01 Sep 2008

As Slow Food Nation, the largest celebration of food in American history, comes to an end, we take a look back at the exciting activities that have taken place over the past few days in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thursday night’s inaugural dinner ‘Come to the Table’ at the Civic Center Plaza gathered 500 guests ready to delight in dishes prepared from the vegetables (and more besides) grown in the Urban Victory Garden, set up outside San Francisco City Hall from 1 July.

Tables lining the garden carried bowls of summer tomatoes, roasted almonds and California olives. The menu included dishes such as grilled Soul Food Farm chicken with herbs, spit-roasted Berkshire porchetta, and potato and green-bean salad with garden lettuce.

In the opening press conference on Friday, Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse and vice president of Slow Food International, authors Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, SFN executive director Anya Fernald and Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini were present to talk about the politics involved in current food production.

Commenting on the impact of the Slow Food Nation event, Michael Pollan said that it would be ‘a coming-out party not just for Slow Food USA but for the whole-food movement in this country’.

He further emphasized how Slow Food is not ‘a Diners Club for well-heeled foodies,’ but is instead driven by the ‘concern about agricultural policies in this country’.

Alice Waters added ‘We’re trying to bring food back into the area of nature and culture…When we eat food that’s fast, cheap and easy, we’re digesting the values of Fast Food Nation’.

The three panels – ‘Climate Change and Food’, ‘Edible Education’ and ‘Slow Food Nation’ – were attended by many of the world’s most important food policy thinkers, including farmer and essayist Wendall Berry, who does not usually talk publicly, but has been one of the primary thinkers influencing the Slow Food movement in the U.S.

In the ‘Slow Food Nation’ seminar, Berry spoke of how we had been spared from local adaptation by our abundance of fossil fuels, but that it is now essential to re-think this fact. He expressed his hope for a growing cooperative spirit and added that, despite our loss of faith in the political system, ‘If the right thing has a loud enough voice [the politicians] will do the right thing because they have to’.

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Victoria Blackshaw
[email protected]

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