Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Slow food

I was excited to read Corby Kummer's Food essay in the May Atlantic Monthly (not online yet): "Back to Grass." It's about cattle farmers who raise grass-fed beef, beef that is tastier, healthier and from cattle that are well-treated.
Ideally this refers to animals raised in open pastures and fed grass and silage all their lives after weaning. Grass feeding results in far lower levels of saturated fat and high levels of both omega-3 fatty acids...and the newest darling of the nutritional world—CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), polyunsaturated fat that may help prevent cancer. These benefits, and also higher levels of antioxidants, appear in all food from all animals that eat grass, milk and cheese as well as meat (p. 138).
Kummer points to the book Fast Food Nation and a New York Times article, to which I linked last April, as raising people's consciousness of the problems in the mass-produced, corn-fed beef industry. Kummer also profiles some farmers who raise grass-fed cattle, Tom and Dale Lasater, Tom Gamble and Bill Davies, and those associated with the New England Livestock Alliance.

Re: a related subject, Kummer has documented the Slow Food movement in his book The Pleasures of Slow Food: Celebrating Authentic Traditions, Flavors, and Recipes. Here's an interview with Kummer about food and his book: "The Values of Good Food."
You traveled to Italy, Germany, Australia, and other countries in writing this book. How would you compare our attitudes about food—and about the type of values that Slow Food represents—with those of other countries?

I would say that the Europeans are pretty much converted already. In Europe almost everyone has memories going back over generations of food with actual flavor, food that's carefully raised. So Slow Food has appealed not just to rich people who like better things but to pretty much everybody who knows that there was once actually good food. Whether or not they can afford it, whether they feel they have time to make it, they know it's there, and that it's something to appreciate.

There's a real problem with Slow Food in America, and it's this: we don't have that memory bred into us, so it's still a movement of the elite. The goal is to get it to appeal much more to a grass-roots level, and that means making people taste it.

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