 or

The walk will be lead by the decidedly normally looking Russ Cohen, expert forager and author of Wild Plant I Have Known.

This free event is sponsored by the Urban Wilds Council, Boston Parks and Recreation
, and Slow Food Boston.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fresh Film

I received an e-mail about the release of the newest documentary on the food system in the U.S., "Fresh". Since press releases are thoughtfully crafted, and I haven't seen the film yet, I will just use their language.
FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur's 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

If you're in the Boston area there is a screening Thursday May 28th at 7 p.m. Harvard will host the screening at: Harvard Northwest Building, 52 Oxford Street, Room B-103, Cambridge, MA 02138

The screening at Harvard will also include a truly amazing panel. So even if the film is a dud (which I highly doubt!) it's worth going just to hear the panel. Following the screening you can experience the awesomeness of the follow local food gurus:
Theresa McCulla (Moderator), Manager, Harvard’s Food Literacy Project
Joel Salatin, Founder, Polyface Farms
Will Allen, Founder, Growing Power
Henrietta Davis, Cambridge City Council
Michael Leviton, Chef, Lumiere Restaurant
Ana Joanes, Director & Producer of FRESH

You can purchase tickets ($15) and find other screenings at the film's website: http://www.freshthemovie.com/screenings/fresh-screenings/

If you go, I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts, critiques, inspirations, etc. about Fresh.

Cross posted at Only An Almond Bean and Culinate.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's Farmer's Market Season In Boston

Mark your calendars! The farmer's markets are opening this week. You no longer have to buy your produce at a grocery store. You can shake hands with the farmer who grows your rocket and ask him or her how the growing season is going.

If you live or work in downtown Boston, the largest Mass Farmers Market opens on Tuesday May 19th in Copely Square. It starts at 11 a.m. and runs until 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday from May 19th through November 24th.

If Back Bay isn't your T stop don't disparage. Mass Farmers Market, a local non-profit, runs over 180 markets across the state include the following in Boston:

City Hall market in Boston, which begins May 27th and runs on Mondays and Wednesdays

Davis Square farmers market in Somerville, which begins May 27th and runs on Wednesdays

Central Square market in Cambridge, which begins June 1st and runs on Mondays

Framingham Village Green market, which begins June 11th and runs on Thursdays.

And really, the opening of the markets means returning to local, seasonal food. A winter diet of root vegetables, Florida citrus, and greenhouse veggies is over! The earth is coming to life again after the winter and you can taste it in the food. Especially the food that is grown locally.

If you are new to the whole eat local, eat sustainably thing there a number of tools out there to help you select rhubarb in May/June and not watermelon. One of our members, Maggie Gosselin, developed the Local Foods Wheel with some of her friends from California. This is a great tool to use with children because it is tactile and filled with beautiful pictures. Although there isn't a New England wheel yet, the New York wheel is a good substitute. You can order a Local Foods Wheel from Chelsea Green.

If you just need a quick reference, the Sustainable Table is a great web site. Their eat seasonal page allows you to select your state and the month and it gives you a pretty comprehensive list of what is coming off the fields in your area.

So here is to spring! Let's welcome the farmers back to Boston and hit those markets in full force!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rebuilding the Food System

(Cross Posted on Only an Almond Bean and my Culinate Blog.

Well, I finished my first year of graduate school! It's been a fantastic 9 months. Although statistics got a bit hairy at times, it was a great first year. As we all know, lot of learning goes on outside the classroom as well. Recently I attended the American Planning Association's national conference in Minneapolis. It was fantastic!

The whole planning field is all new to me, but the more I learn the more I believe that urban planners will play a key role in improving the food system and food environment in the U.S. Planners work in areas critical to improving our food including transportation, community development, environmental impact, and zoning. Each of these areas can contribute to a more sustainable, safe, and healthy food system.

The conference included a number of sessions on improving the food environment and urban agriculture. Although many of the food-focused planners were primarily interested in food production in the urban setting, I see a lot of potential for linking rural and urban communities more fluidly through regional food systems. There is no way that cities will be able to produce all the food they need to sustain themselves even with SPIN farming, roof-top gardens, and greenhouses heated via aquaculture.

Of course there is still plenty to be done in the urban setting. So if you live in a city and want to get involved here are some things you can do:

- Develop a regional food policy council

- Make sure that food is in your city's comprehensive plan (I didn't even know such a thing existed until I attended the conference!)

- Review zoning rules for livestock

- Review zoning rules for community gardens

- Tear out your lawn and put in a vegetable garden. Jac Smit, has a great article title "Eat Half Your Law" if you want more information.

- Ask the city to line the streets with fruit bearing trees

- Ask the city to put a garden on city hall property. The White House is doing, so should you!

- Push your legislators for 10% of the food to be grown within the city

- Make sure that grocery stores can easily accessing economic incentives developed by the city to open stores in under served areas

- Work with the corner markets in your neighborhood to bring in fresh produce and low-fat dairy products

Looking at cities through the context of food, food security, and sustainability should help planners build healthier cities, healthier farms and rural communities, and reduce negative environmental externalities associated with the food we eat.

For more information check out these sites:
Agricultural Urbanism
The American Planning Association's Police Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning
Victory Gardens 2008+
American Farmland Trust
Public Health Law and Policy
National Policy and Legal Analysis Netowrk to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN)
Interdisciplinary Consortium on Urban Planning and Public Health (ICUPPH)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Formaggio Kitchen Cheese Cave Tour

Please join Slow Food Tufts this coming Saturday, May 9 at 4pm for a tour and cheese tasting at Formaggio Kitchen. We will be led by Kurt Gurdal, the owner and cheesemaster, who will tell us about the first
cheese cave in New England (theirs!) and their aging process.  The store has literally hundreds of varieties of cheeses from all over the world, and this is a great opportunity to learn about and try some of them.

The tour and tasting will be $10 per person (cash, please).  Friends and family are welcome to join; if you plan to attend, please RSVP to Jessica by Friday, May 8 and include the number of people you'll bring.  For directions please click here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Slow Food Tufts Meeting this Thursday

This Thursday April 23, please join us in Jaharis room 156 at 12pm for an all-member Slow Food Tufts meeting.  We have some exciting and important agenda items to discuss -- the new Jaharis garden, greening & sustainability efforts at the Café, and shaping the future of Slow Food Tufts.  

We'll also talk about our final event of the semester -- a private cheese tasting and tour of the cheese cave at Formaggio Kitchen with Kurt, the cheesemaster!

Don't forget to bring your lunch - hope to see you there.

Monday, April 13, 2009

And the Winner is . . . Team Liver!

Slow Food Tufts Trivia Night 2009

Trivia Night was a great success! I can't think of a better way to roll out a new student group than free beer & food, new knowledge, and prizes. Our master of ceremonies, Matthew Hast, kept the evening fun and light while the competition heated-up in 6 rounds of food trivia. As a school of nutrition, we take our food knowledge - trivial or not - very seriously. It literally came down to the final rapid fire photo round when Team Liver secured the winning spot and scored the free trade coffee and chocolate donated by Equal Exchange and the Friedman School Student Council. Coming in a very close second was Team O.C. which won two Friedman School t-shirts.

Many thanks to our sponsors: Mercury Brewing, City Feed & Supply, Equal Exchange, South End Formaggio, and the Friedman School Student Council.

Stay tuned for our next event, a tour of the oldest cheese caves in New England! (For more information go to: http://www.formaggiokitchen.com/huronave/storetour)

Also on the agenda, the Greening Committee will be working with the administration add a touch of verde to the Jaharis Cafe.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Trivia Night!

Click below for more information on our Slow Food Trivia Night, Tonight from 6-8 pm:

Friday, April 3, 2009

Slow Food Trivia Night

Please join us for Slow Food Tufts' kickoff event Thursday, April 9 from 6-8pm in the Jaharis Café.

All members, friends and family of the Tufts community are invited to join our celebration of good food and obscure facts about food, nutrition and agriculture.  There will be free snacks and drinks, as well as prizes for correct answers and humor or creativity!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Food Fights in Boston

What a week! It went like this:

  • On Tuesday, Michael Pollan spoke at Tufts, presenting a serious challenge to the western nutritionist paradigm;
  • On Wednesday, Friedman faculty, staff, and students discussed his visit at a school-wide forum (bringing him down to earth a little);
  • On Thursday, MIT hosted a panel discussion on the locavore (Oxford Dictionary's 2008 word of the year) movement that featured a veteran locavore chef as well as distinguished scholars of food-systems and sustainability, including Cornell University's David Pimintel, grand-daddy of life-cycle analyses and carbon foot-printing;
  • And finally on Saturday, the highlight of the week was the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy's 3rd annual Student Research Conference.

With over two-dozen students and researchers from Friedman and beyond gathering to present their work and debate the issues, there was plenty of food for thought. The topics ranged from revitalizing industrial wastelands in San Francisco by converting them to food corridors, to analyzing consumer preferences for bioengineered food products in China (where labelling is required). Equally fascinating was the keynote panel discussion, which focused on "new approaches to feeding the world." A lively discussion was inspired by the panelists, all of whom had interesting and insightful remarks on the future of food production and consumption.

Unfortunately, the discussion was quickly framed by the ubiquitous and increasingly tiresome juxtaposition of techno-industrial agriculture against organic agriculture as mutually exclusive approaches to solving the questions of sustainability, nutrition, and hunger that plague current food-systems.

As an aside, though the classic debate posits organic against 'conventional' agriculture, I personally reject the notion that the dominant food production methods practiced today can be generally characterized as conventional. In fact, vast and highly-productive agriculture geared towards producing bulk commodities and industrial feedstocks is an outcome of technological advances and deliberate policy initiatives that have been enacted in the last fifty to seventy-five years. Conversely, the assumption that 'organic' is inherently non-industrial is a false notion.

To be fair, and thanks in part to audience questions and astute moderation by Friedman's Parke Wilde, the panelists partially withdrew each of their Hobson's choices, admitting that there is no single method of farming that is going to meet the challenges we face. Predictably, as the discussion drew to a close, the technocrats and the grass-roots food justice advocates all threw their hats in the same ring. The final remarks all merged into a recognition that everyone in the room was striving towards the same goal: improving the livelihoods of all humans while producing food in an ecologically sustainable manner.

While virtually impossible to oppose, this position is nothing 'new,' as the title of the panel alluded to. To take it a step further, I would say that only vaguely were actual 'approaches' even discussed:
  • Robert Paarlberg of Harvard University and Wellsley College gave some level of detail on the availability and application of the 'precision agriculture' (a euphemism for agriculture dependent on industrial-scale technology and synthetic inputs) of which he is in favor;
  • Susan Roberts presented a basic outline of the potential for organic practices to save the day;
  • Mark Winne of the Hartford Food System offered some prescient insights on the post-production aspect of food justice, but he was sidelined by the aforementioned debate of production practices;
  • Even at the MIT panel, David Pimentel was hard-pressed to depart from his allegiance to 'capital-O organic' as the way to go.

Interestingly, at Saturday's event as well as the MIT panel there was little discussion of actual policy mechanisms that we might employ to achieve the implementation of any or all of the panelists' favored approaches. This, to me, is a grave oversight of the fact that politics and policy have shaped the food-system we have today, from farm to fork. In the US, for example, government programs (from outright subsidization to technical assistance programs to the USDA nutrition guidelines) have incentivized the commodity-based agriculture that dominates producer and consumer behaviors. It is odd to me that only Michael Pollan made a point of suggesting that we need to overhaul our policy framework in order to shift to sustainable agriculture. Paarlberg did mentioned a fertilizer tax, and Roberts referred to UN policy recommendations, but in no great detail.

While I point the finger at past and current regulatory frameworks as a key source of the problems we face, I am hopeful that we can work within these frameworks to put us on a path to sustainability. As my colleague Asta Schuette pointed out in a discussion about water scarcity and emerging technological responses (read: GMOs), there are some relatively low-hanging fruit we've yet to pick from the sustainability tree. Optimizing and expanding on the host of existing conservation programs that strive to implement best management practices at the farm-level can take us a long way towards our goals without resorting to wholesale, exclusive adoption of either techno-industrial agriculture, agroecology, or locavorism. All we need are networks of scientists, farmers, activists, and advocates dedicated to implementing these policies in good-faith and insisting upon integrity and tranparency from all stakeholders. That, and a few other things:
  • We need to supercharge the Conservation Reserve Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program;
  • We need to reorient EQIP;
  • We need a chunk of that stimulus money to fund research and extension in sustainable agriculture;
  • We might consider converting Chrysler's facilities into centers for manufacturing eco-friendly farming equipment for small, diverse farms;
  • We need the authors of the Farm Bill to recognize the important role - negative and positive - of fruit and vegetable production in the US.
  • We need to face up to the global dimensions of our domestic and international policies.
(I'll stop there.)

Go figure: Just as reducing our greenhouse gas emissions will involve a diverse portfolio of geographically and socially appropriate sources of renewable energy, creating a sustainable food-system will require a suite of policy mechanisms to shift producers, processors, and consumers away from the ecologically impractical bind we find ourselves in today.

There are solutions for some of the (many) problems discussed in Boston this week. Effectively employing those solutions is the first step towards greening our food-system. What we lack is the political will to implement them with sincerity and integrity. Slow-foodies, engage yourselves in active citizenship, but quickly!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Michael Pollan at Tufts

So, the ubiquitous Michael Pollan spoke this evening at the Cohen Auditorium on the main campus of Tufts.  It was thrilling to be there and it continues to be thrilling being part of this growing movement toward healthier food, bodies, and lives.  He talked about how he was flattered and even intimidated (!!) to be at the institution where Friedman is housed, and recognized that the work being done here is shaping the future of food, nutrition and public health.

Mr. Pollan had a lot of moving and inspirational ideas he shared with the audience; he talked about urban gardening in Milwaukee, the need for more integrated research on lifestyle choices and health, about pseudo-food, school nutrition, farm biodiversification and giant agro/food industry's grip on regulation, but what had the most impact on me were his criticisms of us as nutritionists -- the researchers and idea-generators who have taken on the responsibility of helping people figure out what they should eat.

He spent a lot of time discussing the ideology of nutritionism, compared with real nutrition science and loss of traditional cultural food knowledge.   He compared our understanding of nutrition to surgery in the 1600's, and while everyone laughed, I was struck by that truth.  We as nutritionists are so far from knowing or beginning to understand all the functions of nutrients in all their myriad metabolic processes; Western medicine along with agro/food industry seeks to isolate and encapsulate nutrients to "enhance" our health or banish them from our diets, under the guise of countering disease and promoting wellness, and meanwhile endocrinologists can't even tell us how to diagnose something as seemingly straightforward as a zinc deficiency.

Our perspective as nutritionists must turn back toward the health of whole foods, whole meals, and whole food systems.

The criticism of the dietary guidelines was also deserved; the general public should get a clear, understandable message about healthy foods, and the guidelines shouldn't be slick ways of incorporating the interests of corn & soy, sugar, big pork, big dairy and big beef. The guidelines I linked to above are from 2000; a quick reading reveals clear ties to industries like dairy, oilseeds and livestock. The most recent guidelines are contained in an 80-page publication that I doubt even most dietitians have taken the time to read thoroughly. I hope that our esteemed Tufts faculty members who are involved in forming the 2010 dietary guidelines will be able to take an objective standpoint, removing themselves from their industry-backed daily research, their focus on nutrients and nutritionism, and their reductionist approach (there's a chapter entitled "Sodium & Potassium") to generate suggestions that are honestly meant to guide people's everyday choices and improve public health.

I think Mr. Pollan couldn't have gone far enough in his criticism of the incestuous relationship between industry and research.  Research says olive oil is good for you -- industry goes "Hey, let's capitalize -- we can make mayo out of olive oil and call it health food!"  Research says too many carbs make people gain weight  -- industry is THRILLED because now there's a new, perfectly engineered market with a gaping hole for low-carb "food" products.  Labeling processed, industrially-manufactured "foods" with logos and icons indicating health benefits is misleading, confusing and disingenuous.  Who cares if vaguely butter-esque spreads are made with heart-healthy Omega-3's when it costs us the end of small local dairies, the loss of age-old knowledge of making a preserved food product oneself, the dietary lack of a naturally balanced whole food, petro-based fertilizers being dumped on farms growing only soybeans as far as the eye can see, running off and contaminating watersheds and foodsheds and keeping us chained to this dysfunctional industrial food system?  Not to mention, of course, perhaps the greatest loss nutritionism has brought about -- simply enjoying naturally rich, smooth, creamy real butter?

This is, to me, a major part of why Americans have the unhealthy relationship to food that Pollan called "orthorexia" -- the unhealthy obsession with eating healthy.  We've lost our ancient foodways that tell us how to eat balanced, whole foods in ways that will keep us happy, satisfied and healthy, and we're searching blindly for a replacement.  Right now there are two movements filling the space: the one of fast, standardized chains providing food-like edible products, filled with McDonald's, Chili's, Applebee's, Tastee Delite, Krispy Kreme, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut -- the list keeps growing -- and quickly spreading both their pseudo-food items and the diet-linked diseases that come with them, and what we're striving for: the return to farm-fresh local foods, seasonal eating habits, understanding what real food is and how to prepare it, savoring the knowledge and tastes of nature's edible bounty, cultivating healthy food systems that rely on nature (including biology, biochemistry, and all the ag sciences) to guide them, and food markets that act responsibly and don't treat edible/agricultural products the same as television sets (let's not even get into markets and price-driven farm production, that's another dysfunctional ballgame).

Obviously there's a cultural shift happening; we are up against some of the biggest and most powerful forces I can imagine, and I don't want to call it war, but that's kind of what it feels like.  I hope we win.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On easy Slow Foods at home

Winter doesn't seem to be letting up, and for that reason (& cuz they're delicious) I've been focusing on "larder" items more than ever -- not butter or bacon, but other delectable, fatty food items I can prepare myself. I definitely try to "waste not want not" in my kitchen, but since I don't compost, I often have food scraps.

This past weekend I made the last of the meat I'd bought from Blood's Farm Slaughterhouse in the fall -- a butterflied leg of lamb. After trimming all the fat off the outside & some from the inside, I had probably a pound or more of lamb fat - mmmmm. I've read various studies touting the benefits of brown fat over white/yellow beef or chicken fat, and it's delicious, so I didn't want to throw it out. All it took was a quick glance at a google search, and I was rendering my lamb fat in a medium saucepan over a very low flame. It cooked slowly for about 3 hours, and I had to stir it every few minutes so that the chunky parts wouldn't burn. Although my entire kitchen smelled like boiled sheep fat, my finished product - a jar of pure, pale brown lamb tallow - will last me a LONG time, and only a tiny bit will add amazing flavor to pilafs, stews and casseroles.

My other fatty homemade delicacy is real crème fraîche (fresh cream, a fermented french dairy product similar to sour cream), made from heavy cream. Just like yogurt, crème fraîche is made by adding live bacterial cultures to fresh dairy. I happened to have a small bit of leftover crème in my fridge, so I added that -- approximately 2 tbsp -- to a pint of heavy cream. I mixed the two in a heat-safe glass bowl and left in in the oven set to warm for about 3 hours. I left the oven door open just a tiny bit so it wouldn't get too hot, since my oven is unpredictable. Then I removed the bowl from the oven, stirred the cream, and left it overnight. This afternoon I'll check on it and pop it in the fridge if it seems palatable.

The major recommendation I have for either of these slow foods is to use the freshest and most pure ingredients possible. Animal fat can be very rich in fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, but if you don't know where the animal came from or what it ate, the final "purified" product could taste or function very differently from how it traditionally should. Likewise with cream, conventional brands of heavy cream are often adulterated with mono- and diglycerides, carageenan, and god knows what other stabilizers/emulsifiers/etc. (the stuff that leaves a waxy coating in your mouth -- NOT natural). This means that the crème fraîche you end up with will also leave that weirdness in your mouth and have a different taste than a product made from organic, unadulterated, non-UHT pasteurized heavy cream. Crème fraîche is really versatile and doesn't curdle with acid or heat. You can eat it with fruit or desserts, or add it to pureed vegetable soups, gravies, or sauces for an enriched flavor and super-velvety texture.

Just to quickly add a nutrition perspective -- these foods aren't exactly every day staples, but can definitely be part of a healthy, balanced diet. I don't eat a lot of junk food, sweets, or fried foods -- I prefer to include these kinds of indulgences in my diet. They're high in fat and cholesterol, but also rich in vitamins and nutrients that everyone needs to be healthy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Welcome to Slow Food Tufts!

We are now an official group at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy.  Our first event, a Food Trivia Night, is currently in the works!

Please contact the executive board with any questions or comments.


Administrative officer


Web Coordinator