Three Dog Night, Road to Shambala
Three times a year, the sweetie and I spend a day with our our six friends from the 1970s. Some things have changed over the past forty years: our children have grown into adults, our furniture doesn’t poke or wobble, we don’t sleep in waterbeds, our hair is shorter, the silverware matches, no one drives a VW bus, and wine is the drug of choice. Some things haven’t changed: we are all still married to the same person (whoops, I mean no one got a divorce), we are liberal Democrats, the New Yorker shows up in our mail boxes, and we cook real food. The spirit of summer and good weather shows up in all three events: Martin Luther King Day celebrates the sun’s gradual return to longer days, Memorial Day welcomes the return of warmer weather, and Labor Day revels in the last golden days of summer.
Puget Sound, Washington
This year a few weeks before this year’s summer event, our host sent this clue about what to expect, “This year’s menu was inspired by the politics of food production.” Whaaattt!? It didn’t take long for our Canadian friend to guess, “A Slow Food dinner?” Yes indeed.
In 1986 Carlo Petrini founded the Slow Food movement as a response to McDonalds’ attempt to open a franchise in Rome. Today Slow Food International includes 80,000 members in 50 countries and Slow Food USA, founded in 2000, has 60,000 members in 150 local chapters. Alice Waters, well-known owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, has been Vice President of Slow Food International since 2002. The movement promotes regional cooking using local ingredients, encourages farmers to use seeds, plants, and livestock from their geographic area, and is opposed to fast food, industrial food production, and the globalization of agricultural products.
Detractors have been put off by what they see as an elitist movement that appeals to “a bunch of well-heeled yuppies who stuff their craws with foie gras” and pushes expensive, gourmet foods. Slow Food’s stated aim of preserving itself from the “contagion of the multitude” might be seen as elitist but who can disapprove of “suitable doses of sensual pleasure and the slow, long-lasting enjoyment” of a leisurely meal featuring savory, local food.
In the 1970s, to address the politically unpopular spike in food prices, the Department of Agriculture shifted its focus from providing farm subsidies to emphasizing the production of soy and corn. The productivity of American farmers increased and the price of food dropped—that is, food made with corn and soy: processed food, sweetened beverages, and feedlot meat. While the drop in prices was politically popular, there was a cost to pay for cheap food. Grazing and snacking instead of sitting down to a shared meal and watching devices instead of focusing on each other robbed American culture of the family dinner table—a place where triumphs and disasters of the day are exchanged, stories are told, and differences of opinion are aired.
All of Slow Food’s lofty goals were met at our Labor Day meal, with fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy grown with no GMOs, purchased locally, or picked from our hosts’ garden. The result was a table full of delicious, fresh-tasting, well-seasoned, expertly prepared food that set the stage for a leisurely feast with good friends.
Thanks to Nancy for the fritter recipe from the Slow Food & Olympia Farmers Market cooking demonstration.
- 1/2 lb. shredded vegetables
- 1/4 cup chives or green onions, chopped
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1tablespoon baking powder
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 egg
- Olive oil for frying