Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Slow Food Makes the News with Ferry Plaza Snub

The Future Pastry Chef and I headed over to San Francisco's famed Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Saturday. It's always an enjoyable jaunt and I was excited because we had timed our visit to hear the founder of the slow food movement, Carlo Petrini, talk about his new book, Slow Food Nation.

The day was sunny and clear and the air was beginning to warm up but little did we know that the most heated thing about the day would be what was characterized to us as a "dispute" between Petrini and market organizers. We had poked around eating a breakfast at Lulu's Petit (the brioche filled with marscapone to be specific) and were looking for some sign of the event when we eventually found our way to the CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) table and were told of the cancellation.

I thought I had a news scoop, but really was more focused on enjoying our morning at the Farmers' Market.

Today's San Francisco Chronicle had a report of the dust up. Evidently, Petrini, or at perhaps the translator of his book according to his book tour translator, had slammed the Ferry Plaza market for being elitist and pricey. (Although the comments quoted in the article are so specific I don't see how anything getting lost in translation would have softened them.)

Now, I grant you there are a lot of artisanal foods at the market and specialty produce that can be pricey but there are also lots of other alternatives. Much of the produce is grown for flavor and taste not economy of price so the complaint to me seems like a sucker punch to the gut of the very people who are trying to take the Slow Food Movement to heart and keep alive traditions of the family farms, heirloom produce varieties and bringing eaters in contact with growers.

Here's a link to the Chronicle piece on its SF Gate website.

Since I haven't read the Slow Food book (I planned to buy it at the event that wasn't) I can't really judge if the CUESA reaction was justified, but as presented I can certainly say it is unfortunate that two factions that should be working together are now estranged.

I have a few more random thoughts about the food movement and the farmer's market.

If you, like me, are only an occasional shopper at the vast Ferry Plaza market, it can be very intimidating. Search out the CUESA booth (in front of the Ferry Building) and pick up a map to the day's booths. It will help you plan out your shopping.

I am a big supporter of the Slow Food Movement as well as the drive to focus on locally produced foods, however I am also concerned that these two trends can be seen as only possible for those with lots of leisure time to cook and assemble meals and/or lots of money to pay the premium for non-processed, non-factory farmed food. I also worry about the loss of income and opportunity to fair trade and other agricultural workers overseas. I try to practice practical moderation and mindfulness in my choice. That attempt at balance is my compromise. I'd love to hear about how others support their local food economy, or how they have created or handle their own compromises.

For more information about the Ferry Plaza Farmer's market, please check out the CUESA site.
For more information about the Slow Food Movement, click here.
To read more about eating local, the Chronicle had an excellent series of articles a few weeks ago, which you can read here. I also recommend the wonderful blog Becks and Posh. Sam really puts her food where her mouth is.

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