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On Food Justice: An Interview with Slow Food’s Josh Viertel

When Josh Viertel took the helm at Slow Food USA in 2008, the organization had a reputation—at least in this country—as a club for foodies. Under Viertel’s leadership, though, the organization has dispelled this image with an increasing focus on food justice issues such as improving the abysmal quality of cafeteria food and fighting “ag-gag” bills that would’ve made it illegal to take photos or videos of farms. Last month, Slow Food organized its members to “take back the happy meal” by showing that it’s possible to cook a nutritious meal for less than $5 a person. Over 30,000 people came together at over 5,500 events to participate in Slow Food’s $5 challenge.

When I spoke to Viertel a few weeks ago, he had just returned from a board meeting in Portland, Oregon, and was full of praise for both Andy Ricker’s Thai restaurant Pok-Pok and Portland’s energetic food justice scene. As I talked to him, I came to the happy realization that Slow Food is a flourishing network of people from all backgrounds and socioeconomic levels—from advocates of Native American fishing methods to radical kimchee makers in Indianapolis. All these members are coming together to overthrow the industrial food system and buy and make food that is good, clean, and fair. Read more

The Revolution Will Not Be (Petrochemically) Fertilized

If you think diabetes and obesity are the two biggest health care crises Americans face these days, you’re missing the forest for the trees — literally. Because the roots of all this diet-induced disease lie in two less publicized but even more pernicious epidemics: nature deficit disorder and kitchen illiteracy.

The symptoms include a woeful lack of familiarity with that elusive culinary commodity known as “real food,” or “good food,” or “slow food,” and total estrangement from Mother Earth — who, by the way, keeps hanging around outside pining for a glimpse of you while you remain indoors, mesmerized by your monitor or TV screen and mindlessly munching on ersatz edibles.

Do you have no idea what you’re actually eating, where it came from, or how it was grown? You may suffer from one or both of these maladies. Are you fearful of naked food that’s not encased in microwave-friendly packaging? Petrified by perishable produce that demands any sort of prep? Read more

Notes from a Student Farmer

There’s a saying in Arabic: “That is not my apricot; my apricot is some other apricot.” It became a favorite of mine and five other interns two summers ago as we worked on the Yale Farm. When we were confronted with a challenge, the saying made the situation clear. It’s not that I don’t have an apricot—I do—it’s just that that’s not it.

The perennial bed was our apricot. Read more