Monday, April 19, 2010
Slow Food and Ark of Taste
I have been aware of Slow Food and their Ark of Taste for a long time, but truthfully I haven't paid much attention for quite a while. Now, with my renewed interest in healthy nutrition, I have come back to paying more attention.
"Slow Foods aims to be everything fast food is not." ~USA Today
Changing my diet to eliminate all the unhealthy foods and food additives also means seeking out foods that taste better (or be very bored at mealtime). Inherent taste in foods varies with nutritional quality, of course. However, the move by BigAg to fewer and fewer varieties has narrowed our options considerably, thus we are in danger of losing many heirloom varieties that hold incredible range and nuances of taste.
It's kinda like starting with millions of colors on your monitor, then slowly but surely moving to only 256 colors. Soon we risk having only RGB!
One of the programs at Slow Foods is RAFT (Renewing America's Food Traditions). RAFT is "an alliance of food, farming, environmental and culinary advocates who have joined together to identify, restore and celebrate America's biological and culturally diverse food traditions through conservation, education, promotion and regional networking."
Their aim is "to develop and promote conservation strategies, sustainable food production, and awareness of our country's unique and "at risk" foods and food traditions." They are working with groups like Seed Savers Exchange and Native Seeds / SEARCH for Heirloom Vegetable Recovery. Other ongoing projects are Heirloom Breed Recovery with groups like American Livestock Breeds Conservancy , and Heirloom Fruit Tree Recovery with growers all over the country.
To see some of what I have been missing, I downloaded their PDF on apples (Forgotten Fruits Manual & Manifesto - Apples). We once had between 15,000 and 16,000 named, grown and eaten varieties in North America, and now fewer than 20% remain. How many varieties do you see in the grocery stores? Not but a few of the nearly 20% remaining, I'd bet.
Slow Food's Ark of Taste is a 'catalog' of foods that are threatened by industrial standardization, and only the best tasting foods make it into the Ark. The US Ark of Taste now contains over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction.
Last night I was surfing for tasty and more local rice grains, and I found Carolina Gold Rice, an antebellum long grain that was once grown all over the coastal wetlands of Georgia and the Carolinas. I saw a package of it 2-3 years ago in a specialty foods store, but since I didn't know what it was, I didn't buy it.
Now I am anxious to try it since it is described as superior in flavor, aroma, texture and cooking qualities (and a beautiful golden hue in the fields). It has resurfaced thanks to heirloom seed collectors, and has been brought back to life. It is one of the 200 foods in the US Ark, and is grown sustainably (and organically) by Anson Mills, who also mill it the old fashioned way.
Checking out the endangered lists/resources on the Slow Foods site, I found that one of my favorite heirloom seed suppliers, Victory Seeds, has several heirloom seeds from the list.
Getting my health back via better nutrition means helping to save some tasty endangered foods, or boredom with what few choices are generally still on the market.