The State of Slow Food Madison
by Susan Boldt, Leader, Slow Food Madison Convivium
In early October our members were in the throes of preparing for an autumn celebration at Crawford Farm, organizing an itinerary for our Mantova, Italy Sister City Slow Food partners visit and planning our tasting table at the Sustainability Fair in Oshkosh. Reflecting on our local chapter’s calendar I questioned if we were truly living the slow life. Looking back on what we accomplished I confirmed that indeed we were.
Our Slow Food organization has three distinct layers that all work together for the good of the global food community.
Slow Food is an international non-profit, “eco-gastronomic” organization that supports a biodiverse and sustainable food supply, local producers, heritage foodways, and rediscovery of the pleasures of the table. Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food as a response to the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome’s historic Piazza di Spagna in 1986. Since then, Slow Food has grown into an international movement with more than 80,000 members in 100 countries worldwide. Members serve as advocates to promote food traditions, support caring for the land and protecting its species for future generations.
Slow Food USA oversees the activities of more than 12,000 members and 140 local chapters, called convivia. The movement works to promote the food traditions that are part of the cultural identity of this country, an identity that is in danger of disappearing from our nation forever.
Slow Food Madison brings together people from around Wisconsin interested in experiencing, celebrating and preserving our local food traditions. We support artisan producers committed to sustaining the land and who develop products of excellent taste...our Wisconsin farmers, cheesemakers, sausagemakers, winemakers and brewers. We offer taste education programs for our school children and community members. At our informal gatherings we share and enjoy some of the finest foods from Wisconsin and around the world and promote a slower, more harmonious rhythm of life. We enlist the help of our members to carry out the Slow Food mission, linking pleasure and food with awareness and responsibility. We do so in a variety of ways including educational events, projects, field trips and outreach.
We were one of the first Slow Food chapters in the United States. During 2005, our sixth year, we experienced some changes in our local Madison Slow Food Convivium. We put in place a leadership team that is comprised of a local producer, culinary professionals, a journalist, a historian and an artist to guide us and help prepare for the Terra Madre, Slow Food’s international meeting of food communities.
Slow Food Madison has partnered with Madison’s Sister City Mantova, Italy Slow Food Convivium to exchange ideas. When initiated in October of 2002 this unique partnership was the first international “Slow Food Sister City Twinning Project” within the Slow Food organization in the world. It is based on the culinary traditions in Mantova and Wisconsin and the Slow Food priorities of taste education and sustaining biodiversity. We’ve shared food traditions, had taste education events, established a visitor exchange program and have promoted local and artisan products of our regions. We’ve communicated information on several farmers’ market/food marketing models, nutrition programs, food stamps, school lunch and gardening programs.
In October 2005, we sponsored a variety of taste education events during the seven-day visit from our Sister City partners. On October 27th, the Willy Street Co-op Community Room was filled to the brim with visitors watching a cooking demonstration by our Sister City chefs as they made risotto, a recipe from the 16th century. We tasted the final product and learned of the cultural importance of this dish.
Slow Food members and MATC students took part in a Slow Fish event sampling traditional recipes of Mantova that our visiting chefs prepared. Using fish as a main ingredient we also tasted American recipes that the MATC culinary staff prepared. Slow Fish is an international Slow Food sustainability initiative on preserving endangered fish species.
Slow Food Partners were featured at the Madison Food and Wine Show. We invited our Italian Slow Food colleagues to participate in this special event. We organized two demonstrations and tastings that featured chefs/cooking instructors from Mantova and Wisconsin preparing traditional foods from our areas. They used a combination of Mantova products paired with our local artisanal ingredients and vegetables. We showcased our Sister City Slow Food partnership, promoted our mutual objectives of sharing food traditions, guiding taste education, promoting local and artisan products of our regions, continuing our visitor exchange program and introduced Carlo Petrini’s new model of agriculture to a broader public.
We just concluded the third season of our Seed to Supper: Growing and Tasting Italian Heirloom Vegetables and Fruits to Create Taste Memories for Future Generations Culinary History Project. Volunteers and local farmers grew vegetables, like Radicchio di Mantova, Italian Torpedo onions (Rossa di Milano) and (Costoluto Genovese) tomatoes. We provided the seeds and asked that they share growing tips and a few of their vegetable favorites. We celebrated our successes featuring the fruits of our labor at “special tasting” events. We’ve been capturing our “taste memories” through photos and interviews, recording our results, impressions, vegetable uses (recipes), preservation tips and even garden designs for future generations.
Groups that grew our veggies again this year through community gardening initiatives included the Community Food and Gardening Network, the Kids Garden at Troy, the South Park Community Garden, Bay View Apartments, Atwood gardeners and the St. Mary’s Care Center!
Our calendar included several special events for spring, summer and fall: a container planting workshop, our Seed to Supper Garden Tour and Tasting II when our summer veggies are at their prime, a preservation workshop and a harvest tasting.
A loaf of bread, a glass of wine and thou! We had a special St. Valentino brunch at Lombardino’s that featured Crawford Farm meats and chased away the winter doldrums.
Willy Street Co-op staff hosted a technical information exchange with our Sister City partners in early spring and summer. Last August in the Community Room we had our “More Than an Ice Cream Social” sampling a variety of homemade, local and national ice creams, custards, gelati and sorbets. Participants picked our favorites based on a variety of criteria. We appreciate the opportunities that we’ve had working with Willy Street staff.
At the Back to School Event at the Monona Farmers’ Market we started the school season hosting a fresh vegetable tasting.
We support the REAP (Research Education Action and Policy Food Group). In September, a group of us dined at the Greenbush Bar to help kick-off REAP’s Food for Thought Festival. Anna and Gretchen created a “local farm menu” for the evening’s meal.
At the annual Food for Thought Festival we served festival visitors a variety of vegetables and fruits including some of our Seed to Supper Project favorites at our ever so popular Carrot Café. Visitors received a range of locally grown produce that offered contrasting colors, textures and tastes. Slow Food members guided Café visitors to examine the characteristics of these tasty treats helping to reinforce the Festival’s goal of eating local healthy foods.
Seventy-seven Slow Food members and guests spent an afternoon at the Crawford Farm for an Autumn Celebration Pig Roast. There we learned about pork production on their farm and shared great food made from local produce crafted by local chefs and Slow Food members.
Sustainability Fair organizers requested a Slow Food Tasting Table at this special event at UW-Oshkosh. There we introduced university students and faculty to the “slow life” and the importance of supporting local food systems by offering them foods from local producers.
This past fall our members and guests enjoyed a meal and conversation at Lombardino’s. At our newly instituted bi-monthly around-the-table dinner and conversation we discuss topics of concern and how we can continue to support current local food initiatives, some of which were in the Dane County Food Policy report. We look forward to accepting the committee’s challenge and tackling the projects and recommendations that align with our Slow Food priorities, such as the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Program, the Slow Food Wellness Policy for Schools and Slow Food School Gardens.
In 2006 we plan to: establish a Slow Food in Schools Demonstration Garden and serve a meal at Middleton High School using the vegetables from their garden; continue to have specialty dinner events that feature local, seasonal produce and Farmers Table discussions; prepare to send our Slow Food Madison representatives to Terra Madre 2006, the meeting of world food communities, in Turin, Italy in October; have a Sister City Seed-To-Supper demonstration garden at the UW’s West Madison Agricultural Research Station; host our second breakfast at the Dane County Farmers’ Market; sponsor local events, field trips and tastings using the Slow Food Ark, Presidia and Renewing America’s Food Traditions products.
If you wish to contact us we are currently updating our website www.slowfoodwisconsin.org. In the meantime, you can find information on local, regional, national and international events at several web-sites including www.slowfoodforum.org, www.slowfoodwise.org and www.slowfoodusa.org. You can also call 608-849-8199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.