A Slow Food Nation Perspective, on National Public Radio | Civil Eats

A Slow Food Nation Perspective, on National Public Radio

One of our own Slow Food Nation bloggers (and chef extraordinaire), Aaron French, wrote a piece for northern California’s public radio station, KQED. His piece, which was written for KQED’s Perspectives series, aired this morning and can be heard here.

The transcript is below:

Over lunch, during a break in the Slow Food Nation festival in San Francisco, I experienced one of those moments of clarity. I started up a conversation with the owners of a vineyard in Santa Barbara County. In passing, they mentioned the endangered California Condors that are increasingly seen soaring above the ridge-line.

The largest birds in North America, Condor populations plummeted in the first part of the twentieth century. In 1987 the remaining 22 condors were brought into a captive breeding program. Now, there are more than three hundred condors, half of which have been reintroduced into the wild.

But during their 20-year recovery in captivity the condors had forgotten how to feed their young. The wild Condors were killing their chicks by feeding them bottle caps, plastic bags, and pieces of wire. They had lost their native understanding of what good and healthy food was.

And that was when I realized – we’ve done exactly the same thing.

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Just like the condors, we have lost our cultural “food compass” that naturally orients us to what is most healthy. Instead, we are drawn to foods that are too sweet, too salty, or too fattening, and we’ve created a new food culture of haste and convenience.

This, in a nutshell, is what the Slow Food Nation festival was all about – repairing that “food compass” and reconnecting to the land and people involved in food production.

The question is how do we regain that knowledge we’ve lost?

In his 1989 essay. ‘The Pleasures of Eating’, farmer and writer Wendell Berry addressed the question. “What can city people do?” to reverse the decline of traditional American approaches to food and eating. Berry simply responded: learn.

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“Learn the origins of the food you buy,” Berry writes, and “Learn as much as you can of the life histories of the food species.”

We need to keep our food knowledge alive, and rekindle what we have forgotten, or risk sharing the fate of the endangered condors who have lost the wisdom of what food means.

Chef / Ecologist Aaron French is passionate about the connection that food forms between humans and our environment. He has a Masters in Ecology, is the chef of The Sunny Side Cafe, and is the EcoChef columnist for ten Bay Area News Group newspapers. You can contact him at www.eco-chef.com.

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Sarah Rich is an editor at Dwell magazine, where she specializes in sustainable design and architecture. She was the managing editor of the Slow Food Nation blog leading up to the inaugural 2008 event in San Francisco. She was also the managing editor and co-author of the book Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century (Abrams, 2006). Sarah lives in the Mission district of San Francisco where fog is scarce and tacos are not. Read more >

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