Slow Food Nation 2008

Slow Food Nation 2008 Take a perfect San Francisco weekend...not a cloud in the sky, warm weather, gorgeous sunshine. Slow Food Nation was like that: suave, sophisticated, seductive. The SFN Marketplace, held at the Civic Center Plaza (pictured above) was a sort of heightened awareness farmer's market with producers selling all manner of things such as cheese, produce, sauerkraut and rice. In the center, the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden represented the potential of living urban gardens, and to one side "Slow on the Go" vendors served a variety of foods to hungry attendees.

The other part of Slow Food Nation was Taste, held across town at Ft. Mason in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. The price for admission was $65 and for that, you were allowed to wander a great hall filled with discrete pavilions dedicated to a particular food - ice cream, beer, bread, cheese, honey, preserves and so on. Each pavilion was individually designed and provided room for sampling, tasting and learning about the individual item in question.

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There's been a lot of controversy swirling around about SFN; if you do a few Google searches it's not hard to find the ranting. I agree with some of it. SFN largely preached to the choir about local, sustainable food production. The Taste pavilions were packed to the gills and long lines and crowd noise interfered with the education component. You were as likely to see a Food Network celebrity as you were to encounter an artisan food. Still, some of the criticism is ridiculous and self serving. Two particular comments I overheard: 1) "I went to Slow Food and didn't get enough to eat." 2) "Why sample this artisan made product from Ohio that I'll never be able to buy here?" To these folks I can only say, you completely missed the point.

The Slow Food movement grew out of  a time when words like  'locavore' were not in the popular lexicon. It was - and still is - a revolutionary idea. That being said, it is in need of new relevant, motivational, life changing energy to solve the next generation of problems and issues. Now that we know what food is good for us (and for farmers and for the environment) how do we make real change? How do we bring local organic produce to people who can't afford it, who don't read Michael Pollan, who can't shop at farmer's markets because they are working on the weekends or the graveyard shift? That's where we need to take the movement......let's lay off blaming Slow Food for not solving the world's problems and do something about them ourselves.

Read the SFN assessment from the NY TImes here.

Update: Here's a thoughtful assessment of SFN by Mandy Pedrozo at Pedrozo Dairy in California. Thanks Gordon.