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A few weeks ago I was looking around the internet at various “eating local” sites and stumbled upon Slow Food.  Mr. Fancy Pants and I are always looking for things to do/organizations to join that will allow us to meet new people who share similar interests as we do (another post about that to come) so I was immediately drawn into the idea for multiple reasons.  It can be hard to meet new people in such a big city!

Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. To do that, Slow Food brings together pleasure and responsibility, and makes them inseparable.”

After further looking around the website, I realized that there is a branch of Slow Food here in Austin, TX.  This is when I got really excited.  Slow Food Austin is the local Convivium (Chapter) of Slow Food International. Side note, convivium is a Latin word that means a feast, entertainment or banquet (love that little tid-bit).  I couldn’t wait to join!  I cannot figure out if all of the chapters set up their events in the same way, but the one here in Austin “educates” its members on local food, what you eat, healthy food choices, etc. through a few different events.  The organizational staff (those in charge) provide educational classes and seminars in local schools here in Austin.  For the members, the “education” consists of Farm Tours, Happy Hours, and “Slow Sessions”.  They do monthly tours of local organic farms in the area–this I am really excited about!  The ones they have visited in the past few months are Green Gate Farms, Coyote Creek Farms, and Johnson’s Backyard Garden (another post about this amazing place later).  The happy hours are also held every month and are hosted by local restaurants or farms who support farm-to-fork philosophy and farmers who want to grow the slow food movement.

Here are some of May’s pictures from the Happy Hour at Green Gate Farms:

May Happy Hour at Green Gate Farms

May Happy Hour at Green Gate Farms

May Happy Hour at Green Gate Farms

May Happy Hour at Green Gate Farms

The Slow Sessions are apparently unique event started by Slow Food Austin. The website says that, “the vision for these sessions is to provide a forum to discuss topics related to Slow Food in Austin. It is meant to be social and educational. Some past topics have included recipe swaps, cookbook author presentations, dietary and lifestyle gurus, how to’s on making your own cheese and wine, movie nights, potlucks, farm tours and more.”  SIGN ME UP!

This event looked pretty neat too.  Last year the Austin chapter participated in the annual Slow Food USA’s National Day of Action by hosting a potluck Eat-In at Rain Lily Farms to show their support of having REAL food in our school cafeterias.  Check out these pictures:

Slow Food USA's National Day of Action 2009

Slow Food USA's National Day of Action 2009--example of a REAL school lunch meal.

Slow Food USA's National Day of Action 2009

Slow Food USA's National Day of Action 2009

Seriously, this just looks like a blast to me.  My granddad has a garden and to be honest with you I always secretly wished I could grow up on a farm.  I always loved being with him in the garden and how simplistic life seemed to be when we were there.  I grew up in East Texas and farm land is pretty common out in that area.  It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful it is.  And I say that I love how simple life is when I’m there, yet, the fact is life can be that simple no matter where we are.  We just tend to make it about so much more than it should be.  I appreciate this organizations aim to make us all slow down.  To appreciate good food, good people, and the beautiful world around us.  In my life, God is always telling me to slow down.  Life is so short.  It’s refreshing to come across a group of people who are setting out to do one of the most simplistic things, and do that together–Slow.  Down.  I cannot wait to get involved with this organization, learn new things, and meet some new friends through it.  The membership fee will be an investment for William and I, however I think it will be 100% worth it.

All photos taken by Marshall Wright, eatthislens.com

I am happy to say that I have jumped on the “eating local” bandwagon.  To be honest, I have wanted to make an effort to eat locally grown, raised, and produced foods for quite a while, and luckily now that we live in Austin, it is much easier to do so.  I guess for some this is an easy decision.  For others, it may not be so easy.  I understand that a lot of factors go into this decision, i.e. ease and availability of local produce, cost, etc., however I have been doing some research on some arguements on why to eat locally if you’re on the fence about it.  Take a look at what I’ve found.

  • When you buy direct from local farmers, your dollars stay within your community, and strengthen the local economy.
  • More than 90¢ of every dollar you spend goes to the farmer, thus preserving farming as a livelihood and farmland.
  • This is important because as mergers in the food industry have increased, the portion of your food dollar paid to farmers has decreased. Vegetable farmers earn only 21¢ of your dollar; the other 79¢ goes to pay for marketing, distribution, and other costs.
  • CSAs (community supported agriculture) and farmers’ markets provide farmers with close to 100% of the food dollar (minus a fee or small percentage paid to the market for maintenance).
  • Locally grown fruits and vegetables are usually sold within 24 hours of being harvested while on the other hand, food purchase in super markets, on average, travel 1,518 miles from field to fork.

Michael Pollan's Food Rules

I also want to invest in some reading material to help continue my knowledge about where my food comes from and what goes on “behind the scenes” before the food hits the table.  My first purchase was Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual which was recommended to me by a friend.  This book has some basic, and witty, guidelines to eating wisely.  My favorite being “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”.  He gives a really funny example about ‘pseudo butter’ and GoGurt.  I strongly recommend this one…it was money well spent!

Here are some other books that I am planning on purchasing (further reading, cookbooks, etc.)

Eating Local by Janet Fletcher

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Edible by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian

One of these days, I’m going to have a house with a yard so that I can have my own garden.  I don’t see that happening any time soon but it is a definite goal/plan of mine.  I purchased this beautifully letter pressed calendar a few months ago at Austin’s first Renegade Craft Fair.  I currently have it hanging in our kitchen purely because I love it’s design, however, one of these days I’m going to use it as a produce planting guide as well.  It was made by Krank Press.  I purchased the calendar that was specific to the items that grow best in Texas, however they have several different versions of the calendar based on your location.  Check it out!

Texas Produce Calendar by Krank Press

January

June

March